G. A. Cohen on A Truth in Conservatism

Via Henry Farrell, over at the Political Theory Workshop:

I have for decades harboured strongly conservative, that is, strongly small-c conservative, opinions, on many matters that are not matters of justice, and I here mount an exposition and defence of what I believe to be my widely, although perhaps not universally, shared, conservative attitude. (I do not have conservative views about matters of justice because what conservatives like me want to conserve is that which has intrinsic value, and injustice lacks intrinsic value2 (and has, indeed, intrinsic disvalue). I shall say something in section 7 about the relationship between small-c conservatism and large-C Conservatives, many of whom are indeed devoted to conserving injustice.)

I am a kind of conservative not only in that I have the strong small-c conservative attitude that I shall describe, but also in that I endorse certain conservative factual assessments according to which a lot of valuable things have been disappearing lately. I join the ranks of the complainers down the ages who say: “Things ain’t what they used to be.”

Do not suppose that, because that lamentation is perennial, it’s misplaced. Anticonservatives say, “Oh, well, people have always said that things are getting worse”, and anti-conservatives mean thereby to convey that the conservative lamentation expresses an illusion.