America’s founding rests on conservative morality, and conservative principles and processes which follow from that morality. The notion that it was liberals who created this country is factually false. For an example of a liberal revolution see France circa 1789.
Moralities and ideologies (different words for the same thing) differ in the degree to which they employ six evolved psychological mechanisms of social perception, subconscious intuitive understanding, and conscious reasoning. See the book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion by liberal social scientist Jonathan Haidt from NYU. The moral foundations are care/harm, fairness/cheating, liberty/oppression, loyalty/betrayal, authority/subversion, and sanctity/degradation. Liberal morality rests mostly on only the first three of those foundations, and of those mostly just care/harm. Conservative morality rests on all of them relatively equally. There’s no liberal moral foundation that is not also a conservative foundation, but half of the conservative foundations are essentially external to liberal morality. Any fair and honest reading of The Federalist Papers (Signet Classics) and/or the period and events of the American founding shows beyond doubt that the culture and thinking of the time rested on all of the moral foundations, not just half of them. By morality/ideology, the American founding was conservative.
Liberalism rests mostly on principles of Positive Liberty and concepts of equality, justice, and fairness as outcomes.
Conservatism rests mostly on principles of Negative Liberty, and concepts of equality, justice, and fairness as processes.
Negative liberty essentially means freedom from. It means minimizing oppressive forces external to the person or to society that hinder people or groups from the pursuit of happiness. It rests on principles of property ownership.
Positive liberty essentially means freedom to. Key to understanding positive liberty is understanding the thought behind “What good does it if I’m free to join a country club but I don’t have the means to do it?” The concept of positive liberty requires, in one way or another, to some degree or another, redistribution of wealth and/or property and the imposition of oppressive external forces to “level” the playing field so that the “disadvantaged” have better odds of achieving a positive result.
Here’s quick illustration of conservative process-based concepts and liberal outcome-based concepts
I play in a weekly poker game. I lose ever single time. Is the game fair?
The conservative answer is: If there is one set of rule that applies, and is applied, to all people the same, and if everyone followed those rules and nobody cheated, then yes, by definition, the game is fair.
The liberal answer is: Since I lose every time it is self evident that there is something inherently unfair about the game. The game’s rules should therefore be rigged so that the disadvantaged (me) have a better probability of a positive outcome. This requires different rules for different people, and a focus outcomes, to create “equality.”
The conservative principles of negative liberty and process based equality, justice, and fairness are enshrined in the Constitution, Declaration and Federalist Papers. Indeed, they arguably defined American culture as a whole at the time of our founding. Liberal principles of positive liberty and outcome-based equality, justice, and fairness are the antithesis of America’s founding principles, and arguably precisely what the founders sought to prevent.
Liberal ideology rests on reason; the power of the human mind, through abstract reasoning, to overcome obstacles and solve problems. Liberalism essentially believes that reason is the path to moral truth. If a social policy cannot be explained or defended by reason alone then it should not exist. The liberal process for developing social policy is, generally speaking, to get rid of old ways that are perceived as not working and invent whole new ways of doing things. Liberalism tends toward wholesale change; revolutionary change. It seeks to “fundamentally transform” society into a new model of its own creation.
Conservative ideology rests on the combination of reason and experience. It is based on epistemological humility. Human action, both at the individual level and at the group level, is so complex and interrelated that it is quite literally impossible to have all the facts. And even if it were possible for a person or group to have all the facts it is beyond the capabilities of human thought to process all of them in ways that can reliably predict how people will react to them. Even the greatest chess masters the world has ever known can see ahead only a limited number of moves. Human social behavior is infinitely more complex than any chess game. Based on experience we know that some things work, and other things don’t work, even if we can’t find perfect “reasoning” to explain why. The conservative process for developing social policy, therefore, is to first study the past. It is to ask “Who before us had similar problems? How did they deal with them? Did their approach work?” It is keenly aware of the danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater. It seeks to preserve those aspects of society that work well and are successful, even while it seeks to make adjustments that might improve it. It studies the past carefully, and makes changes cautiously, more wary of the devil we don’t know than the devil we do know.
The conservative process described above is precisely the process of the American founding. The British citizens living in North America perceived that their own government was pulling the rug of long-established principles of Negative Liberty and process-based fairness, justice, and equality out from under them and replacing them with arbitrary rule. The British citizens in Noth America sought to preserve – to conserve, the very principles they had brought with them from the mother country, that had in turn evolved gradually there for hundreds of years starting at least with Magna Carta in 1215, if not earlier.
American Revolution was not really a revolution at all. It was, truthfully, a war for independence.
The conservative founding generation knew that the enemy of liberty is consolidated, concentrated, government power. This explains the concept of separation of powers enshrined in the Constitution; a concept the founding generation inherited from Mother England, that had evolved there for centuries. The American founding strengthened the idea by adjusting its basis from class (i.e., monarchy, aristocracy, and commons) to function (Legislative, Executive, and judicial). Out of the goodness of its heart, liberal policies tend to consolidate and concentrate government power. Liberalism achieves precisely what the founders sought to prevent.
In every meaningful way the American founding was a thoroughly conservative event. It was motivated by conservative morality and principles, and achieved through conservative processes.
The notion that the American founding was in any way liberal is, well, just plain wrong. It is completely and utterly refuted by historical fact. The notion that the American founding was in any way liberal demonstrates the abject failure of America’s education system to perform one of its most basic functions.
For an example of a reason-based, outcome-focused, wholesale-change revolution see the French Revolution, with its “cult of reason,” which degenerated into The Terror and genocide.