44 Key Quotes on Conservatism

10 January 2023

7.7 MINS

What is conservatism all about? These quotes express the values and worldview of various prominent conservatives.

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 twenty 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 favour 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

conservatism“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 civilisation by little barbarians, who must be civilised 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 favourite conservatives and your favourite conservative quotes. Feel free to send them in here if you would like to share them with others.


Originally published at CultureWatch. Photo by Andrea Piacquadio.

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One Comment

  1. Kaylene Emery 10 January 2023 at 5:58 pm - Reply

    You are I believe, a generous man Bill.
    Thank you.

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