December 8, 2016


The High Tory Tradition: An Alternative Future for America? (Christopher Morrissey, 12/08/16, Imaginative Conservative)

In his new book published this year, The North American High Tory Tradition, Professor Ron Dart presents this largely forgotten political tradition, by drawing upon his expertise in Canadian history. Prof. Dart argues that this historical influence in the Canadian tradition actually offers everybody in North America a humane political philosophy worth rediscovering.

Prof. Dart's new book offers an excellent introduction to the venerable conservative principles of the North American High Tory tradition. As the book starts out, Prof. Dart identifies ten characteristics that can be seen to define this High Tory tradition.

First, there is an emphasis on the wisdom of tradition as an antidote to the danger of "chronological snobbery." The current generation may always consider itself to be the wisest of all, but High Tory politics strives to avoid the perennial folly of this prejudice.

Second, the High Tory maintains a resolute focus on the common good, instead of on inflexible ideological programs. Political prudence keeps in mind the difficulty of politics, steering a middle course between the extremes of unprincipled pragmatism, on the one hand, and the geometric certainties of ideological action plans, on the other.

Third, ethics is considered more important than economics. A politics that reduces everything to jobs and economic concerns must be rejected. Politics has a higher calling, to address the full human person.

Fourth, the environment cannot be sacrificed to economics. This is a corollary to the previous point, which aims to avoid economic reductionism, because "economic nationalism" is simply too reductive a notion for a nation ever to base itself upon. Moreover, any nation shares the same planet with other nations.

Fifth, state and society must work together, which is unlike the approach of either the usual conservative politics (which distrusts the state and exalts a society of individuals) or the usual liberal politics (which uses state power to reengineer society).

Sixth, public spaces and commons can serve the commonweal, in ways that complement private property. Private property is not the only way that citizens can attain the good life. Communal spaces are also essential to nourish the human spirit in ways conducive to its full flourishing.

Seventh, education needs to focus on the classics. This may also be seen as a corollary to the first point above, which seeks always to keep the wisdom of the ancients in mind.

Eighth, too much power should not be concentrated in one place. This is because of the fallibility of human nature. Unfortunately, the "authoritarians of the right" seem destined to learn this lesson the hard way in America's near future. The ancient Greek appellation of "tyrant", for the strongman who promises a quick fix, soon became a historically pejorative term, because human experience always shows that such a ruler will end up doing more harm than good, at least in the long run.

Ninth, religious traditions spanning the centuries are what will bring true vitality to political life. Religious diversity is thus a net benefit to political life, because it affords the wisdom of the ages many opportunities to find its way into public life, as people of all traditions bring their respective gifts to bear upon the most difficult problems of political life.

Tenth, we must admit there are things beyond politics, higher things to which we all must aspire. The High Tory tradition recognizes that, if we don't admit this, then politics ends up endorsing relativism, which disastrously lowers our sights. In short, the High Tory is best known by his or her affirmation of their tradition's judiciously high aspirations.

Posted by at December 8, 2016 7:16 AM