Conservatism: A Review

A liberal, atheist review of Conservatism: A Rediscovery by Yoram Hazony


The first half of Hazony’s book is a very readable history of the Anglo-American conservative tradition starting with the English conservative tradition and moving through implementation of the American Constitution. This history is rich, and not well known to basically anyone (speaking as an American; maybe the UK system does a better job since it’s English history) except political science and certain history majors. What I found particularly interesting was the history that was omitted from the public education system I went through.

Paradigms and Values

Hazony then breaks down liberal and conservative values. I detect some mild straw-manning here — or at least a lack of steel-manning — but he does articulate in a note that these are the original Enlightenment premises and that many “liberals inclined to a theoretical empiricism have sought to amend these premises,” such as John Stuart Mill, Isaiah Berlin, and Friedrich Hayek. Once again, some version of these liberal premises were taught to me as a child in school. The conservative ones were nowhere to be found.

Image from The Righteous Mind courtesy of Jonathan Haidt on Facebook

Current Affairs

Hazony then turns his attention to current affairs. He asserts that after WWII a liberal hegemony — termed liberal democracy — reigned in the English-speaking world. He argues that conservatism during this time fused with liberalism to fight the common enemies of socialism at home and communism abroad. He describes a transition from a Christian democracy to a liberal democracy. His evidence is compelling and again indicates a revisionist or suppressed conservative history in the public sphere.

Political Philosophy

While reading Hazony’s writing on Frederick Hayek, I found the closest thing to my own political philosophy. More importantly, I found a lot of overlap between liberals and conservatives that I think describe many more people in the UK and US than most realize. I mention this in hopes that others will see their own thoughts reflected in mine.


Hazony’s penultimate section is on describing a conservative democracy (as opposed to a liberal one), which he has previously published here. In it, Hazony does well in pointing out problems and illustrating how they arise from liberal rationalist political philosophy. He then jumps to religion as being the answer without providing anything close to good reasons for why, which I was hoping to encounter.


Liberals are more conservative than many of them like to think. At least, we use conservative values in places where liberal ideology is silent or blind, such as family and obligation. Conservatives, at least in the Anglo-American tradition, are more liberal than many of them would like to think because they are in the position of conserving what are liberal values. They were certainly liberal at the time they were articulated — the Enlightenment — and globally and historically they continue to be more liberal than the majority of nations.



Retired US Marine intelligence analyst and martial arts instructor. Managing Editor at

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Craig Carroll

Retired US Marine intelligence analyst and martial arts instructor. Managing Editor at