Why I Am A Conservative (And You Should Be Too).

The council elections this year were brutal. I would know: I participated heavily in the campaigns for my local candidates. My boyfriend and I were out one morning with the then President of GUCUA leafleting for our local candidate in Hillhead. Everything was going fine and we delivered a small stack of flyers across the block. Then we posted a photo on our Twitter page. 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Twitter is not always a nice place, and the trolls were out in force that day. We received comments on our physical appearance, socioeconomic status, and our intelligence. We received comments threatening us with violence. One person told us that we belonged in the salt mines. Another threatened to slide tackle us on the street. The worst compared us to Nazis, calling us Adolf and Eva. Through it all there was an intense hatred towards two young people who would dare be conservative. No one seemed to understand why two relatively sensible young people in their early twenties would support the Conservative Party. 

That got me thinking and made me want to explain why I, at least, am a conservative. No doubt other people have different reasons, but these are some of mine.

Why I Am A Conservative (And You Should Be Too).

In the early months of the pandemic I was talking with a friend about freedom of speech: one of the most important freedoms, because without it you can’t advocate for other freedoms you care about. I believe that we should have almost no restrictions on speech other than the most limited (actual incitement for immediate physical violence, for example). Once you begin limiting speech based on what might hurt or offend one group, you begin down a very dangerous road that can easily be manipulated to erode democracy. Most interesting ideas begin as speech that irritates other people, and sometimes the most important things to say are those that irritate the type of people that want to set the rules on what you can say. I explained this to my friend and he agreed. That is until we began going over particular examples. They kept returning to one phrase: “what if it hurts someone's feelings”, and then coming to the conclusion that almost every example we discussed should be banned. I told him that for someone who believed in free speech he seemed to want to ban an awful lot of it. He vehemently disagreed, but then immediately continued arguing for a range of limitations on speech, blind to the results of those limitations. But free speech matters - and the freer the better. Limits on speech to avoid offence are the first steps down a road that ends with authors being physically attacked for what they write. Intolerant tolerance is simply intolerance. Or to put it another way, me and my boyfriend should have to put up with being called Adolf and Eva on Twitter no matter how hurtful that is because stopping people doing so is too dangerous in the long run.

Sadly my friend isn’t alone in his thinking. I come across it all the time. There is a worrying trend among young people about this idea of freedom, a fundamental misunderstanding of freedom. Freedom means you have the right to say whatever you want, and that the people you say it to can react with any words they like. It goes further. Freedom more broadly means being able to do what you like: the government should only get in the way of free people when absolutely necessary. Conservatives stand up for that freedom.  

When I was sixteen I read the Communist Manifesto. At school I had been told by my teachers and peers about Communist ideas and why they (or their socialist offshoots) were great, but I had never actually gone to the root source. I was also the only public conservative in a school full of champagne socialists, so I must admit I also wanted to be able to properly undermine their opinions when being preached to. What I read was a complete work of fiction, full of utopian ideas which might sound attractive to some in theory, but which obviously offered no practical way to implement them. 

Of course, no communist or socialist society has ever succeeded and almost all of them have ended in some form of mass killing and control (the Cambodian Genocide for instance, which saw people who wore glasses executed in Pol Pot’s endless pursuit of a socialist paradise). Capitalism on the other hand, promotes innovation and new opportunities. It’s the reason you’re able to read this on whatever device you’re using. It works hand in hand with the growth of meritocracy, rewarding those who set themselves apart through hard work (and yes, luck, but that is also true under other systems). Capitalism is the single most important reason humanity is so prosperous today. 

And yes, of course, capitalism can cause problems alongside its benefits, but the broader wealth and stability created by capitalism gives the government the ability to mitigate those problems more easily, and creates more resources for charities to step into the gap to help too. Conservatism can help protect the powerless and make sure the downsides of unfettered capitalism are minimised but can do so without attacking the underlying ideas of capitalism and economic freedom. Economic freedom flourishes in a fair, rules based, society where the rule of law protects everyone: economic freedom is the path to everyone having the opportunity to do better. Remove that economic freedom and you end up with everyone suffering. 

So, why be conservative? To be conservative is to embrace freedom, economic opportunity, and equality wholeheartedly. It looks forward, toward the future, is not just mired in the past, and does not seek to punish people for the failings of their forefathers. Conservatism, as an ideology, contains immense hope for the future, and believes that society can always do better. It is the practical application of working to leave the community in a better place than you found it. Conservatism recognises that this does not come from excessive government oversight, but by providing the people with the tools they need to succeed in their own capacity, trusting them to do what’s right. It is in this way, the one political ideology which truly champions the character of the human spirit. 

Those are some of the reasons why I am a conservative: because I believe in freedom, because I believe in economic opportunity for all, and because I believe in treating people as individuals rather than as members of groups. There are plenty of others, and plenty of policy areas I care about, but these basic ideas are a good starting point for understanding what I believe.

-Calista Toner

21st August, 2022