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Notes from Chapter 2 – Section 6

Burke contends the only equality man has is moral equality.

– Man is not naturally equal, and trying to force it on him by the art of politics, you can reduce him to nothing special and “deface God’s design for man’s real nature.”

democracy, or majority rule, are not wholly bad, but require a certain circumstance to be good

– Man does not, by nature, respect majority rule, but does so through habit or force of a sovereign.

“Burke maintains that a proper majority can be drawn only from a body qualified by tradition, station, education, property, and moral nature to exercise the political function.” (59)

– There is no natural right in sparing of political power for it depends on the population, but there is a natural right to restrain the political authorities from things they shouldn’t mess with

– Government is meant to temper and restrain the passions of the people and protect one from another.

– Majorities of men are incapable of sound reason but there will alone might cause an evil act

– democracy allows for minorities to express opinions on issues so they don’t continue to fester unchecked

– Aristocracy among men is natural but Burke advises caution in its nature

– A wise society will recognize the natural leaders but place checks on their power

“Just as it is a fact of nature that the mass of men are ill qualified for the exercise of political power, so it is written in the eternal constitution of things and a few men, from various causes, are mentally and physically and spiritually suited for social leadership. The state which rejects their services is doomed to stagnation or destruction. These aristocrats are in part ‘the wiser, the more expert, and the more opulent,’ and they are to conduct, enlighten, and protect ‘the weaker’ the less knowing, and the less provided with the goods of fortune.” (62)

– Statesmen wisely use the natural aristocracy to the benefit of the state, rather than subverting their leadership

“Man’s rights are linked with man’s duties, and then they are distorted into extravagant claims for a species of freedom and equality and worldly aggrandizement which human character cannot sustain, they degenerate from rights to vices.” (63)

Notes and Quotes from Edmund Burke

“Equality in the sight of God, equality before the law, security in what is one’s own, participation in the common activities and consolations of society – these are the true natural rights.” (63)

Notes and Quotes from Edmund Burke

– The libertarian wet dreams of Rousseau and Paine can never be sustained by a society because “rights” require a set of circumstances in order to be properly exercised

– Society should be slowly adapted to the divine order given by God – not shaped to reflect the fanciful view of “social primitivism”.

  • Kirk, Russell. The Conservative Mind: From Burke to Eliot – Seventh Revised Edition. Washington DC: Regnery Publishing Inc., 2001

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