The Conservatism of Russell Kirk: Prudence

Kirk writes that prudence is chief among virtues, not only as the cause of other virtues, as Thomas Aquinas thought, but as the most important virtue to be considered by our public leaders. Our actions always have consequences we cannot foresee, but acting too hastily in favor of some more advanced time or a desire to return to a different age can bear results that we can foresee, and it is our duty to avoid all inadvertent tragedy we can. Prudence as a political virtue is founded on a recognition that the world we live in is extraordinarily complex, and what is popular in the moment may have catastrophic results for the future. Similarly, what is unpopular today may be exactly what our society needs to be prosperous and just in the future.

Our desire for change is not always a bad thing. There are injustices in the world that must be remedied by decisive action, even if those remedies are incomplete. Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was an order of dubious constitutionality (at least based on contemporary jurisprudence), did not help slaves in the Union states and didn’t do much for slaves in the Confederacy, at least right away. Yet ordering that Southern slaves be freed was not imprudent because the chaos of wartime demanded unilateral action.

Our founders placed a high premium on prudence. The Constitution consistently places Congress, designed to be the most deliberative of the three branches, above the Executive or Judiciary. In cases of treaty and war, it is even placed above the States with few exceptions.

While discussing the ways our government acts with a deficiency of prudence and the ways it acts with perhaps an excess of prudence and deliberation might be an easier undertaking, it will serve us better to explore the ways we treat prudence in our individual and communal lives. After all, politics is downstream from culture, so a remedy to any problem with the State must come after a remedy to the problems in ourselves and between each of us.

Today, people are imprudent on the whole. Exhortations to “follow your heart” are common in everything from counseling sessions to commencement addresses. We shouldn’t ignore the desires of our heart, but we should really be following our reason. Human beings are fickle beings, but rational thought, imperfect as it is for us, is a surer guide than the fleeting emotions and passions of our everyday.

In an imprudent society, morality is constantly being reframed, politics is a race to bring America to the next best thing and our personal decisions are often impulsive, hasty, and crudely conceived. People make important decisions like those to marry, divorce, buy cars or homes in a moment, or after minimal discernment. Prudence takes the natural human tendency to prefer immediate satisfaction over delayed gratification and restricts our appetites so that our reason can overcome the desire to have everything we want now, now, now.

College students tend to be worse on the whole. Rather than deliberate over the choices before us, too often we make choices with no more than a split second of thought. Some of these decisions don’t have long term consequences, and even have opportunities for future remediation, like course selection and the Add/Drop period at the beginning of the semester. But others can have lifelong consequences that we may not even see for decades.

There are myriad reasons that college students do not embrace prudence. Psychologists may speak of our still-developing prefrontal cortex, but this is unsatisfactory. Merely because we have trouble seeing every consequence of our actions or have a tendency to act unthinkingly does not absolve us from the obligation to take serious decisions seriously. While there are numerous possible reasons that this principle of conservatism is rejected in society as a whole and by young adults particularly, the most basic reason is the same for everyone, and the same as it has always been: prudence, like any virtue, is hard. It is hard to make measured decisions that diminish the influence of our passions. It is hard to abstain from some pleasures or decisions in favor of considering all the options.

Kirk writes that “liberals and radicals… dash at their objectives without giving much heed to the risk of new abuses worse than the evils they hope to sweep away.” If you are facing graduation this May, you are likely concerned about employment or graduate studies. In attempting to remedy the “evil” (or at least inconvenience) of having to move back home for a few months over the summer, do not just accept the first offer you get. Every decision we make, especially out of college, has an impact on the rest of our life in ways we may not see for decades.

While our left-leaning peers may have objections to some of these ten conservative principles, it seems that prudence should be something embraced by all. Kirk acknowledges that the complexity of human society mandates prudence in public policy; complexity in individual human lives warrants the same level of prudence in the decisions we make for ourselves. While it is certainly possible to fall into crippling indecision (think of Chidi in NBC’s The Good Place), true prudence will diminish the unintended consequences of our decisions. There are few, if any, important decisions placed before us that require immediate consideration.

Life is complicated. It is impossible for any one person to see every possible, or even every likely, thing that may come about from our decisions. When I was considering which school to attend, Trinity was not my first choice- it was my fourth. It was also not my best scholarship offer among the first round of offers. Had I merely accepted the best offer I had at the time, which was to my first choice school, I suspect I would have had a wonderful four years. But in waiting to decide until nearer to the deadline, I had the opportunity to compete for and win more money from Trinity, which has turned out to be an incredibly formative and positive experience. Running roughshod to write my deposit check to another school may not have resulted in evil, but it at least would have resulted in more college debt. The conservative believes that every decision should only be made after “sufficient reflection, having weighed the consequences.” The level of reflection necessary for each decision is different (obviously, as what size latte to order is less consequential than whether to propose marriage), but in every case we should reflect as much as we can on what might occur if we don’t take it seriously enough. A wholehearted embrace of prudence will yield a better life and a better society.

Editor’s Note: I want to apologize for the hiccup we experienced in publishing this series regularly. For a variety of reasons, it took longer to get this piece written and edited than we expected. We should be back on a regular schedule going forward from the fifth article in the series this coming Friday.

The Conservatism of Russell Kirk: Prescription

As college students, we go to class and hear our professors spout their opinions about what is wrong with the world and how to fix it. We watch our peers get swept away by pandering politicians at rallies. It seems as if in every corner of Coates Library, students are huddled together, sharing their ways to overthrow the system and reach utopia. We conservative students may find ourselves getting swept away with these ideas. In his third canon, Russell Kirk warns us against getting caught up in modern ideas and suggests we instead have faith in prescription.

We normally use ‘prescription’ to mean a recommendation from an authority. Kirk’s definition deviates just slightly; more fitting is “a claim founded upon ancient custom or long continued use.”  Kirk’s ‘prescriptions’ are “things established by immemorial usage,” meaning the old concepts of our ancestors. He’s referring to the traditions, institutions and overall wisdom our society has acquired through generations of trial and error. Since the beginning of time, people have been experimenting to find the best way to live. Through this process, we moved from hunter-gatherer societies to settled civilizations. We established governments, from monarchies to absolute democracies to totalitarian dictatorships, and over time arrived at the democratic republic Americans live in today. The traditions we abide by today are the product of thousands of years of development, evolution, and evaluation.

Conservatives trust that prescription is almost always a better authority on politics and society than any ideas modern people can think up. Many of the rights we cherish today are prescriptive, such as property rights; it is an ancient concept that one ought to have ownership of the land, money, and objects he worked to obtain. Societal norms and morals are also largely prescriptive. For example, the belief that a man and woman in love should marry and stay in a committed, monogamous relationship and produce offspring is prescriptive. It took thousands of years before this was a societal norm, until finally our ancestors found that monogamous, heterosexual marriage was the best institution to build families and societies upon.

In contemporary American society, many people, especially college students, seek progress at the expense of tradition. Traditions are popularly seen as shackles that hold us back. Marriage, sex being connected to procreation, and gender roles are all examples of prescription that modernity is trying to do away with. Kirk, however, urges conservatives to understand these traditions and institutions as social goods.

“We moderns” (as Kirk calls us) tend to tear down traditions before we even consider why the tradition was set in the first place. The institution of marriage is a prime example of a tradition that “we moderns” are destroying piece by piece. For almost all of western civilization’s history, marriage has been the monogamous union of a man and a woman. Plenty of past societies accepted polygamous marriages or homosexual relations. But over thousands of years and with a little help from some divine intervention, our ancestors settled on lifelong marriage as union between one man and one woman serving the main purpose of continuing society through procreation.

Momentarily setting aside the discussion of truth behind the institution, traditional monogamous marriage is also successful for a few reasons. Most obviously, heterosexual couples can produce and raise offspring. Men and women are different and serve as complements, occupying the necessary roles in the raising of children. But contemporary American society twisted the meaning of marriage into the governmentally-recognized union of people who love each other, completely disregarding the religious and rational prescription that a marriage is centered around honoring God and raising children. So when people with homosexual attractions began to want to obtain marriage licenses, contemporary American society viewed the traditional marriage (that conservatives hold sacred) as a mere bump in the road to progress and decided to legally and socially redefine marriage. Because marriage is now only about love and governmental recognition, divorce seems to be the obvious solution for couples who do not love each other anymore.

As a result of not following prescription, divorce rates have skyrocketed. 50% of all American children born in 2018 will have divorced parents before they turn 18. These children face far more emotional and psychological troubles. They are twice as likely to drop -out of high school, and almost twice as likely to attempt suicide. The US Census Bureau reports that 1 in 4 American children live without a father. These children are more likely to drop-out of high school, commit crimes, live in poverty, and be addicted to drugs and alcohol. As “we moderns” disregard sacred traditions like marriage, the family unit collapses, and society begins to collapse along with it.

Although Trinity students come from diverse economic and geographical backgrounds, we all attend an expensive liberal arts school and many of us have grown up in a bubble. A lot of us have never worked to support ourselves, we are not married (yet) and do not have kids (yet), and frankly, we were most likely raised with the same ‘participation-trophy’ values of the snowflakes we sit next to in class. However, most of our parents – consciously or unconsciously – lived lives based on prescription. We live in the greatest, freest country in the history of the world because our founding fathers built it with the traditions of their forefathers in mind.  We live in a country based on prescription and were raised by people who follow prescription, but our generation lacks understanding of what prescription is and why we should follow it. Because of this, it may be easy for us to take these values that shape our politics and society for granted. It may be easy for us to believe a politician when he tells us that the solution to poverty is more government handouts. It may be easy to believe a leftist feminist when he tells us that casual sex is empowering for women. We can be swept away into believing that we do not need to follow prescription, that radical solutions can easily fix the world’s problems.

College students today seem particularly likely to be swayed by politicians and their solutions to society’s problems. We directly experienced this at Trinity last year when Senator Bernie Sanders spoke on our campus and an auditorium filled with Trinity students – who had no prior political interest or knowledge – cheered and shouted for universal healthcare. Though my fellow Tower writers and I are not likely to be riled up at a Bernie rally, we might be by a Chip Roy, Ted Cruz, or Rand Paul event. I will admit I have thought a number of times that if Ben Shapiro could be president, all would be well in the world. We can support political candidates and modern ideas, as long as we do not expect them to solve every problem. When we support candidates, we need to exercise a healthy distrust and remind ourselves that the combined wisdom of our ancestors is far more valuable than that of any politician.

Kirk warns us of this very issue. He says we need to be wary of “sophisters, calculators, and economists who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs.” We need to exercise a healthy distrust of our peers, professors, and politicians, whether they are right- or left-leaning, and instead let the past keep us skeptical of the future. The traditions developed over thousands of years are almost always better than anything “coffee-shop philosophers” could come up with in one lifetime, much less one brainstorm session.

In college, most of our full adult lives have not yet begun. We are deciding our world view, our religion, our political stance, where our priorities lie, what we live for, and why we live. We are also making very direct decisions in our personal life: what to study, whom to date, what we do in our free time, and whether we will be law-abiding citizens. When we make these decisions, we should have the vast and rich history behind prescription in mind. We should think about the traditions and institutions our ancestors have set in place, and remember that they are there for a reason.

We college students tend to think we know everything. But we need to remember Kirk, who says “it is perilous to weigh every passing issue on the basis of private judgment and private rationality.” Before we destroy some tradition, social construct, or institution, we should consider that it’s there for a reason.

As conservatives we need to follow prescription not just for the sake of being traditional. We need to gain an understanding of why we follow certain traditions, and why our ancestors set up society the way they did. For example, we need to know why we believe marriage is between one man and one woman, reasons that go deeper than just longevity. While we learn about prescription and the deeper meanings behind the social and political constructs in place today, we also need to check to make sure we are following them. When politicians, our professors, our peers, or articles we read suggest radical changes to our society, we need to exercise restraint as to stand firm in our beliefs and not be swayed by modern ideas.

Prescription is as if thousands of years of human history looked us in the eye and said “this is what I think is the best way to live your life. I have made plenty of mistakes so you can learn from them and live a better life.” We must live out or at least deeply consider living the way our history has prescribed.

The Conservatism of Russell Kirk: Social Continuity

President Abraham Lincoln, an excellent conservative, described the probable destruction of the United States in his Lyceum address: “From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia…could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.” Our destruction is realized when we abandon our ways as Americans and neglect our social continuity.

Singing the national anthem before football games is a small example of social continuity. It reaffirms the state’s legitimacy and our bonds as brothers and sisters in nationhood. The movement to take a knee during the national anthem in football games is in practice a direct assault on the social continuity of the United States. With or without intent to attack the sense of American community, the movement to protest the national anthem is in practice a net loss to the country as a whole. Through intending to cast doubt or to end a socially contiguous ritual, citizens of the same state begin lose their similarities and distrust their fellow citizens. One can change policy without violating the social continuity, and must act accordingly or risk dismantling the state itself and constituting a state of destructive civil conflict.

The canon of social continuity rests on the idea that justice is not natural, but artificial. In Leviathan, Thomas Hobbes defines justice practically as a result of law. Law is the result of the common powers over man, and the common powers over man arise as a means to end a state of conflict. Therefore, justice is an invention of man necessary in practice to maintain order over conflict and to facilitate prosperity. For thousands of years, people have gone through war and peace, trial and error, and have arrived at the rules and prosperity of today by learning from those sacrifices and hardships of the past. Social continuity is the call for continuing the true justice, forged in the trials by fire of our past, in order to continue in the security and prosperity of the state.

This canon of conservative thought is in danger of redefinition or outright abandonment. Today’s common ideal of justice based on personal morality and subjective truth is to blame for this push towards abandoning social continuity. If one believes in standards for correctness, one would likely believe in the merit of social continuity. The idealistic view of justice, where what any individual dreams as justice is so, naturally finds conflict with social continuity as personal morality can overturn it by virtue of one’s own personal taste. Social continuity is either redefined to fit personal morality, or is abandoned in some form of revolution to dismantle the structure entirely and erect an ideal state.

These challenges to social continuity ignore certain problems. First, sticking to the tradition of American ideals has allowed the individuals their present advantages, and even their ability to question the structure itself. It is difficult to justify the moral advantage of an alternate state when the present state of the United States is both flexible and fair enough, thanks to the preservation of American ideals. Second, transient causes should not define the United States, as transient causes are usually idealistic rather than practical and do not solve problems so much as create new ones. This haphazard factor is why transient causes are more detrimental than beneficial, and should not to be implemented for their own sake at the expense of destroying a necessary support to the state as a whole.

The rule of social continuity is mocked and trivialized in contemporary universities, especially in those fields which promote cultural relativism. In order to affirm that there are good ideas and bad ideas, right practices and wrong practices, one must have a standard to identify and judge ideas and practices. This standard develops in the social body of a nation. Cultural relativism destroys this standard, tears our social fabric, and goes against the practical Hobbesian definition of justice. The thousands of years of trial and error which have built our success become irrelevant under relativism. Defined, cultural relativism affirms that there are no such things as good ideas or bad ideas, right or wrong practices, in a vain effort to make every culture accepted. This is an idealistic rather than practical view of justice. Some ideas and practices are better than others, and the American social continuity is not only the best one, but is the standard which the world follows. The American development of ideals inspires the rest of the world, sustains its citizens, and has brought forth prosperity for generations; yet, it is mocked by relativists who would believe that all ideas are created equal.

The preservation of the state is an immeasurable gift to us, our children, and our world. Even if the individual does not find a clear conscience with the present society, it is far more beneficial to everyone if the union of a society is preserved. Without the power of social commonality, distrust and ambition would naturally cause conflict and there would be ceaseless war, and if there is no common power over people there will be no such thing as injustice as justice can no longer be affirmed. Only in this ceaseless war would people recognize its detriment and agree upon oaths with one another, call them laws, and enforce them in the form of a common power over people. In short, the state controls justice and justice is only possible if there is a state. The most disadvantageous peace is better than the most just war. The common bonds of society preserve the state. Social continuity is one of the state’s most integral supports not just because of its natural affirmation of the state’s legitimacy but because of its universal connection to all citizens in practice.

Social continuity, even if one disagrees with present policy, must not be violated because preserving the nation is an unquestionable good. For, through preserving the state, justice will continue to exist in contrast to a state of war. Social continuity creates a common bond between citizens and it is through this bond that shared values and trust is facilitated. Good ideas and practices tried and tested for thousands of years of recorded history have been taken into account, and as a result, prosperity and abundance have come to our advantage. Now that one of our greatest advantages has become subject to doubt and ridicule now is the time for conservatives to once more affirm the virtue of the social continuity. Preserving the social fabric of America would ultimately be an unquestionable good for the hundreds of millions of Americans and for the peace of the entire world.

The Conservatism of Russell Kirk: Transcendent Moral Order

The first and arguably most fundamental of Russell Kirk’s ten conservative principles is the belief in a transcendent and enduring moral order. Kirk was not the first to observe moral order; men have hypothesized that human nature is built with a certain order since ancient times. In Plato’s Republic, we find a theory of the tripartite soul, in which the psyche is made up of three parts: λογιστικόν (reason), the θυμοειδές (spirited) and the ἐπιθυμητικόν (appetitive), and it is the harmony of the soul which is true virtue and justice. A virtuous man “rules himself, puts himself in order… harmonizes the three elements together, just as if they were literally the three defining notes of an octave”.

Plato’s city-soul analogy shows that we may apply the order of the soul to society at large. Without an orderly soul, man cannot be wholly virtuous, just as without an orderly system of morality a society cannot be wholly virtuous. If everyone is using his own personalized system of morality and nothing is truly right or wrong, society will be doomed to fall into anarchy, which will later lead to tyranny. We must all have the courage of our convictions—the desire to do what is true and virtuous—in order to keep a just society.

Contemporary America has fallen far from Plato’s view of an orderly soul and Kirk’s assertion that a transcendent moral order is paramount in the creation of a good society. Moral relativism has been on the rise for decades as individuals shun societal norms and values in favor of the belief that morals are relative to their holders. In other words, right and wrong are not the same when applied to everyone, but instead are up to the individual to decide.

This moral relativism is everywhere, from media to legislation to personal relationships. For conservatives, the most striking examples are the legalization of abortion in Roe v. Wade in 1973 and the redefining of marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges in 2015. These two Supreme Court cases decisively changed the meanings of life and marriage. They altered American societal morals, as generations after these rulings have been indirectly or directly taught new forms of justice.

Millennials’ views on abortion show this principle strikingly. As this Pew Research study indicates, non-religious young people overwhelmingly (70 percent) believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. What used to be a highly contentious issue is much more one sided for non-religious millennials, as the gap is only widening for that demographic.

For Christian (both Catholic and Protestant) millennials, however, the picture is much different. It is either a near 50/50 split or a strongly anti-abortion result, showing the difference in opinion amongst young people who have some sort of belief in biblical principles. These young people are often extremely passionate about the pro-life cause and are joined by some non-religious pro-life activists as well.

This is only a small example of a larger notable trend in the relationship between young people and moral relativism. Pro-life activism comes from a place of very strong moral feelings which argue against relativism: all humans deserve the right to live and die naturally and not at the hands of any human being. However, it is not just the conservative religious young people who are making these sort of ethical appeals.

Just take a look at college activism. Yes, sociology professors are still making the argument that we must respect all moral systems equally, and the general university populace is still entrenched in hookup and party culture, but young progressives make values-based arguments all the time. The immigration debate largely takes place within a consideration of justice (on both sides), and the left often discusses racial issues in regards to atoning for the sins of the past.  

Although I do not agree with these progressive systems of morality, it would be dishonest not to call them moral systems. Instead of reverence for God and the family, college-aged liberals see tolerance and progressivism as the basis for their moral code. They become indignant when they see something is unjust—in their eyes—and they desire to make a change to fit their system of moral order. They fight for what they view as morally right and see moral wrongs as a form of injustice.

Sound familiar?

This is why the fight young conservatives carry out is no longer just about moral relativism. Although our parents and grandparents dealt with a world that was fully steeped in this toxic philosophy, we are in a space in which both sides are making ethical arguments.

Progressives do in fact believe in a sort of moral order, but that moral order has replaced God with the belief that man can become God.

Our morality is no longer derived from a higher power and a transcendent right or wrong, but instead the desire to climb up the ever-extending ladder of progressivism, constantly desiring to reach the apex of tolerance. Only this can never be reached, as by definition to be progressive we must constantly be moving forward, rather than considering why we’re even changing our moral values in the first place.

The key, I believe, is not to convince the other side that there is such a thing as right and wrong. They already know this (for the most part), but they are not guided by the same transcendent and enduring moral principles. It is up to us to share these values not by yelling and shoving them into their faces, but instead by living them out in our own lives. We cannot restore the order of society without first restoring the order of our own souls, as justice is “concerned with what is inside,” as Plato states.

We cannot solve all of society’s problems in a day. While we can spend our time hand-wringing and worrying about the fastly degenerating state of our universities and other social institutions, we should never succumb to the fear that the true transcendent moral order will be destroyed. As Kirk said, “human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent”, and to think that our generation will break apart this enduring fabric of humanity is simply self-centered and ignorant. We must cling to these moral truths with all of our strength, but also have faith in their lasting endurance.

Justice and virtue may be difficult to find in these murky waters of contemporary society, but they are still present—as they will always be.

Public domain photo / Banner image designed by The Tower.

The Conservatism of Russell Kirk: Introduction to the Project

There are few figures as towering in contemporary American conservatism as Russell Kirk. To be a conservative in a philosophical, rather than political (or perhaps electoral) sense is to be grounded, at least partially, in the writings of Kirk. In the years following World War II, when the American conservative movement was still in its embryonic stages, Kirk did something invaluable in giving shape to the movement that has become arguably the most coherent and influential political philosophy in America. Conservatism has been given many definitions, and it’s hard to pinpoint which one we should use, because it is not only an ideology, but also an attitude. This series will look at conservatism as an ideology, as given definite shape by Russell Kirk.

G. K. Chesterton, in his 1929 book The Thing, wrote that the difference between reforming and deforming a thing comes from an understanding of why a thing was implemented.

In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.

He wrote about this attitude of wanting to change things for the sake of changing it in Chapter 3 of Orthodoxy as well.

It is true that a man (a silly man) might make change itself his object or ideal. But as an ideal, change itself becomes unchangeable. If the change-worshipper wishes to estimate his own progress, he must be sternly loyal to the ideal of change; he must not begin to flirt gaily with the ideal of monotony. Progress itself cannot progress.

People today, even among those who claim to be conservatives, all too easily fall into the attitude of “change-worshipping.” People have lost sight of ideals they are striving towards, and instead promote progress for progress’s sake. They demand that the fence be torn down simply because it was built by people who aren’t around anymore, without any thought to whether the fence still serves an important purpose.

We believe that there are still ideals that we should base our political organization on: principles and values that are not tied to any particular politician, party, or era. From our perspective, these are what Russell Kirk distilled as “ten articles of belief [that] reflect the emphases of conservatives” in his essay Ten Conservative Principles. Many of them also find exploration in the introduction to The Conservative Mind as the “six canons of conservative thought.” We firmly believe that if our society embraces these ten principles, we will see many of the challenges of today become much easier to address.

These ideals of conservatism are:

1) Belief in a transcendent and enduring moral order.

2) Adherence to custom, convention, and continuity.

3) Faith in prescription, and “distrust of ‘sophisters, calculators, and economists’ who would reconstruct society upon abstract designs.”

4) Holding to prudence as the chief political virtue.

5) Affection for the “proliferating intricacy of long-established social institutions and modes of life” over “the narrowing uniformity and deadening egalitarianism of radical systems.”

6) Belief in the ultimate imperfectability of human nature.

7) “Conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked.”

8) Upholding voluntary community and opposing involuntary collectivism.

9) Acknowledging the need for prudent restraints on power and human passions.

10) Careful reconciliation of permanence and change in society.

These ideals seem obvious to many people (including, I expect, most of our readers), yet they are rejected in increasing numbers by more and more college students. Questions about issues that were agreed upon by nearly everyone just a few decades ago are now derided as outdated, wrong, and even bigoted.

Starting today and going every Friday until Good Friday, we will be publishing articles expounding on each of these ten principles, exploring what on Earth Kirk meant when he wrote them and how this idea is treated today. Specifically, we’ll be looking at what college students tend to think about this idea, how a re-embrace of this idea might serve to remedy some societal ills and why college students should move to adopt the ideal even in the face of cultural opposition. These ten articles will be longer than most of the other things we’re publishing, and that’s intentional.

We believe that, as Chesterton might have put it, most fences in our world are still needed. Maybe some need repair or updating, but very few ought to be torn down entirely. Over the next ten weeks, our writers will be giving an excellent defence of these ten ideals that define conservatism. It might seem like an overly ambitious project, and you might doubt whether a bunch of college students have anything useful to add beyond what Kirk himself wrote, but I think we can bring these ideas to new audiences and reframe them for a new time.

The first article in the series will be published next Friday, written by Maddie D’Iorio on the truth and importance of believing in a transcendent and enduring moral order.