Russell Amos Kirk (October 19, 1918 – April 29, 1994) was an American political theorist, moralist, historian, social critic, and literary critic, known for his influence on 20th-century American conservatism. His 1953 book The Conservative Mind gave shape to the amorphous post–World War II conservative movement. It traced the development of conservative thought in the Anglo-American tradition, giving special importance to the ideas of Edmund Burke. Kirk was considered the chief proponent of traditionalist conservatism. He was also an accomplished author of Gothic and ghost story fiction.Read about Russell Kirk in Wikipedia
To check centralization and usurping of power. . . we require a new laissez-faire. The old laissez-faire was founded upon a misapprehension of human nature, an exultation of individuality (in private character often a virtue) to the condition of a political dogma, which destroyed the spirit of community and reduced men to so many equipollent atoms of humanity, without sense of brotherhood or purpose.
The automobile, practical since 1906, was proceeding to disintegrate and stamp anew the pattern of communication, manners, and city life in the United States, by 1918; before long, men would begin to see that the automobile, and the mass production techniques which made its possible, could alter the national character and morality more thoroughly than could the most absolute of tyrants. As a mechanical Jacobin, it rivaled the dynamo. The productive process which made these vehicles cheap was still more subversive of the old ways than was the gasoline engine itself.
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.
Rather than ennobling the public mind and cementing the social fabric, applied science speedily became the chief weapon of a gross individualism, which was anathema to the frugal and righteous (John Quincy) Adams, the source of enormous fortunes divorced from duty, the instrument of unscrupulous ambition and rapacious materialism. Presently, it came to scar the very of the country which Adams loved, a disfiguring process uninterrupted since his day.
Moral decay first hampers and then strangles honest government, regular commerce, and even the ability to take genuine pleasure in the goods of this world. Compulsion is applied from above as self-discipline relaxes below, and the last liberties expire under the weight of a unitary state. . . . Since religion has lost its empire over the souls of men, the most prominent boundary that divided good from evil is overthrown; kings and nations are guided by chance and none can say where are the natural limits of despotism and the bound of license.
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.
In any society, order is the first need of all. Liberty and justice may be established only after order is tolerably secure. But the libertarians give primacy to an abstract liberty. Conservatives, knowing that "liberty inheres in some sensible object," are aware that true freedom can be found only within the framework of a social order, such as the constitutional order of these United States. In exalting an absolute and indefinable "liberty" at the expense of order, the libertarians imperil the very freedoms they praise.
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.