Constructive Conservatism, #7

These two leading ideas, moreover, are what give to the permanent relations existing between the British people and Conservatism their specially intimate quality; for the stability of the State and the value of character are not only the fundamental beliefs of Conservatism: they are the fundamental beliefs of the race. And these fundamental principles of Conservatism. Which form the basis of its whole view of life, lead inevitably to the development of the political, the educated democracy into a property-owning democracy.

The beneficent effect upon human character both of the effort to acquire private property and of the opportunity, after it has been acquired, for its wise or foolish use, can hardly be over-estimated. For what is the effect of property, its proverbial “magic”? In the getting, the exercise of thrift, of control, of all the qualities which “the rolling-stone” knows nothing of; in its use, an increased sense of responsibility, a wider economic outlook, a practical medium for the expression of moral and intellectual qualities.

It is for Conservatism to see to it that this pathway to the development of character is opened wide to the people; and to expound to the nation—what no one else apparently dares or cares to—the vital inter-relation between character and private possessions.

Equally clear, equally fundamental, is the relation between the possession of private property by the people and the stability of the State. This, too, has been left for the Conservative to expound. So deeply, indeed, has Conservatism felt the importance of this relation, that in the past it was wont to maintain that only those who possessed private property should exercise political functions. That doctrine has not this new and pregnant application—that since, to-day, practically all citizens have political rights, all should possess something of their own. Mocked and jeered at in the past as “the Party of Property,” it is precisely as such, now that the wheel has turned full circle, that Conservatism in the new era holds in its keeping the key to the problem.

To make democracy stable and four-square; to give the wage-earner property and status; to bridge the economic gulf set between Labour and Capital; to present a view of life in which private property, instead of being reckoned, as the Socialist reckons it, a shameful thing, will be recognised to be an essential vehicle for the moral and economic progress of the individual; these are the tasks which the opportunity, the problem, and its own principles alike call Conservatism to perform in the new era.

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