August von Hayek’s Thoughts on ConservatismJune 27, 2021
Hayek reminds us that attempting to abandon all our traditional rules and values and reshape society from scratch is dangerous because social institutions contain ‘knowledge’ or ‘wisdom’ that we are only vaguely aware of. Hayek does not believe that our rules and values should remain static or that it is never possible to criticize them, and he is very careful about this, giving us a mechanism in which an unplanned, (spontaneous), grown society can and can change.
We have to let go of some rules and sacrifice some moral values if they are in conflict with other rules and values that we consider important. For this reason, we always review the rules. We also do this against the background of existing rules.
In Hayek’s opinion, it is an illusion to think that the human mind is powerful enough to allow us to transcend our civilization and judge our values in a scientific or objective way, and that we can create a more perfect civilization by designing the rules completely.
Hayek is very cautious about relying on conservatism as an antidote to socialist planning, putting it this way:
While conservatism is a necessary element of any stable society, it is not a social program. It is closer to socialism than true liberalism in its paternalistic, nationalistic, and power-hungry tendencies, and conservatism in its traditionalist, anti-intellectual, and often mystical nature is an appeal to young people and other people who believe that some change is desirable if there is to be a better place in this world. Except in times of frustration, it will never be attractive.