27 Apr 2012

The roots of conservatism

While on the Shetland Islands (source of my surname but not my family), I thought a little bit about life on distant islands.

These people needed to be self-reliant because their connections to other places were so unstable. Sometimes the "regular" supply boat would not show up, sometimes a passing boat would sink, delivering a windfall of goodies.

In most cases, they needed to be careful with their resources, since rescues and bailouts were neither certain nor cheap. (Compare that perspective with Italians and Greeks who have had easy access to food and trade for millennia.)

That's why Scots and other people in harsh environments (including farmers!) hesitate to trust others, embrace "good" ideas, etc.

That's why most of these people practice what they preach: Don't live beyond your means because you can't borrow your way out of a shortage.

Please give me your thoughts on the origins and impacts of conservatism? As opposed to what "Conservatives" (Republicans, Tories, et al.) say?


Jay said...

This is an interesting and productive area of inquiry. Traditions and culture have a major role in shaping peoples behaviors.

Thomas Sowell explored this line of thought deeply in three books, "Race and Culture", "Migrations and Culture", and "Conquests and Cultures".

Bottom Line: Culture matters. Cultures are formed through trial and error, and represent survivorship bias (fitness).

Jay said...

BTW, I attend a class named, Book You Don't Have Time to Read.

Last week the presentation was Jeffrey Sachs' latest book, The Price of Civilization.

The presentation was well done, but every premise Sachs laid out to make his case for increased central planning and intervention was so clearly a case of cherry picking data, or offered conclusions without any back up data. Sachs is exactly the type of individual Sowell complained about in Vision of the Anointed.

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