Edmund Burke, Conservatism, and Free Markets

In a recent piece by Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute, he discusses the turn against free markets by some conservatives.  This issue is part of the ever increasing divide among those who traditionally align with the conservative movement broadly speaking, and those that seem to succumb to the ever increasing role of government regulating the economy.

“Conservatism emphasizes the benefits of permanency, order, tradition, and strong and rooted communities,” states Gregg.  Thus, the disruptions in markets that we’ve experienced in recent years has jilted some free market traditionalists.

Enter Edmund Burke, as Gregg reminds us.  Burke is not one who is often touted when trying to defend conservative free market principles (at least from an economic perspective), but his defense of economic liberty is one that conservatives should reclaim.

Burke defended a limited role of government, one that functions only in the areas of providing public goods (defense, security, protection of property rights).  Also, he argued that the national government should stay out of local affairs, and welfare functions should be “undertaken by non-state entities.”

It seems that many conservatives today have forgotten these principles.  When trying to solve the most pressing economic (and social) problems of the day, conservatives quickly seek Federal government solutions.  They would do well to take a step back and (re)learn from this 18th Century Irish Statesmen.