Listening to Mitt Romney's Randianism I couldn't help but be reminded of Benjamin Disraeli, that miraculously talented Victorian prime minister who saw conservatism as a philosophy that should never be indifferent to poverty or social inequality, who, in his novel, Sybil, spoke of two nations in one. An upper-class character, Charles Egremont, meets a working-class leftist, Walter Gerard, and his daughter Sybil. Gerard gets real:
"Two nations; between whom there is no intercourse and no sympathy; who are as ignorant of each other’s habits, thoughts, and feelings, as if they were dwellers in different zones, or inhabitants of different planets; who are formed by a different breeding, are fed by a different food, are ordered by different manners, and are not governed by the same laws." "You speak of — "said Egremont, hesitantly. "THE RICH AND THE POOR."
Disraeli believed that it was conservatism's duty to protect the unity and coherence of the nation, and not be indifferent to the impact of Britain's triumphant capitalist revolution on the British people themselves, especially the poor. At the time of Sybil, he lamented that the Tory Party had strayed from this philosophy:
In a parliamentary sense, that great party has ceased to exist; but I will believe that it still lives in the thought and sentiment and consecrated memory of the English nation … Even now it is not dead, but sleepeth; and, in an age of political materialism, of confused purposes and perplexed intelligence, that aspires only to wealth because it has faith in no other accomplishment, as men rifle cargoes on the verge of shipwreck, toryism will yet rise from the tomb over which Bolingbroke shed his last tear, to bring back strength to the Crown, liberty to the Subject, and to announce that power has only one duty: to secure the social welfare of the PEOPLE.
Not 53 percent of the people. Not 47 percent. Just the PEOPLE. In full caps, as the original. And government exists, in Disraeli's eyes, to promote the "social welfare" of the people, or what the Founders called more expansively "the general Welfare". This is the conservatism now in eclipse by the forces of ideology, fundamentalism and materialism. It is the conservatism we have to rebuild.