Part The Second

Established institutions--Founding Fathers human shock horror--dynamic stability

Let's move on to principle two, which according to [info]earth_wizard is "a belief in established institutions. American conservatives, for example, believe passionately that the Constitution and the Bill of Rights are works of profound genius, and that they provide the best system of law and government possible. More broadly, conservatives believe in the Anglo-Saxon tradition of rule of law and good government." (That last, I think, is a little too broad to be called an institution in itself. Anyone who believes in government at all wants it to be good. So with your kind indulgence, I'll keep to specific institutions for the moment.)

This highlights, if nothing else, the deep, deep abyss that yawns (and rudely fails to cover its mouth) between conservatives as such and the administration currently (as of 2008) running America, as was pointed out in the comment thread of my original post. But what do I think? Well, let's ask me.

I believe in the intent behind established institutions at the time they are established. The people who wrote the Constitution and the Bill of Rights were doing something that had never been done before, and they were serious, intelligent people who wanted to do it right, not only for themselves but for the future. That said, they were human like most of us, and their work was flawed, as shown by most of the subsequent amendments that have been brought in (and some that haven't). The world is a different place now, and will be a different place in another two hundred and some years, and to expect the Constitution and the Bill of Rights to be as effective then as they were in the last years of the eighteenth century ("No-one could have believed..." erm, sorry) is perhaps a bit more naïve than even I could be.

But there is a need for stability in our lives, and it's foolish to deny it. The collapse, over the last few decades, of things that had previously been reckoned eternal, has caused a growth of insecurity and anxiety in people, and to say that this is a good thing and people should just get used to it is, I think, not helpful. Stability gives us breathing space, something less to worry about, room to think; and whether this ought to be important to us or not, it is. Hence my metaphor of the struggle and the raft in the other post.

So do I think we should cling backwards, to the Established Church and the Constitution and every man in his proper station? I do not. Established institutions of the past have shown themselves unsuitable for life as we live it now: the church's doctrine continues to be barnacled with stupid, cruel and unnecessary rules, the constitution continues to require regular updates (though it has not yet been necessary to reboot the system to complete the updating process...not yet) and the social hierarchies of old, while very stable as they stood, were too prone to abuse and tended to lead to a small percentage of the population possessing the vast majority of the wealth. (Thank goodness we've grown beyond that, eh?)

No, I believe in the potential of the established institutions of the future, the ones we haven't even thought of yet. I believe we should be focussing not on the Camelots of the past, or on the Camelot that is currently starting to fall about our ears, but on the next Camelot, and the one after that, and the one after that; focussing on them, and trying to make them better and more equitable.