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Conservatism is a political ideology which maintains as its defining trait an opposition to drastic societal change.[1] Conservatives generally seek continuity of the status quo while the changes they do advocate usually seek a return to some past period which they believe to be ideal. Conservatism also promotes the power of government as the chief mechanism for limiting unwanted change and maintaining their version of the ideal society, and as such it is often associated with statism.[2] Another primary trait of conservatism is the belief in the existence of superior individuals whose values and ways of life should be protected and promoted. Furthermore many conservatives believe that these individuals should also have a greater influence on political affairs.[3]

Views of conservatism by members of the Austrian School

Many thinkers related to the Austrian School of Economics have expressed their views on conservatism with a common emphasis being on how it differs from the classical liberal tradition and also how this ideology often is an impediment to individual freedom.[4][5]

In Friedrich Hayek's book The Constitution of Liberty he included the postscript Why I Am Not a Conservative in which he outlined his many disagreements and concerns with the conservative viewpoint. He emphasizes his belief that conservatism is counter to his view of spontaneous order, which he believes is one of the most essential components of a free and prosperous society, and he states the following:

This fear of trusting uncontrolled social forces is closely related to two other characteristics of conservatism: its fondness for authority and its lack of understanding of economic forces. Since it distrusts both abstract theories and general principles, it neither understands those spontaneous forces on which a policy of freedom relies nor possesses a basis for formulating principles of policy.
—Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty

Hans-Hermann Hoppe takes a different view of conservatism than do many other Austrian School thinkers, but this is largely due to him rejecting the traditional definition of conservatism. He believes that conservatism viewed as an opposition to change or preservation of the satus quo is largely empty in meaning as the status quo is never the same at different times or places. Or as he put it:

Because different laws, rules, and political institutions are in place at different times and/or different locations, what a conservative supports depends on and changes with place and time. To be a conservative means nothing specific at all except to like the existing order.
—Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Democracy: The God That Failed

Due to the the perceived empty meaning of the traditional definition of conservatism, Hoppe advances a different definition which relates to his concept of natural order: "Conservative refers to someone who believes in the existence of a natural order, a natural state of affairs which corresponds to the nature of things: of nature and man."[6] Conservatism defined in this manner differs significantly from the colloquial definition in that it specifies what conservatives want to maintain, i.e. the natural order, rather then an abstract and constantly changing status quo.


  1. Hayek, Friedrich. "The Constitution of Liberty", 1960, page 397.
  2. Riggenbach, Jeff. "Why American History is Not What They Say: An Introduction to Revisionism", 2009.
  3. Hayek, Friedrich. "The Constitution of Liberty", 1960, page 402-403.
  4. Mises, Ludwig von. "The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality", 1981, page 64.
  5. Rothbard, Murray. "Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty", page 7.
  6. Hoppe, Hans-Hermann. "Democracy: The God that Failed", 2001, chapter 10.