The New York Times published an op-ed by poet Maurice Manning yesterday on his understanding of conservatism. In the essay, the Kentucky native and Washington County resident explains how he exercises his conservative values through his work on his farm and in his rural community:
The root of the word comes from the Latin verb “conservare,” which means “to keep and preserve.” It’s interesting that the origin is a verb and not a noun, a term that implies action and duty, rather than merely a stance. Other meanings suggested by conservative have to do with frugality, modesty and the preservation of tradition.
By these lights, I would qualify as a conservative. My goal in tending our 20 acres is to preserve the character and health of this land. I don’t pile chemicals on our soil; I plant our gardens on our few patches of level ground, and every fall I am careful to rebuild the soil with leaves and compost.
Manning goes on to say these values are not shared by the national conservative political movement:
The latest Republican administration got us enmeshed in two wars, neither of which is winnable, and both of which have cost us blood and treasure, as the old saying goes, that cannot be calculated. A small number of extremely elite “conservatives” has even profited from these ventures. Is that conservatism?
It was obvious from the beginning that our national economic woes come from Wall Street, not the government. Yet our “conservative” leaders think we should do away with oversight and regulation and give the financial world absolutely free rein. It is a freedom that has not been earned. And allowing our financiers to run unchecked is about as conservative as leaving the faucet running. Financial regulations discourage waste and fraud, two values that ought to be at the forefront of any conservative mind-set.
Manning is the author of “The Common Man” and three other books of poems. He is a 2011 Guggenheim Fellow and teaches at Transylvania University. Read the entire essay.