by Russell Kirk

Russell Kirk

Power over men is the ability to do as one likes, whether other men like that course of action or not. Intelligent conservatives, from Burke and Adams to our time, have looked upon power as a most dangerous thing; for though unchecked power means complete freedom for the powerful man, it means abject servitude for his neighbors; and where power is triumphant, justice cannot abide, since justice promises to each man the things that are his own.

Thus the conservative, reading the lessons of history, has sought to hedge about power with strong restrictions, and to divide authority among many groups and institutions, that concentrated power may reside nowhere. History convinces the conservative that wherever these walls and barriers to restrain power are cleared away in the interest of “efficiency” or “simplicity” or “modernization,” power proceeds to make short work of all the elaborate structure of private and public rights which have been developed, through compromise and experience, in the course of history. The conservative knows the proclivity of human nature towards sin; and he knows that the form of sin to which the stronger natures are prone is the lust after power. (A Program for Conservatives)

Books on the topic of this essay may be found in The Imaginative Conservative BookstoreThe Imaginative Conservative applies the principle of appreciation to the discussion of culture and politics—we approach dialogue with magnanimity rather than with mere civility. Will you help us remain a refreshing oasis in the increasingly contentious arena of modern discourse? Please consider donating now

We hope you will join us in The Imaginative Conservative community. The Imaginative Conservative is an online journal for those who seek the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. We address culture, liberal learning, politics, political economy, literature, the arts and the American Republic in the tradition of Russell Kirk, T.S. Eliot, Edmund Burke, Irving Babbitt, Paul Elmer More, Wilhelm Roepke, Robert Nisbet, M.E. Bradford, Eric Voegelin, Christopher Dawson, and other leaders of Imaginative Conservatism (Visit our Bookstore to find books by/about these men).

All comments are moderated and must be civil, concise, and constructive to the conversation. Comments that are critical of an essay may be approved, but comments containing ad hominem criticism of the author will not be published. Also, comments containing web links or block quotations are unlikely to be approved. Keep in mind that essays represent the opinions of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Imaginative Conservative or its editor or publisher.

Leave a Comment
Print Friendly, PDF & Email