A quotation from Daniel Patrick Moynihan

Posted by Helen Monday, July 10, 2006

Whenever I want to get depressed about American rather than British politics (well, after all, isn’t that what being Tory Historian is all about?) I think about the fact that Hillary Rodham Clinton is the successor to Daniel Patrick Moynihan as New York Senator.

Moynihan was a Democrat and it is useful to recall that until recently the division between conservative and “liberal” thinking was not along party lines. Moynihan, for instance was a man who believed in freedom internally and externally, individual responsibility and small government.

I particularly like this quotation that, I hope, will elicit comments from readers.

“The central conservative truth is that it is culture, not politics, that determines the success of a society. The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”
Where does the British Conservative Party fit in that equation?


  1. Anonymous Says:
  2. "The central liberal truth is that politics can change a culture and save it from itself.”

    The problem is, Conservatives are rarely going to be temperamentally inclined to use politics to change the culture.

    Welfare reform in the USA might be a counter-example.

    They will find themselves more often having to undo the effects of liberal politics that were supposed to save the culture from itself, but which in fact work all kinds of destruction. Welfare reform in the USA would be one example. Cutting the very high marginal tax rates would be another.

  3. Helen Says:
  4. We also run into serious problems trying to define conservative as people did while the Soviet Union was collapsing. After all, a conservative is one who tries to conserve what exists. What exists both in America and, even more, in Britain, is a high regulation, high taxation, welfare state that considers its job to interfere in people's lives at all levels. This is something conservatives do not like or should not like. Where do we go from there.

  5. Anonymous Says:
  6. Politics sometimes has to be used to change an economic or social culture, as lexington green suggests, where there is a need to reverse certain trends (eg. Mrs. Thatcher's 1980s reforms). Scotland and Wales need the sort of political leadership that will lead them away from a dependency culture, for example.

    The maxim fits a conservative approach to foreign policy very well, however.

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