44 Key Quotes on Conservatism

What is conservatism all about?

As my readers will know, I am a Christian first, and a conservative second. If I wanted to offer some of the best quotes on Christianity, I would need many weeks and hundreds of thousands of words just to begin such a project. So it might be a bit easier and quicker to offer some key quotes on conservatism.

There would be plenty of great quotes to choose from. Here I have tended to go with mostly newer quotes, and mainly briefer ones. Unlike some of my other lists of quotes, here I do not provide the source for each quote. Some are more academic in nature, and some more popular.

What I present here comes from just 20 authors, so I am being rather selective. But what I offer gives you some idea of what conservatives believe and what conservatism is about. Perhaps perusing these quotes might encourage you to read more from some of these authors. Here then are the 44 quotes:

“A conservative is a fellow who is standing athwart history yelling ‘Stop!’” William F. Buckley, Jr.

“I’ve always believed that conservatism is the politics of reality, and that reality ultimately asserts itself in a reasonably free society, in behalf of the conservative position.” William F. Buckley, Jr.

“I’d rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.” William F. Buckley, Jr.

“Liberals claim to want to give a hearing to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.” William F. Buckley, Jr.

“Men love to hear of their power, but have an extreme disrelish to be told of their duty. This is of course; because every duty is a limitation of some power.” Edmund Burke

“It is with infinite caution that any man ought to venture upon pulling down an edifice which has answered in any tolerable degree for ages the common purposes of society, or on building it up again, without having models and patterns of approved utility before his eyes.” Edmund Burke

“The whole modern world has divided itself into Conservatives and Progressives. The business of Progressives is to go on making mistakes. The business of Conservatives is to prevent mistakes from being corrected. Even when the revolutionist might himself repent of his revolution, the traditionalist is already defending it as part of his tradition. Thus we have two great types — the advanced person who rushes us into ruin, and the retrospective person who admires the ruins. He admires them especially by moonlight, not to say moonshine. Each new blunder of the progressive or prig becomes instantly a legend of immemorial antiquity for the snob. This is called the balance, or mutual check, in our Constitution.” G. K. Chesterton

“Don’t ever take a fence down until you know the reason it was put up.” G. K. Chesterton

“If you are young and not liberal, then you have no heart; but if you are old and not conservative, then you have no brain.” Winston Churchill

“Once man’s connection to the divine is denied, you can reason yourself from here to anywhere.” Ann Coulter

“Conservatism is not supposed to be against change or progress… It is supposed to be skeptical of grandiose or reckless schemes which throw out the good in pursuit of the perfect.” Jonah Goldberg

“Conservatism, we are told, is out-of-date. This charge is preposterous and we ought to boldly say so. The laws of God, and of nature, have no dateline. These principles are derived from the nature of man, and from the truths that God has revealed about His creation. To suggest that the Conservative philosophy is out of date is akin to saying that the Golden Rule, or the Ten Commandments or Aristotle’s Politics are out of date.” Barry Goldwater

“In my estimation, there should always be a mixture of economic liberalism – which means small government, a great emphasis on markets – but also a certain degree of social conservatism, not to favor change unless that change is beneficial. So I describe myself as an economic liberal and a social conservative.” John Howard

“Men cannot improve a society by setting fire to it: they must seek out its old virtues, and bring them back into the light.” Russell Kirk

“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.” Russell Kirk

“‘Politics is the art of the possible,’ the conservative says: he 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.” Russell Kirk

“What’s the difference between a liberal and a conservative? A liberal will interpret the constitution, a conservative will quote it.” Rush Limbaugh

“What is conservatism? Is it not the adherence to the old and tried against the new and untried?” Abraham Lincoln

“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.” Michael Oakeshott

“I like to say now that the reason I’m conservative is because I used to be a liberal, and I learned a lot.” Candace Owens

“America derives its laws from its Constitution. It derives its values from the Bible. We don’t get inalienable rights from the Constitution; we get them from God.” Dennis Prager

“Liberals tend to put the onus of your success on society and conservatives on you and your family.” Dennis Prager

“Whatever the Left touches– the arts; the economy; health care; the soul; religion– it destroys or damages.” Dennis Prager

“The bigger the government the smaller the citizen. This is one of the most important realisations about society you will ever have. In fact, this understanding is the primary reason for America’s unique success as both a free and affluent society. Everything gets smaller as the government gets bigger. Freedom gets smaller, individuality gets smaller, goodness gets smaller, and human character gets smaller. This is not a political point on behalf of a political party. It is simply an observable fact. And it’s just common sense.” Dennis Prager

“The basis of conservatism is a desire for less government interference or less centralized authority or more individual freedom.” Ronald Reagan

“Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.” Ronald Reagan

“In this present crisis, government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem. From time to time we’ve been tempted to believe that society has become too complex to be managed by self-rule, that government by an elite group is superior to government for, by, and of the people. Well, if no one among us is capable of governing himself, then who among us has the capacity to govern someone else?” Ronald Reagan

“We are a nation that has a government—not the other way around. And this makes us special among the nations of the Earth. Our Government has no power except that granted it by the people. It is time to check and reverse the growth of government which shows signs of having grown beyond the consent of the governed.” Ronald Reagan,

“The nine most terrifying words in the English language are, ‘I’m from the government and I’m here to help’.” Ronald Reagan

Image of How to be a conservative
How to be a conservative by Scruton, Roger (Author) Amazon logo

“The desire to conserve is compatible with all manner of change, provided only that change is also continuity.” Roger Scruton

“Cultural conservatives were for a while a commanding presence in English literary life, openly at war with the ‘progressives’, such as George Bernard Shaw, who dismissed them as nostalgic cranks. Among their important works are defences of Christianity from G. K. Chesterton (Orthodoxy, 1908, The Everlasting Man, 1925) and C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity, 1952, based on wartime radio talks).” Roger Scruton

“Conservatism starts from a sentiment that all mature people can readily share: the sentiment that good things are easily destroyed, but not easily created. This is especially true of the good things that come to us as collective assets: peace, freedom, law, civility, public spirit, the security of property and family life, in all of which we depend on the cooperation of others while having no means singlehandedly to obtain it. In respect of such things, the work of destruction is quick, easy and exhilarating; the work of creation is slow, laborious and dull. That is one of the lessons of the twentieth century. It is also one reason why conservatives suffer such a disadvantage when it comes to public opinion. Their position is true but boring, that of their opponents exciting but false.” Roger Scruton

“A typical Conservative is someone who looks around himself and he finds things that he loves, and he thinks those things are threatened, they’re vulnerable, and I’ve got to protect them.” Roger Scruton

“For the conservative, human beings come into this world burdened by obligations, and subject to institutions and traditions that contain within them a precious inheritance of wisdom, without which the exercise of freedom is as likely to destroy human rights and entitlements as to enhance them.” Roger Scruton

“The best countries—and the best societies—are those where citizens are virtuous enough to sacrifice for the common good but unwilling to be forced to sacrifice for the ‘greater’ good. Flourishing societies require a functional social fabric, created by citizens working together—and yes, separately—toward a meaningful life.” Ben Shapiro

“It’s far more common for leftists to routinely pick up weapons and try to kill those with whom they disagree than it is for those on the other side of the ideological spectrum.” Ben Shapiro

“There are three questions that I think would destroy most of the arguments on the left. The first is compared to what? The second is at what cost and the third is what hard evidence do you have?” Thomas Sowell

“The last person to trust with power is someone who is dying to have it. The best person to wield power is someone who is reluctant to do so, but who will do it for a while as a civic duty. That is why term limits should make it impossible to have a whole career in politics.” Thomas Sowell

“Each new generation born is in effect an invasion of civilization by little barbarians, who must be civilized before it is too late.” Thomas Sowell

“When the state has the capacity to know everything except the difference between right and wrong, it won’t end well.” Mark Steyn

“If a candidate is not publically committed to fewer government programs from fewer government agencies enforcing fewer government regulations with fewer government bureaucrats on less lavish taxpayer-funded pay, he’s not serious. He’s not only killing your grandchildren’s and children’s future, he’s killing yours – and you will live to see it.” Mark Steyn

“The facts of life are conservative.” Margaret Thatcher

“Good Conservatives always pay their bills. And on time. Not like the Socialists who run up other people’s bills.” Margaret Thatcher

“When the state does everything for you, it will soon take everything from you. You will then have no basis for personal freedom, political freedom, or economic freedom.” Margaret Thatcher

I am sure to have left out some of your fave conservatives and your fave conservative quotes. Feel free to send them in here if you would like to share them with others.

[1978 words]

7 Replies to “44 Key Quotes on Conservatism”

  1. Eight more quotations on conservatism:

    “To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child.” Marcus Tullius Cicero (106–43 BC), Roman orator and statesman

    “Progress, far from consisting in change, depends on retentiveness. When experience is not retained, as among savages, infancy is perpetual. Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. This is the condition of children and barbarians, in whom instinct has learned nothing from experience.” George Santayana (1863–1952), Spanish-American philosopher

    “Western statesmen do not study history; they wait until they are elected to begin their on-the-job reading.” Jean-François Revel (1924–2006), French author

    “One of the signs of a great society is the diligence with which it passes culture from one generation to the next. This culture is the embodiment of everything the people of that society hold dear: its religious faith, its heroes, and its traditions, arts and ceremonies. When one generation no longer esteems its own heritage and fails to pass the torch to its children, it is saying in essence that the very foundational principles and experiences that make the society what it is are no longer valid.” Stephen Mansfield (born 1958), American author

    “Nothing in this world is harder than speaking the truth, nothing easier than flattery.” Fyodor Dostoyevsky (1821–1881), Russian author

    “A democratic politician had better not be right too soon. Very often the penalty is political death. It is much safer to keep in step with the parade of opinion than to try to keep up with the swifter movement of events.” Walter Lippmann (1889–1974), American political commentator

    “The most significant institutions that have characterized America and Britain for the last five centuries, giving these countries their internal coherence and stability — the Bible, public religion, the independent national state, and the traditional family — are not merely under assault. They have been, at least since World War II, in precipitous decline.” Yoram Hazony (born 1964), Israeli philosopher, Bible scholar, and political theorist

    “What makes the current moral and sexual revolution so different from previous moral revolutions is that it is taking place at an utterly unprecedented velocity. Previous generations experienced moral revolutions over decades, even centuries. This current revolution is happening at warp speed.” Albert Mohler, Jr. (born 1959), American evangelical theologian

  2. Thanks Bill, I got a laugh from quotes like “Whatever the Left touches– the arts; the economy; health care; the soul; religion– it destroys or damages.” Dennis Prager and “Government’s first duty is to protect the people, not run their lives.” Ronald Reagan and also “Good Conservatives always pay their bills. And on time. Not like the Socialists who run up other people’s bills.” Margaret Thatcher

  3. A most interesting idea, with lots of powerful and productive loose ends.

    “If we could all convince some progressives to be more conservative and the conservatives , the reverse, we would all be happy” .
    “The trouble is that while conservatives usually know more than progressives ,and some aged progressives never mature in that regard, progressives can sometimes prick the pride and see things others cannot yet see”
    I love the way Chesterton reminds us of the few who sees the way God does – wrong way up .

    Chesterton is my favourite , maybe because he has sat on both sides and seen the deeper confusion created because not none of us knows all we would want to know ;
    I love the quotes that highlight how maturity and experience can bring the balance back in favor of conservatism ;

    Let me precis .
    It’s in our nature to rebel and some of that rebellion is justified because our parents and leaders don’t know as much as they think they know.
    References to Thatcher and Reagan are reminders to me of the point that many mature conservatives still do not accept the above. Progressives often seem to never mature. What does all that mean?
    Most of need the humility that Ecclesiastes reminds us of at this time of year Eccles 3 :1-13 ; and Proverbs 4:7 the cost

    I created a poll on an old blog of mine using a shortened list of quotes at http://thiselection.blogspot.com

  4. yes Lynne . same quotes same response . If you don’t laugh you cry . I am grateful for Thatcher and anyone for telling the truth ,even when like all of us , its only a child. ( H C Anderson )

  5. Hi Bill,

    I’m concerned that there is no conservative government in power in any of the G20 countries, perhaps none anywhere. The Tories might be barely clinging to power in the UK, but they’ve created such a disaster there that they’ll likely face a landslide defeat at the next election. In the US, the GOP seems to be tearing itself apart. In Australia, only NSW has a Coalition government, but they look more like a centre-left administration.

    We’ve lost the support of young and middle aged people. That might be considered situation normal, but the polling trends suggest a deep-seated demographic shift to the left is happening. You see the same trend in the churches – full of old people (and at age 67 I am one of them).

    The problem seems to be that conservative governments act largely on behalf of rich vested interests and assume that benefits to people at large will automatically follow. This was called “trickle-down economics” but it has become a discredited theory, particularly following the Liz Truss disaster.

    How can conservatism recover from this situation?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: