COMMENTARY: Conservatism can be resistant to change

As a 19-year-old first-year student, perhaps I do not have the qualifications to merit a serious argument on political ideologies. Many times I believed myself to have a flawless argument in a particular field of philosophy, only for it to be struck down simply when I presented it from a perspective I failed to consider. Thus, I became determined to consider all possible perspectives before presenting any of my future arguments, and indeed, I noticed how weak many of my arguments were. Yet, one of my arguments has repeatedly stood out, no matter how much scrutiny I subject it to: The defective nature of conservatism.

Before I discuss my argument regarding conservatism, it is important to completely understand the meaning of the term “conservatism.” The Oxford English Dictionary defines “conservatism” as “the holding of conservative principles. The tendency to resist great or sudden change, esp. in politics. Adherence to traditional values and ideas.” In a discussion of conservatism, it is also important to consider the individuals who practice conservatism: Conservatives. The Dictionary defines a “Conservative” as a person or body “that conserves, or favours the conservation of, an existing structure or system: (now esp.) designating a person, movement, outlook, etc., averse to change or innovation and holding traditional ideas and values, esp. with regard to social and political issues.” Looking at each definition, a prominent aspect is the opposition to change and a belief in traditional values and ideas. Thus, when I refer to conservatism or to a person as a conservative, I am referring to the above definitions.

Essentially, with these definitions in mind, my argument is that conservatism is an irrational belief that inhibits human progress. Throughout human history, change has been a vital force in improving and guiding the human race. One can see this time and time again. For example, because Nicholaus Copernicus and Galileo Galilei were able to change the general mindset about the solar system, the field of astronomy was revolutionized. Because the colonists in the British colonies in America did not want to live under British rule and change how they were governed, the United States was formed. And after that, throughout United States history, change has led to many of the most important events of our country’s history. Change freed slaves. Change gave women the vote. Change created the Civil Rights Act. Change passed LGBT rights. If conservatism was the only mindset American citizens had, if everyone was opposed to change and focused on tradition, only white male property owners would have voted in the election.

Change occurs all around us every day. The universe is constantly changing. It is an inevitable part of life. To oppose change only delays what is almost always expected. Tradition is a powerful tool. People like going back to what’s familiar, what has always been the same. It prevents one from doing what is uncomfortable, or what might lead to undesired consequences and indeed, change has at times caused tragedy for humans. But preventing it is simply illogical, and could possibly lead to even worse tragedy.

With the presidential election having passed, political ideology can be a very charged topic. I am not advocating for a political party or a certain political ideology. These are just observations I have made, and my thoughts regarding them. You may agree with them or you may not, that is completely up to you. Your judgment should be formed from many more arguments than just mine. But, besides the attention you have already given me, I do ask just one more thing of you, whoever may be reading this: Please consider the irrational side of conservative thought, and whether you agree or disagree, I hope you make your future political and electoral decisions with it in mind.

Thomas Gosart is a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student majoring in physics.

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