Oakeshott on being conservative

Interesting essay by Joseph Epstein in The Weekly Standard. Excerpt:

The answer for Oakeshott, as he set out most emphatically in “On Being Conservative,” is to cultivate

a propensity to use and to enjoy what is present rather than to wish for or to look for something else; to delight in what is present rather than what was or what may be. .  .  . To be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.

For Oakeshott, conservatism was a disposition rather than a doctrine. From this disposition certain political positions followed, views of change and innovation key among them:

Whenever stability is more profitable than improvement, whenever certainty is more valuable than speculation, whenever familiarity is more desirable than perfection, whenever agreed error is superior to controversial truth, whenever the disease is more sufferable than the cure, whenever the satisfaction of expectations is more important than the “justice” of the expectations themselves, whenever a rule of some sort is better than the risk of having no rule at all, a disposition to be conservative is more appropriate than any other; and on any reading of human conduct these cover a not negligible range of circumstances.

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