Liberalismo e conservadorismo

Ryan Shorthouse, “The right-wing case against populism”:

In fact, liberalism and conservatism are two distinct philosophies that are often presented in perpetual conflict—but they are natural bedfellows. They need, support and tame each other.

The goals of liberalism—individual flourishing, power and respect—can only be developed by enduring cultural, democratic and civic institutions that teach, guide and protect people. The conservative emphasis on interdependency between—not just independence of—people to cultivate responsibility towards others and to future generations, can only truly be realised if we respect the liberal insight that all and different individuals are equally worthy. As for taming one another, the liberal individual can be rooted in reality and responsibility by conservative institutions. Conversely, traditional culture and institutions can be modernised by legitimate calls for emancipation and inclusion.

It is liberalism, not authoritarian populism, which is a true friend of western conservatism.

Populismo, representação, redes sociais e conservadorismo

Roger Scruton, “Populism, VII: Representation & the people”:

The fact remains, however, that the accusation of “populism” is applied now largely to politicians on the right, with the implication that they are mobilizing passions that are both widespread and dangerous. On the whole liberals believe that politicians on the left win elections because they are popular, while politicians on the right win elections because they are populist. Populism is a kind of cheating, deploying weapons that civilized people agree not to use and which, once used, entirely change the nature of the game, so that those of gentle and considerate leanings are at an insuperable disadvantage. The division between the popular and the populist corresponds to the deep division in human nature, between the reasonable interests that are engaged by politics, and the dark passions that threaten to leave negotiation, conciliation, and compromise behind. Like “racism,” “xenophobia,” and “Islamophobia,” “populism” is a crime laid at the door of conservatives. For the desire of conservatives to protect the inherited identity of the nation, and to stand against what they see as the real existential threats posed by mass migration, is seen by their opponents as fear and hatred of the Other, which is seen in turn as the root cause of inter-communal violence.


The phenomenon of the instant plebiscite—what one might call the “webiscite”—is therefore far more important than has yet been recognized. Nor does it serve the interests only of the Right in politics. Almost every day there pops up on my screen a petition from or urging me to experience the “one click” passport to moral virtue, bypassing all political processes and all representative institutions in order to add my vote to the cause of the day. Avaaz was and remains at the forefront of the groups opposing the “populism” of Donald Trump, warning against his apparent contempt for the procedures that would put brakes on his power. But in the instant politics of the webiscite such contradictions don’t matter. Consistency belongs with those checks and balances. Get over them, and get clicking instead.

It is not that the instant causes of the webiscites are wrong: without the kind of extensive debate that is the duty of a legislative assembly it is hard to decide on their merits. Nevertheless, we are constantly being encouraged to vote in the absence of any institution that will hold anyone to account for the decision. Nobody is asking us to think the matter through, or to raise the question of what other interests need to be considered, besides the one mentioned in the petition. Nobody in this process, neither the one who proposes the petition nor the many who sign it, has the responsibility of getting things right or runs the risk of being ejected from office if he fails to do so. The background conditions of representative government have simply been thought away, and all we have is the mass expression of opinion, without responsibility or risk. Not a single person who signs the petition, including those who compose it, will bear the full cost of it. For the cost is transferred to everyone, on behalf of whatever single-issue pressure group takes the benefit.

We are not creatures of the moment; we do not necessarily know what our own interests are, but depend upon advice and discussion. Hence we need processes that impede us from making impetuous choices; we need the filter that will bring us face to face with our real interests. It is precisely this that is being obscured by the emerging webiscite culture. Decisions are being made at the point of least responsibility, by the man or woman in the street with an iPhone, asked suddenly to click “yes” or “no” in response to an issue that they have never thought about before and may never think about again.

Reflect on these matters and you will come to see, I believe, that if “populism” threatens the political stability of democracies, it is because it is part of a wider failure to appreciate the virtue and the necessity of representation. For representative government to work, representatives must be free to ignore those who elected them, to consider each matter on its merits, and to address the interests of those who did not vote for them just as much as the interests of those who did. The point was made two centuries ago by Edmund Burke, that representation, unlike delegation, is an office, defined by its responsibilities. To refer every matter to the constituents and to act on majority opinion case by case is precisely to avoid those responsibilities, to retreat behind the consensus, and to cease to be genuinely accountable for what one does.

This brings me to the real question raised by the upheavals of 2016. In modern conditions, in which governments rarely enjoy a majority vote, most of us are living under a government of which we don’t approve. We accept to be ruled by laws and decisions made by politicians with whom we disagree, and whom we perhaps deeply dislike. How is that possible? Why don’t democracies constantly collapse, as people refuse to be governed by those they never voted for? Why do the protests of disenchanted voters crying “not my president!” peter out, and why has there been after all no mass exodus of liberals to Canada?

The answer is that democracies are held together by something stronger than politics. There is a “first person plural,” a pre-political loyalty, which causes neighbors who voted in opposing ways to treat each other as fellow citizens, for whom the government is not “mine” or “yours” but “ours,” whether or not we approve of it. Many are the flaws in this system of government, but one feature gives it an insuperable advantage over all others so far devised, which is that it makes those who exercise power accountable to those who did not vote for them. This kind of accountability is possible only if the electorate is bound together as a “we.” Only if this “we” is in place can the people trust the politicians to look after their interests. Trust enables people to cooperate in ensuring that the legislative process is reversible when it makes a mistake; it enables them to accept decisions that run counter to their individual desires and which express views of the nation and its future that they do not share. And it enables them to do this because they can look forward to an election in which they have a chance to rectify the damage.

That simple observation reminds us that representative democracy injects hesitation, circumspection, and accountability into the heart of government—qualities that play no part in the emotions of the crowd. Representative government is for this reason infinitely to be preferred to direct appeals to the people, whether by referendum, plebiscite, or webiscite. But the observation also reminds us that accountable politics depends on mutual trust. We must trust our political opponents to acknowledge that they have the duty to represent the people as a whole, and not merely to advance the agenda of their own political supporters.

But what happens when that trust disintegrates? In particular, what happens when the issues closest to people’s hearts are neither discussed nor mentioned by their representatives, and when these issues are precisely issues of identity—of “who we are” and “what unites us”? This, it seems to me, is where we have got to in Western democracies—in the United States just as much as in Europe. And recent events on both continents would be less surprising if the media and the politicians had woken up earlier to the fact that Western democracies—all of them without exception—are suffering from a crisis of identity. The “we” that is the foundation of trust and the sine qua non of representative government, has been jeopardized not only by the global economy and the rapid decline of indigenous ways of life, but also by the mass immigration of people with other languages, other customs, other religions, other ways of life, and other and competing loyalties. Worse than this is the fact that ordinary people have been forbidden to mention this, forbidden to complain about it publicly, forbidden even to begin the process of coming to terms with it by discussing what the costs and benefits might be.

Of course they have not been forbidden to discuss immigration in the way that Muslims are forbidden to discuss the origins of the Koran. Nor have they been forbidden by some express government decree. If they say the wrong things, they are not arrested and imprisoned—not yet, at least. They are silenced by labels—“racism,” “xenophobia,” “hate speech”—designed to associate them with the worst of recent crimes. In my experience, ordinary people wish to discuss mass immigration in order to prevent those crimes. But this idea is one that cannot be put in circulation, for the reason that the attempt to express it puts you beyond the pale of civilized discourse. Hillary Clinton made the point in her election campaign, with her notorious reference to the “deplorables”—in other words, the people who bear the costs of liberal policies and respond to them with predictable resentments.


ll this has left the conservative movement at an impasse. The leading virtue of conservative politics as I see it is the preference for procedure over ideological programs. Liberals tend to believe that government exists in order to lead the people into a better future, in which liberty, equality, social justice, the socialist millennium, or something of that kind will be realized. The same goal-directed politics has been attempted by the EU, which sees all governance as moving towards an “ever closer union,” in which borders, nations, and the antagonisms that allegedly grow from them will finally disappear. Conservatives believe that the role of government is not to lead society towards a goal but to ensure that, wherever society goes, it goes there peacefully. Government exists in order to conciliate opposing views, to manage conflicts, and to ensure peaceful transactions between the citizens, as they compete in the market, and associate in what Burke called their “little platoons.”

That conception of government is, to me, so obviously superior to all others that have entered the imperfect brains of political thinkers that I find myself irresistibly drawn to it. But it depends on a pre-political unity defined within recognized borders, and a sovereign territory that is recognizably “ours,” the place where “we” are, the home that we share with the strangers who are our “fellow countrymen.” All other ways of defining the “we” of human communities—whether through dynasty, tribe, religion, or the ruling Party—threaten the political process, since they make no room for opposition, and depend on conscripting the people to purposes that are not their own. But procedural politics of the conservative kind is possible only within the confines of a nation state—which is to say, a state defined over sovereign territory, whose citizens regard that territory as their legitimate home.

A metodologia dos conservadores vs. a dos progressistas no debate político

Nuno Garoupa, “Confrontação”:

Nem já os americanos recordam o senador Bill Richardson, um conservador, hoje com 90 anos, que serviu no Senado da Califórnia vários mandatos entre 1966 e 1989 e nunca conseguindo ser eleito para o congresso federal. Fundou um grupo chamado Gun Owners of America (GOA) em 1975, rompendo com a National Rifle Association (NRA) por estar incomodado com os desvios de esquerdismo. E, em 1998, escreveu um livro algo desconhecido, Confrontational Politics, reeditado em 2010. Esta “obra literária” de 135 páginas seria irrelevante não fosse o “livrinho vermelho” de Steve Bannon e Jeff Sessions, os dois ideólogos da administração Trump.

Confrontational Politics abre com um diagnóstico do mundo em que vivemos – uma batalha fundamental entre os valores tradicionais (defendidos pelos conservadores) e os dogmas humanistas contemporâneos (impostos pelos progressistas). Acontece que os conservadores entram na discussão política com cortesia, civilidade, educação, ponderação e respeito pelas regras do debate. Pela sua forma de pensar e por respeito a uma tradição de elevação no espaço público, evitam o confronto direto e a retórica agressiva. Frente a um progressismo que não comunga de tais pruridos, o conservador acaba em posição defensiva. O progressista, adepto das técnicas marxistas e leninistas, inspirado na máxima “os fins justificam os meios”, provoca o confronto, usa retórica abusiva e agressiva para condicionar o conservador. Tudo isto resulta numa crescente influência da agenda progressista em detrimento do pensamento conservador. A fleuma, o respeito, a preferência por um debate equilibrado e institucional são desvantagens competitivas do conservador. Consequentemente, o conservador tem de abandonar esta forma de intervenção. Tem de passar ao confronto aberto. E esse confronto tem de ser agressivo e sem compromissos ou equilíbrios. Não há acordos possíveis com o progressismo enquanto a agenda conservadora não vingar. Política já não é procurar consensos ou mínimos denominadores comuns, mas guerra aberta – embora sem prisioneiros -, gritar mais alto, até o progressismo ser varrido dos tribunais, dos meios de comunicação, do espaço público. Mas, se os progressistas são o adversário a combater, o inimigo a obliterar são os conservadores consensuais. Porque são a quinta coluna, são quem mina o pensamento conservador e colabora com o adversário, permitindo a expansão do progressismo.

Liberais e conservadores precisam uns dos outros

George H. Nash, “Populism, I: American conservatism and the problem of populism”:

In the late 1950s and early 1960s the three independent wings of the conservative revolt against the Left began to coalesce around National Review, founded by William F. Buckley Jr. in 1955. Apart from his extraordinary talents as a writer, debater, and public intellectual, Buckley personified each impulse in the developing coalition. He was at once a traditional Christian, a defender of the free market, and a staunch anticommunist (a source of his ecumenical appeal to conservatives).

As this consolidation began to occur, a serious challenge arose to the fragile conservative identity: a growing and permanent tension between the libertarians and the traditionalists. To the libertarians the highest good in society was individual liberty, the emancipation of the autonomous self from external (especially governmental) restraint. To the traditionalists (who tended to be more religiously oriented than most libertarians) the highest social good was not unqualified freedom but ordered freedom grounded in community and resting on the cultivation of virtue in the individual soul. Such cultivation, argued the traditionalists, did not arise spontaneously. It needed the reinforcement of mediating institutions (such as schools, churches, and synagogues) and at times of the government itself. To put it another way, libertarians tended to believe in the beneficence of an uncoerced social order, both in markets and morals. The traditionalists often agreed, more or less, about the market order (as opposed to statism), but they were far less sanguine about an unregulated moral order.

Not surprisingly, this conflict of visions generated a tremendous controversy on the American Right in the early 1960s, as conservative intellectuals attempted to sort out their first principles. The argument became known as the freedom-versus-virtue debate. It fell to a former Communist and chief ideologist at National Review, a man named Frank Meyer, to formulate a middle way that became known as fusionism—that is, a fusing or merging of the competing paradigms of the libertarians and the traditionalists. In brief, Meyer argued that the overriding purpose of government was to protect and promote individual liberty, but that the supreme purpose of the free individual should be to pursue a life of virtue, unfettered by and unaided by the State.

As a purely theoretical construct, Meyer’s fusionism did not convince all his critics, then or later. But as a formula for political action and as an insight into the actual character of American conservatism, his project was a considerable success. He taught libertarian and traditionalist purists that they needed one another and that American conservatism must not become doctrinaire. To be relevant and influential, it must stand neither for dogmatic antistatism at one extreme nor for moral authoritarianism at the other, but for a society in which people are simultaneously free to choose and desirous of choosing the path of virtue.


What do conservatives want? To put it in elementary terms, I believe they want what nearly all conservatives since 1945 have wanted: they want to be free; they want to live virtuous and meaningful lives; and they want to be secure from threats both beyond and within our borders. They want to live in a society whose government respects and encourages these aspirations while otherwise leaving people alone. Freedom, virtue, and safety: goals reflected in the libertarian, traditionalist, and national security dimensions of the conservative movement as it has developed over the past seventy years. In other words, there is at least a little fusionism in nearly all of us. It is something to build on. But it will take time.

Multiculturalismo e imigração

Roger Scruton, How to be a conservative (London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc, 2014), 90-92:

Once we distinguish race and culture, the way is open to acknowledge that not all cultures are equally admirable, and that not all cultures can exist comfortably side by side. To deny this is to forgo the very possibility of moral judgement, and therefore to deny the fundamental experience of community. It is precisely this that has caused the multiculturalists to hesitate. It is culture, not nature, that tells a family that their daughter who has fallen in love outside the permitted circle must be killed, that girls must undergo genital mutilation if they are to be respectable, that the infidel must be destroyed when Allah commands it. You can read about those things and think they belong to the pre-history of our world. But when suddenly they are happening in your midst, you are apt to wake up to the truth about the culture that advocates them. You are apt to say, that is not our culture, and it has no business here. And you will probably be tempted to go one stage further, the stage that the Enlightenment naturally invites, and to say that it has no business anywhere.

For what is brought home to us, through painful experiences that we might have avoided had it been permitted before now to say the truth, is that we, like everyone else, depend upon a shared culture for our security, our prosperity and our freedom to be. We don’t require everyone to have the same faith, to lead the same kind of family life or to participate in the same festivals. But we have a shared civic culture, a shared language and a shared public sphere. Our societies are built upon the Judaeo-Christian ideal of neighbour-love, according to which strangers and intimates deserve equal concern. They require each of us to respect the freedom and sovereignty of every person, and to acknowledge the threshold of privacy beyond which it is a trespass to go unless invited. Our societies depend upon law-abidingness and open contracts, and they reinforce these things through the educational traditions that have shaped our common curriculum. It is not an arbitrary cultural imperialism that leads us to value Greek philosophy and literature, the Hebrew Bible, Roman law, and the medieval epics and romances and to teach these things in our schools. They are ours in just the way that the legal order and the political institutions are ours: they form part of what made us, and convey the message that it is right to be what we are. And reason endorses these things, and tells us that our civic culture is not just a parochial possession of inward-looking communities, but a justified way of life.

Over time, immigrants can come to share these things with us: the experience of America bears ample witness to this. And they more easily do so when they recognize that, in any meaningful sense of the word, our culture is also a multi-culture, incorporating elements absorbed in ancient times from all around the Mediterranean basin and in modern times from the adventures of European traders and explorers across the world. But this kaleidoscopic culture is still one thing, with a set of inviolable principles at its core; and it is the source of social cohesion across Europe and America. Our culture allows for a great range of ways of life; it enables people to privatize their religion and their family customs, while still belonging to the public realm of open dealings and shared allegiance. For it defines that public realm in legal and territorial terms, and not in terms of creed or kinship.

So what happens when people whose identity is fixed by creed or kinship immigrate into places settled by Western culture? The activists say that we must make room for them, and that we do this by relinquishing the space in which their culture can flourish. Our political class has at last recognized that this is a recipe for disaster, and that we can welcome immigrants only if we welcome them into our culture, and not beside or against it. But that means telling them to accept rules, customs and procedures that may be alien to their old way of life. Is this an injustice? I do not think that it is. If immigrants come it is because they gain by doing so. It is therefore reasonable to remind them that there is also a cost. Only now, however, is our political class prepared to say so, and to insist that cost be paid.

A tradição em John Kekes

John Kekes, A Case for Conservatism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2001), 38-40 (tradução minha):

Uma tradição é um conjunto de crenças costumárias, práticas e acções que resistiu desde o passado até ao presente e atraiu a fidelidade de pessoas que desejam perpetuá-la. Uma tradição pode ser reflectiva e desenhada, como as deliberações do Supremo Tribunal, ou irreflectida e espontânea, como os fãs de desporto a apoiarem as suas equipas; pode ter um quadro institucional formal, como a Igreja Católica, ou pode não ser estruturada, como o alpinismo; pode ser competitiva, como os Jogos Olímpicos; em grande parte passiva, como ir à ópera; humanitária, como a Cruz Vermelha; egocêntrica, como o jogging; honorífica, como o Prémio Nobel; ou punitiva, como os procedimentos criminais. As tradições podem ser religiosas, horticulturais, científicas, atléticas, políticas, estilísticas, morais, estéticas, comerciais, médicas, legais, militares, educacionais, arquitecturais, e aí por diante. Elas permeiam as vidas humanas.

Quando os indivíduos formam gradual e experimentalmente a sua concepção de uma vida boa o que estão a fazer, em larga medida, é decidir em que tradições devem participar. Esta decisão pode ser tomada de dentro das tradições em que nasceram ou em que foram criados, ou de fora das tradições que os atraem, repelem, aborrecem ou interessam. As decisões podem ser conscientes, deliberadas, claramente afirmativas ou negativas, podem ser formas de seguir inconsciente e irreflectidamente padrões familiares, ou podem ser vários pontos entre estes tipos. O essencial das actividades dos indivíduos que dizem respeito a viver de formas que eles consideram boas é composto pela participação nas várias tradições da sua sociedade.

À medida que os indivíduos participam nestas actividades, claro que exercem a sua autonomia. Eles fazem escolhas e julgamentos; as suas vontades são envolvidas; eles aprendem com o passado e planeiam para o futuro. Mas fazem-no no quadro de várias tradições que com autoridade lhes providenciam as escolhas relevantes, as matérias que são deixadas aos seus julgamentos e os padrões que dentro de uma tradição determinam quais escolhas e julgamentos são bons e maus, razoáveis e ou irrazoáveis. O seu exercício da autonomia é o aspecto individual da sua conformidade à autoridade da sua tradição, que é o aspecto social do que eles estão a fazer. Eles agem autonomamente ao seguirem os padrões de autoridade das tradições a que sentem fidelidade.

(…). Entender o que se passa em termos de autonomia individual é tão unilateral quanto fazê-lo em termos de autoridade social. Cada uma desempenha um papel essencial, e entender o que se passa requer entender ambos os papéis que desempenham e o que os torna essenciais.

O tradicionalismo repousa sobre este entendimento, e é uma resposta política ao mesmo. A resposta é ter e manter arranjos políticos que promovem a participação dos indivíduos nas várias tradições que resistiram historicamente na sua sociedade. A razão para as promover é que as vidas boas dependem da participação numa variedade de tradições.

As tradições não se mantêm independentes umas das outras. Elas sobrepõem-se, formam partes umas das outras, e os problemas e questões que ocorrem numa são frequentemente resolvidos nos termos de outra. A maioria das tradições tem aspectos legais, morais, políticos, estéticos, estilísticos, administrativos, entre outros. Ademais, as pessoas que participam numa tradição trazem consigo as crenças, valores e práticas de muitas das outras tradições em que também participam. Desta forma, as mudanças numa tradição são propensas a produzir mudanças noutras. As tradições estão, assim, organicamente ligadas. É por isto que as mudanças numa tradição são como ondas que se reflectem noutras tradições de uma sociedade.

Algumas destas mudanças são para melhor, outras para pior. A maioria delas, todavia, é complexa, tem consequências que se tornam menos previsíveis quanto mais distantes estiverem, e que assim tendem a escapar ao controlo humano. Dado que estas mudanças são mudanças em tradições sobre as quais dependem as vidas boas, a atitude dos conservadores tradicionalistas em relação a elas será de extremo cuidado. Eles pretenderão controlar as mudanças na medida do possível. Eles quererão que elas não sejam mais amplas do que o necessário para remediar um defeito específico. Eles opor-se-ão a mudanças grandes, experimentais ou gerais devido aos seus efeitos incertos nas vidas boas.

As mudanças são, claro, frequentemente necessárias porque as tradições podem ser perversas, destrutivas, embrutecedoras, negativas e, assim, não conducentes a vidas boas. É parte do propósito dos arranjos políticos prevalecentes distinguir entre tradições que são inaceitáveis, tradições suspeitas mas toleráveis e tradições dignas de encorajamento – por exemplo, a escravatura, a pornografia e a educação universitária. As tradições que violam os requisitos mínimos da natureza humana são proibidas. As tradições que historicamente fizeram contribuições questionáveis para as vidas boas podem ser toleradas, mas não encorajadas. As tradições cujo registo histórico atesta a sua importância para as vidas boas são acarinhadas.

Da ciência do governo

Edmund Burke, Select Works of Edmund Burke, vol. 2 (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999), 153 (tradução minha):

Sendo a ciência do governo, portanto, tão prática em si mesma, e destinada a tais propósitos práticos, uma matéria que requer experiência, e ainda mais experiência do que uma pessoa pode adquirir em toda a sua vida, por mais sagaz e observador que possa ser, é com infinita cautela que qualquer homem deve aventurar-se a demolir um edifício que tenha respondido em qualquer grau tolerável, durante épocas, aos propósitos comuns da sociedade, ou a reconstruí-lo novamente sem ter modelos e padrões de utilidade aprovados perante os seus olhos.