Why I Am Not a Conservative

Liberals who uphold the idea of a free society in which both economic and civil liberties are respected are often regarded as conservatives. In his essay ‘Why I Am Not a Conservative’, first published in 1960 as a postscript to The Constitution of Liberty, F.A Hayek suggests that the two are not the same. This CIS Occasional Paper reproduces Hayek’s original essay in full. In it Hayek argues that there are some fundamental differences between liberalism and conservatism. Although both take issue with socialist ideology, they differ in their attitudes to a number of questions pertaining to the proper scope of authority. These differences reveal the weaknesses inherent in conservatism which, unlike liberalism, is unable to ‘offer an alternative to the direction in which we are moving’ and is, therefore, destined ‘to be dragged along a path not of its own choosing’.

In Hayek’s view it is important that these differences are understood, for it is mor4 than likely that conservatism will afford a welcoming home for the repentant socialist.