Great Throughts Treasury

This site is dedicated to the memory of Dr. Alan William Smolowe who gave birth to the creation of this database.

Russell Kirk

American Political Theorist, Moralist, Historian, Social Critic, Literary Critic and Fiction Author

"Persuasion that property and freedom are inseparably connected, and that economic leveling is not economic progress. Separate property from private possession, and liberty is erased."

"A body that has ceased to renew itself has begun to die."

"A just government maintains a healthy tension between the claims of authority and the claims of liberty."

"A society in which men and women are governed by belief in an enduring moral order, by a strong sense of right and wrong, by personal convictions about justice and honor, will be a good society."

"Any conservative is reluctant to condense profound and intricate intellectual systems to a few pretentious phrases; he prefers to leave that technique to the enthusiasm of radicals."

"Because of human restlessness, mankind would grow rebellious under any utopian domination, and would break out once more in violent discontent-or else expire of boredom."

"All that we reasonably can expect is a tolerably ordered, just, and free society, in which some evils, maladjustments, and suffering will continue to lurk."

"A state in which an individual or a small group are able to dominate the wills of their fellows without check is a despotism, whether it is called monarchical or aristocratic or democratic."

"Conservatives sense that modern people are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, able to see farther than their ancestors only because of the great stature of those who have preceded us in time."

"Conservatives are champions of custom, convention, and continuity because they prefer the devil they know to the devil they don't know."

"But instead of this world unification ushering in an age of prosperity and peace, as most globalists believe it will, it will be a time of unimaginable human suffering as recorded in God's Word. The Anti-Christ will tightly regulate who may buy and sell."

"Ever since Paine's "Rights of Man" was published, the notion of inalienable natural rights has been embraced by the mass of men in a vague and belligerent form, ordinarily confounding "rights" with desires."

"First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent."

"For the institution of several property—that is, private property—has been a powerful instrument for teaching men and women responsibility, for providing motives to integrity, for supporting general culture, for raising mankind above the level of mere drudgery, for affording leisure to think and freedom to act."

"For a nation is no stronger than the numerous little communities of which it is composed."

"Global environmentalists have said and written enough to leave no doubt that their goal is to destroy the prosperous economies of the world's richest nations."

"Human society being complex, remedies cannot be simple if they are to be efficacious."

"If a man has a *right* to marry, some woman must have the duty of marrying him; if a man has a *right* to rest, some other person must have the duty of supporting him. If rights are confused thus with desires, the mass of men must feel always that some vast, intangible conspiracy thwarts their attainment of what they are told is their inalienable birthright."

"If a conservative order is indeed to return, we ought to know the tradition which is attached to it, so that we may rebuild society; if it is not to be restored, still we ought to understand conservative ideas so that we may rake from the ashes what scorched fragments of civilizations escape the conflagration of unchecked will and appetite."

"If you want to have order in the commonwealth, you first have to have order in the individual soul."

"I did not love cold harmony and perfect regularity of organization; what I sought was variety, mystery, tradition, the venerable, the awful. I despised sophisters and calculators; I was groping for faith, honor, and prescriptive loyalties. I would have given any number of neo-classical pediments for one poor battered gargoyle."

"Immensely expensive systems of state schooling have not succeeded in repairing the damage to private character and public life that was done when personal judgment began to supplant traditional opinion."

"Like the atrocities and disasters of Greece in the fifth century before Christ, the ruin of great nations in our century shows us the pit into which fall societies that mistake clever self-interest, or ingenious social controls, for pleasing alternatives to an oldfangled moral order."

"It is characteristic of the radical that he thinks of power as a force for good-so long as the power falls into his hands."

"Majority rule is no more a natural right than is equality. When we accept the principle of majorities in politics, we do so out of prudence and expediency, not because of an abstract moral injunction."

"Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created."

"Our twentieth-century world has experienced the hideous consequences of the collapse of belief in a moral order."

"Prejudice is not bigotry or superstition, although prejudice sometimes may degenerate into these. Prejudice is pre-judgment, the answer with which intuition and ancestral consensus of opinion supply a man when he lacks either time or knowledge to arrive at a decision predicated upon pure reason."

"Man is corrupt; and therefore his best chance to attain justice and freedom lies in keeping the hands of ambitious men from that power which invites corruption."

"Sudden and slashing reforms are as perilous as sudden and slashing surgery."

"Society requires honest and able leadership; and if natural and institutional differences are destroyed, presently some tyrant or host of squalid oligarchs will create new forms of inequality."

"The conservative acknowledges that the possession of property fixes certain duties upon the possessor; he accepts those moral and legal obligations cheerfully."

"The attitude we call conservatism is sustained by a body of sentiments, rather than by a system of ideological dogmata."

"The only true forms of equality are equality at the Last Judgment and equality before a just court of law; all other attempts at leveling must lead, at best, to social stagnation."

"The conservative thinks of political policies as intended to preserve order, justice, and freedom. The ideologue, on the contrary, thinks of politics as a revolutionary instrument for transforming society and even transforming human nature. In his march toward Utopia, the ideologue is merciless."

"The twentieth-century conservative is concerned, first of all, for the regeneration of the spirit and character – with the perennial problem of the inner order of the soul, the restoration of the ethical understanding, and the religious sanction upon which any life worth living is founded. This is conservatism at its highest."

"There are two aspects or types of order: the inner order of the soul, and the outer order of the commonwealth."

"The perceptive reformer combines an ability to reform with a disposition to preserve; the man who loves change is wholly disqualified, from his lust, to be the agent of change."

"To seek for utopia is to end in disaster, the conservative says: we are not made for perfect things."

"To anarchy there succeeds tyranny or oligarchy, in which power is monopolized by a very few."

"When every person claims to be a power unto himself, then society falls into anarchy."

"We cannot make a heaven on earth, though we may make a hell."

"Because we human beings are imaginative by nature, we cannot choose to live by the routine of the ant-heap. If deprived of the imagery of virtue ? imaginative depictions of the truly good life ? we will seek out the imagery of vice."

"A people needs to understand what freedom is. We Americans are fortunate that the Founders and their generation possessed that understanding. They knew that freedom, per se, is not enough. They knew that freedom must be limited to be preserved. This paradox is difficult for many students to grasp. Young people generally think freedom means authority figures leaving them alone so they can do their own thing. That's part of what it means to be free, but true freedom involves much, much more. As understood by our Founders and by the best minds of the young republic, true freedom is always conditioned by morality."

"All great systems, ethical or political, attain their ascendency over the minds of men by virtue of their appeal to the imagination; and when they cease to touch the chords of wonder and mystery and hope, their power is lost, and men look elsewhere for some set of principles by which they may be guided."

"A dreary secular dogma of individualism? he believes that we exist solely in ourselves, and for ourselves, so many loveless specks in infinite time and space? to whom Satan reveals that nothing exists except the body and empty space. [Libertarians]"

"An age of social boredom is characterized by popular pursuit of material and sensual gratification to the exclusion of other ends? sexual perversion and addiction to narcotics flourish in a bored age? Out of boredom grow vice, crime, and the destructive compulsion of the mass-mind ."

"All things begin and end in mystery. Out of tales of wonder come awe and the beginning of philosophy."

"An omnipotent world state imposes an eternal compulsory uniformity upon the whole human race? Now I think that this is, indeed, the natural culmination of the Benthamite view of man and society."

"An enlightened democracy would extend its benevolent empire of reason over all the world."