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Edmund Burke: Old Whig

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Fall, 2006 - Vol. 35, No. 1

Edmund Burke, the passionate defender of the "ancientprinciples" of his forebears, might be surprised to discoverthat he originated a new school of political thought.1 By allaccounts, however, Burke is the "modern founder of politicalconservatism," and generations of conservative thinkers havefound his life and work a rich source of philosophical and practicalwisdom.2 Edmund Burke was a statesman and not a politicalphilosopher, and he never produced anything that may be regardedas a systematic political treatise. Nevertheless, he embraceda consistent political creed that governed his actionsthroughout his life. The aim of this essay is to show that Burke'simplicit political creed is, in all essential respects, the doctrineelaborated in the twentieth-century by the social philosopherF.A. Hayek. Hayek's aim, he said, was to restate or systematizethose basic principles whose observance generated and sustainWestern constitutional government and the free society. As we'llsee, the "classical liberal" or "Old Whig" principles articulated byHayek were also those that inspired and guided Burke.

To show this, I will elaborate Burke's substantive politicalphilosophy, his views regarding the nature of society, the role ofreason in human affairs, the proper tasks of government, and thenature of moral and legal rules. The heart of the matter is thatBurke, like Hayek, remained an "unrepentant Old Whig" to theend.3

The Whig Roots of Burkean Philosophy

The political creed to which Burke subscribed—the doctrine ofwhat he called the "ancient, constitutional" or "Old" Whigs—wasan offshoot of the conflict that culminated in the so-calledGlorious Revolution of 1688.4 The Whigs were united by acommon passion—the hatred of arbitrary power—and the preventionof arbitrary action by government ever remained theguiding aim of their political practice. The basic issue aroundwhich Whig opinion formed had been identified as early as 1610.As The Petition of Grievances of that year put the issue: "Thereis no[thing] which [we] account...more dear and precious thanthis, to be guided and governed by the certain rule of law…and notby any uncertain and arbitrary form of government," that is,government "not in accordance with received general laws."5According to John Locke's account, what the Whigs fought forwas

[f] have a standing rule to live by, common to everyone of that society,...a liberty to follow [one's] own will in allthings, where that rule prescribes not; and not to be subject tothe inconstant, uncertain, arbitrary will of another man...[W]hoever has the legislative or supreme power of any commonwealthis bound to govern by established standing laws promulgatedand known to the people and not by extemporarydecrees...[Even the legislature has no] absolute arbitrary power,...but is bound to dispense justice,...[while the] supreme executorof the law...has no will, no power, but that of the law...[The]ultimate aim is to...limit the power and moderate the dominionof every part and member of that society.6

Although the translation of Whig ideals into law and public policywas inevitably a slow and imperfect process, by the time Burkeappeared on the scene "the principles themselves [had] ceased tobe a matter of dispute."7 Moreover, Burke himself lent considerableenergy to institutionalizing Whig ideals; he spent much of hispolitical life endeavoring to reform British law in their spirit.8

The modern interpreter, then, cannot understand Burke'spolitical philosophy unless he is acquainted with the Whig conceptionsof liberty and law. Liberty, to the Whig mind, had aprecise and definite meaning: freedom from arbitrary (that is,"ruleless") coercion, whether emanating from the crown, theparliament, or the people. On the Whig view, such freedom wasgained by strict adherence to the rule of law, that is to say, to"something permanent, uniform, and universal [and]…not a transientsudden order from a superior or concerning a particularperson."9 We should note that the conception of liberty-underlawto which Burke subscribed has nothing to do with what heregarded as the "French" conception of liberty—"political freedom"in the sense of participation in the determination of law orpolicy.10 Nor, we might add, has it anything to do with "innerfreedom" or the conception of freedom as power or ability to act.For Whigs such as Burke, the only kind of freedom that can besecured by a political order is freedom-under-law in the sense offreedom from arbitrary coercion.

On The Nature of Society

Burke's more exclusively political views are intimately related tohis understanding of the nature of society, an understandinginformed by the thought of the Scottish Enlightenment. Philosopherssuch as Adam Ferguson, David Hume, and Adam Smith hadconceived society and its complex webwork of institutions—law,"manners," morals, customs—as the outcome of a prolonged"process of cumulative growth" whereby man had advanced froma level of primitive savagery to high culture and civilization.11 Onsuch a view, social order appears as a product of the interplay ofhistorically evolved institutions, habit and custom, objective law,and impersonal social forces. In the words of one of theircontemporaries, what the Scottish philosophers had done wassuccessfully to "resolve almost all that ha[d formerly] beenascribed to positive institution into the spontaneous and irresistibledevelopment of certain obvious principles,—and...[to] showwith how little contrivance of political wisdom the most complicatedand apparently artificial schemes of policy might have beenerected."12

Burke's thought was fully informed by such views. He, too,understood social institutions to be the product of a complexhistorical process characterized by trial-and-error experimentation.He, too, emphasized that the conditions of human flourishingmust be cultivated through comprehension of the forces thatsustain social order. To Burke's mind, such cultivation demandedfine judgment, "prudence," respect for the given and the grown.Through his eyes, civilized society appeared as a fragile growth;arrogant and presumptuous "meddling" inspired by"visionary...speculation" threatened to disturb the delicate socialwebwork and undo the work of ages, erode the historicallytransmitted "prejudices" that upheld civilized society against thevulgar and the barbaric.13 Burke was leery of the untutored andunsocial impulses that lie beneath man's acquired civility; and heendeavored to refute all doctrines that undermined the authorityof those "repressive or inhibitory" social rules—those "thou shaltnots"—that alone enable men to live together in any degree offreedom or peace.14

Thus Burke's conservatism, his profound regard, even reverence,for the intricate evolved pattern that was the Britishconstitution. He revered that constitution because he perceivedin it the foundation of the Englishman's "ancient, indisputablelaws and liberties;" he knew that the "treasure of...liberty" was thehard-won product of history and evolution. Burke's reverentialattitude toward human society was further deepened by hisreligious convictions. Particular historical societies were, forhim, spiritual phenomena, as he said, "clause[s] in the greatprimeval contract of eternal society;" they were not things to bemanipulated and controlled in accordance with fabulous schemeswrought by restless metaphysicians puffed up with self-importanceand intellectual pretension.15 Burke believed that the institutionsof freedom he cherished emerged from an undesigned andspontaneous evolutionary process utterly dependent upon thedistilled knowledge embedded within inherited traditions andinstitutions. He seems to have been captivated by the wondrousorder-within-complexity generated by this suprarational socialprocess and wished to defend it against that rationalistic mentalitywhich refuses to comprehend the significance of tradition andcustom.

One of Burke's central insights, then, is that, as he said, "theindividual is foolish...but the species is wise." He recognized thatinherited rules and institutions embody the cumulative knowledgeand experience of preceding generations. Thus, for him, theprocess of cultural advance is utterly dependent upon the absorptionand transmission of the cultural inheritance over time.Received tradition is not only the foundation of civilized society,but of all the learned rules whose observance distinguishes thehuman from the animal. For Burke, the contemptuous dismissalof "irrational" tradition, the desire to "wipe the slate clean" anddesign society anew, merely testifies to a profound ignoranceregarding the nature of social reality.16

On the Role of Reason in Human Affairs

One of Burke's greatest contributions, then, involves his understandingof the role of reason in human affairs. His most crucialinsights may be summarized as follows: 1) the priority of socialexperience (or "tradition") over reason; 2) the notion that inheritedsocial institutions embody a "superindividual wisdom" whichmay transcend that available to the conscious reasoning mind;17and 3) the impotence of reason to design or construct a viablesocial order. Burke, in short, understood that civilization is notthe creation of the reasoning mind, but the unintended outcomeof the spontaneous play of innumerable minds within a matrix ofnonrational or suprarational values, beliefs, and traditions.

Burke's enemy, accordingly, was Enlightenment rationalism.For perhaps the most characteristic attribute of Enlightenmentthought was its cavalier dismissal of tradition as mere superstitionand prejudice. Through Enlightened eyes, inherited values, institutions,and customs appeared as the very embodiment of ignorance,"reason" as the tool that would liberate man from the ancientfetters of oppression. Indeed, individual "reason" was endowedwith a most profound and exclusive constructive authority.

Burke regarded the Enlightenment, as J.G.A. Pocock put it, asa "destructive movement of the human intellect...[an intellect]free from all social restraints,...[convinced it can] remodelsociety" in any image it chooses.18 As such, it posed a grave threatto the preservation of civilized order. For Burke apprehendedthat the preservation of free government and civilized societydepends upon man's willingness to be governed by certain inheritedrules of individual and collective conduct whose origin,function, and rationale he may not fully comprehend. The rationalistcontempt for tradition, by contrast, is typically accompaniedby the demand for the radical reconstruction of traditionalmoral and legal rules; from Rousseau through Rawls, the constructionof new moralities and legal systems has been a majorpreoccupation of social theorists. Perhaps no other thought is asuncongenial to the modern rationalist temper as the idea that manis not free rationally to determine or choose his ethical or legalframework; modern thought bears little trace of that "strongimpression of the ignorance and fallibility of mankind" that longserved to suppress rationalistic hubris.19 Burke warned, however,that the endeavor to destroy inherited customs, morals, andprejudices must also destroy the humanistic liberal society engenderedand sustained by such phenomena.

Thus, we may have good reason, as Burke recognized, to be"afraid to put men to live and trade each on his own private stockof reason" and to honor the fact that "individuals do better," as heput it, "to avail themselves of the general bank and capital ofnations and of ages."20 Burke would undoubtedly agree thatreason "is like a dangerous explosive which, handled cautiously,may be most beneficial, but if handled incautiously may blow upa civilization."21

On Economics

Burke's economic prescriptions are, not surprisingly, of a piecewith his social theory. He emphasized the dangers that flow, as heput it, from "meddling on the part of authority" in the intricateweb of economic relations. Burke, in short, was an emphaticdefender of the free-enterprise system: "the moment that governmentappears at market," he cautioned, "the principles of themarket will be subverted."22 Burke objected to governmentalmanipulation of the market process on Whig grounds: not only dosuch "interpositions" violate the "laws of commerce"—whatBurke called the "rules and principles of contending interests andcompromised advantages"—but, perhaps even more importantly,they are necessarily arbitrary and thus corrosive of liberty andjustice. "Free trade," he exhorted, "is not based on utility but onjustice."23

One may conjecture, then, that Burke would be disturbed bythe contemporary politics of redistribution. "Compulsory equalizations,"he said, could only mean "equal want, equal wretchedness,equal beggary." And he would surely resist what he calledthe "officious universal interference" of modern government.24As he said, "It is better to cherish virtue and humanity, leavingmuch to free will, even with some loss to the object, than toattempt to make men machines and instruments of a politicalbenevolence. The world on the whole will gain by a liberty withoutwhich virtue cannot exist."25

Curiously, in light of the often qualified if not begrudgingrespect some contemporary conservatives grant to the marketprocess, Burke, the "father of conservatism," adopted a far more"laissez-faire" attitude toward the role of government in economicaffairs than many of his descendents.26 Burke, for instance,believed efforts to ameliorate poverty should be undertakenexclusively by private charity—the Christian's second duty, hesaid, behind the "payment of debts."27

My opinion is against any overdoing of any sort of administrationand, more especially, against this most monstrous of allmeddling on the part of authority: the meddling with thesubsistence of its people.... [One must] manfully...resist thevery first idea, speculative or practical, that it is within thecompetence of supply the poor with necessaries....To provide for us in our necessities is not in the powerof government. It would be a vain presumption in statesmen tothink they can do it. The people maintain them and not they thepeople. It is in the power of government to prevent much evil;it can do very little positive good in this, or perhaps in anythingelse.28

Burke was further concerned to insure that governmental activityserve to maintain a "consistent whole"—a coherent social order"whose not clash." This, he believed, required a politicsof principle, for such an integrity can only be generated andsustained by the steady application of certain fixed principles overtime. As Burke put it, "the best legislators have been oftensatisfied with the establishment of some sure, solid, and rulingprinciple in government...and having fixed the principle, theyhave left it afterwards to its own operation."29 Modern markettheorists could not express it better themselves. For they aresimilarly concerned to draw attention to the fact that the simultaneousapplication of irreconcilable principles—the "principle"of economic "intervention" and the principle of the market—cannever produce a coherent social order.30

Burke's commitment to market principles was indeed profound,for he regarded these as an expression of God's will. As heput it, "the laws of commerce...are the laws of nature, andconsequently the laws of God." He regarded the laws of economicsas a manifestation of the Divine Law whereby the "benign andwise Dispenser of all...obliges men, whether they will or not, inpursuing their own selfish interests, to connect the general goodwith their own individual success." Adam Smith would express asimilar idea through his famous metaphor of "the invisible hand."To violate the laws of economics was, then, for Burke, to violatethe will of God. Indeed, he suggests that endeavors to override theresults of the spontaneous market process are sacrilegious;economic scarcity seemed to him one manner in which Godrevealed his will, and the "attempt to soften...the Divine displeasure"by man-made contrivances, presumptuous.31

On Religion and Politics

Burke was an orthodox Christian. Although he recognized thatcivil society is the outcome of a complex historical process, he alsoregarded that process as itself the handiwork of God, a "Divinetactick," said Burke, whereby God works his will in humanhistory.32 Burke, then, believed in a natural yet providentialorder, in the existence of a Divine Plan that manifests itselfthrough the historical evolution of concrete and particular societies.He also regarded the state as a God-given means of humanfulfillment. As Burke put it, "He who gave our nature to beperfected by our virtue, willed also the necessary means of itsperfection. He willed therefore the State."33

For Burke, then, the ultimate foundation of civil society wasa religious one. He believed that God had placed each person inhis "appointed place," that only acquiescence to his Plan couldinduce peace and contentment among the constitutionally andirremediably unequal members of any social order, and that onlya people who feared God was capable of sustaining the moralityindispensable to the maintenance of free government.34 Publicofficials, he counseled, should regard their office as a trust, evena "holy function," for which they are ultimately accountable toGod. "All persons," Burke said, "possessing any portion ofpower...ought to be strongly and awfully impressed with the ideathat they act in trust and that they are to account for their conductin that trust to the one great Master, Author, and Founder ofsociety."35 Burke was convinced, moreover, that a highly developedreligious consciousness was indispensable to the continuityand endurance of the political order over time, that such aconsciousness was necessary to forge the sacred bond amonggenerations without which it must dissolve into the "dust andpowder of individuality and at length [be] dispersed to all thewinds of heaven."36 In a word, it seemed to Burke that faith in thepolitical order was best secured if "the whole great drama ofnational life" was "reverently received as ordered by a Power towhich past, present, and future are organically knit stages in oneDivine plan."37

On Rights

Burke is famous for his critical attack on the newfound "Rights ofMan" demanded by the French Jacobins and fellow travelers.Although he sometimes distinguished what he considered the"real rights of men" from the "pretended rights" asserted by theJacobins,38 Burke's chief purpose was to defend what he called"prescriptive rights"—time-honored expectations whose legalvalidity and philosophical justification derive from custom andlong usage. "If civil society be the offspring of convention," saysBurke, "that convention must be its law."39 Although he neverargued from a priori assumptions to principles of right, we'll seethat Burke did regard the prescriptive rights that emerged throughoutthe course of historical evolution as the mundane manifestationof the transcendent natural law.

On Law and Morals

As discussed, Burke regarded the manners, morals, law, andcustoms which constitute the foundation of social order as"grown" phenomena, products of historical evolution and not ofabstract speculation or conscious contrivance. The ChristianhumanistBurke, however, also believed in the existence of themoral natural law; that is, he assumed "a moral code to haveexisted prior to government and in independence of it,"40 a codeultimately attributable to God, the "original Archetype" of law,morals, and government.41 For Burke, the natural law was theultimate standard by which human law was to be measured, andhe emphatically rejected the positivism of Hobbes and indeed anyconception of law as the product of human will. As he put it, "Allhuman laws are, properly speaking, only declaratory; they have nopower over the substance of original justice."42 Nevertheless, thelaw he advocated on a practical basis was the law embodied in theBritish constitution and common law, which, as said, he interpretedas a mundane manifestation of the transcendent naturallaw. The law Burke revered was, to his mind, at once God-givenand historically evolved.

Burke, in short, like his Whig forebears, believed in theexistence of a higher moral law to which all valid positive law mustconform,43 a universal law which manifests itself in diverseconcrete forms, in the great variety of legal codes and customsthat constitute particular cultural traditions. His belief in themoral natural law enabled Burke to condemn Warren Hastings aseasily as the Protestant Ascendency and the slave-traders. Althoughhe recognized that circumstances and the temper of publicopinion set limits to the rate and extent of reform at any giventime, he was ever a champion of universal justice.

While Burke denies, then, that moral precepts are the productof historical evolution ("history," he said, "is a preceptor ofprudence, not of principles"44), he also believed that inheritedmoral precepts embody the distilled essence of the cumulativeexperience of preceding generations. He further believed that themoral and legal principles embodied in the traditional Britishconstitution are the only rules compatible with free government,and this fact too he regarded as an element of the Divine Plan.

Burke's central point is that moral or legal rules are not theproduct of human invention and most emphatically not of "arbitrarylegislative [or, we might add, judicial] will."45 Nothing,Burke wrote, is "more truly subversive of all the order and beauty,of all the peace and happiness, of human society than the positionthat any body of men have a right to make what laws they please,or that laws can derive any authority from their institution merelyand independent of the quality of the subject-matter."46

On the Whig view to which Burke subscribed, the validity oflaw is independent of its source; who makes a rule, whether thepeople or a tyrant, is irrelevant. The Old-Whig Burke denied thatthe exercise of will, whether arbitrary or rational, has anything todo with the determination of law.47 He would undoubtedly concurwith the view that lawmaking entails the ongoing articulation ofthe rules that maintain a working social order, rules that mustcohere with the body of established moral and legal rules (explicitand implicit) that generated and sustain that order.48 As such, itis a pointed intellectual task that must be undertaken by personswell versed in both jurisprudence and social theory and wellattuned, moreover, to the tacit dimension of their society. Theexercise of will is irrelevant to such a task; the appropriate rulesare discerned and found, not proclaimed.49

Burke believed that man carries the imprint of moral (andthus civil) law within his being, imprinted, he said, by the "will ofHim who gave us our nature and in giving impressed an invariablelaw upon it."50 He thus believed in the existence of an objectivebody of obligatory moral and legal rules, rules that have shapedand sustain constitutional government and that constitute theirirreplaceable foundation. Inherited rules and values are thusbinding on those who would preserve constitutional government—the political expression of those values and rules. Thosewho would preserve the liberal order are not free to "revalue allvalues," as Nietzsche exhorted, or to abandon traditional Judeo-Christian morality merely because they may not comprehend itssignificance or appreciate the restraints it imposes; for suchaction would entail the destruction of the kind of free and civilizedsociety engendered and sustained by that morality.

In an age when the religious truths that guided Burke'sunhesitating step no longer inform the dominant worldview,rational comprehension of the function served by moral traditionsand inherited rules may thus be indispensable to thepreservation of civilized values and free government. For Westernsociety presently stands at a curious juncture. The authorityof the moral and political traditions whose observance generatedthe liberal order has eroded in many quarters, and it has beensuggested that we are living on the "moral capital" of an earlierera. One may hope that rational insight into the function servedby inherited moral and political traditions in regard to themaintenance of civilized society may supply the want of traditionalauthority—religion and custom—increasingly characteristicof our time.

Despite Burke's valiant resistance, the "French" doctrines hefeared and despised have proved more congenial to the moderntemper than the English ideals Burke himself championed. Thepast several centuries have witnessed the triumph of "politicalfreedom" over liberty-under-law; the fondness for techniques ofconscious organization over spontaneous coordination; positivisticjurisprudence and scientistic social science; Comte, Marx, and"managed competition;" the war against traditional morality; thedemand for rational justification of values; democratic despotismand radical equality; centralization of political power; "officiousuniversal interference"—each and every one a derivative of the"armed doctrine" Burke dreaded.

Those who would champion Burke's cause several centurieslater, do so, then, under the most unfortunate circumstances, forthe contemporary mind has been profoundly shaped by Enlightenmentdoctrines; the more "modest and…humble creed" of Burkeand his Whig forebears has long been on the defensive.51 TheEnglish ideal, the ideal of a "free government…that...temper[s]the…opposite elements of liberty and restraint in one consistentwork," doesn't seem to set the modern heart on fire.52

Perhaps, however, it's still possible to hope that Burke'sheroic "exertions...[in the] struggle for the liberty of others" mayyet prove not to have been in vain.53 Be that as it may, the integrityand wisdom of this great thinker constitute a steady beacon toinspire and guide those who may be disheartened by the currentcourse of events.

Linda C. Raeder
Palm Beach Atlantic University


  1. Edmund Burke, Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs inThe Works of the Right Honorable Edmund Burke, 7th ed., Vol. IV(Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1881) 143.
  2. Peter J. Stanlis, "Edmund Burke in the Twentieth Century,"in Peter J. Stanlis, ed. The Relevance of Edmund Burke (New York:P. J. Kenedy & Sons, 1964) 45.
  3. Friedrich. A. Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1960) 3.
  4. Burke, Appeal, 188.
  5. "The Petition of Grievances of 1610," cited in Hayek,Constitution, 168, 163.
  6. John Locke, cited in Hayek, Constitution, 170.
  7. Hayek, Constitution, 172.
  8. The following are representative of Burke's Whig outlook:"Arbitrary power…is a subversion of natural justice, a violationof the inherent rights of mankind." (Thoughts and Details onScarcity, in The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke,Volume VI [London: Oxford University Press, 1907] 27)"[T]he judicature...ought to [be] ma[d]e, as it were, somethingexterior to the state,...radical[ly] independent,...constituted toresist arbitrary innovation…and calculated to afford both certaintyand stability to the laws." (Edmund Burke, Reflections onthe Revolution in France, ed. J.G.A. Pocock [Indianapolis: HackettPublishing Company, 1987] 181)"The vice of the ancient democracies...was that they ruled…byoccasional decrees.... This practice...broke in upon the tenor andconsistency of the laws; it abated the respect of the people towardthem, and totally destroyed them in the end." (Reflections, 182)"Indeed, arbitrary power is so much to the depraved taste ofthe vulgar...that almost all the discussions which lacerate thecommonwealth are not concerning the manner in which it is to beexercised, but concerning the hands in which it is to be placed."(Appeal, 163)
  9. Blackstone's Commentaries, cited in Hayek, Constitution,173.
  10. Burke, Appeal, 97. Burke understood the extent of politicalparticipation to be a matter of convention and not of principle.
  11. Hayek, Constitution, 57.
  12. Francis Jeffrey, cited in Hayek, Constitution, 57.
  13. Burke, Appeal, 81.
  14. F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit (Chicago: University ofChicago Press, 1988) 18.
  15. Burke, Reflections, 27, 47, 85.
  16. F.A. Hayek has argued that those institutions and practicesthat were observed long enough to form a "tradition" did sobecause they contributed to the survival and flourishing of thegroups who observed them; those most adapted to the circumstancesof human existence progressively displaced less "successful"practices. For Hayek, tradition is precious because it embodiesthe collective experience of our forebears and thus, as Burkealso stressed, more knowledge than any person or group couldpossibly gain in one lifetime. Enduring traditions, Hayek argues,were transmitted for a reason, however inaccessible it may be tothe individual intellect. Burke, for all his emphasis on the spiritualityof social life, would not be offended by Hayek's survivalcriterion: "I never will suppose that fabric of a State to be theworst if it contains a principle favorable (however latent) to theincrease of mankind." (Burke, Reflections, 113) And, "[n]o countryin which population flourishes and is in progressive improvementcan be too bad a government." (Ibid., 112)
  17. Hayek, Constitution, 110.
  18. Pocock, in Reflections, xxxiii-xxxviii.
  19. Burke, Reflections, 218.
  20. Ibid., 76.
  21. Hayek, Constitution, 94.
  22. Burke, Scarcity, 32, 20. Burke's discussion of the marketsuggests that he was aware of what Hayek was later to emphasizeso emphatically, namely, the knowledge problem to which themarket is the solution. "It is better," Burke says, "to leave all[contractual] dealing...entirely to the persons mutually concernedin the matter contracted for than to put this contract intothe hands of those who can have none, or a very remote interestin it, and little or no knowledge of the subject." (Ibid., 11, 9) And,the "[m]arket is the meeting and conference of the consumer andproducer, when they mutually discover each other's wants."(Ibid., 18) The correspondence to Hayek's understanding of themarket as a discovery process is noteworthy.
  23. Burke, Scarcity, 10, 22, 15, 32, 27. See also Ibid., 11, 13.
  24. Ibid., 11, 32.
  25. Burke, Reflections, 91.
  26. We should note, however, that neither Burke nor any ofthe eighteenth-century British economists did in fact advocateany sort of laissez-faire policy. They knew that the market processis dependent upon a particular institutional structure and thatgovernment has certain indispensable functions to perform inregard to the economic sphere. The concept of "laissez-faire," asHayek points out, was foreign to the British tradition that he andBurke represent; the very term reveals its roots in the "French"or Continental rationalist tradition. (Constitution, 60)
  27. Burke, Scarcity, 13.
  28. Ibid., 32, 22, 2.
  29. Burke, Reflections, 149. Speaking of the new French"constitution," Burke wrote: "I do not see a variety of objectsreconciled in one consistent whole, but several contradictoryprinciples reluctantly and irreconcilably brought and held togetherby your philosophers, like wild beasts shut up in a cage toclaw and bite each other to their mutual destruction." (Reflections,159-160)
  30. F.A. Hayek, The Mirage of Social Justice (Chicago: Universityof Chicago Press, 1976) 128-129.
  31. Burke, Scarcity, 22, 9.
  32. Burke, cited in John MacCunn, "Religion and Politics," inDaniel E. Ritchie, ed. Edmund Burke: Appraisals and Applications(New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 1990) 191.
  33. Burke, Reflections, 86.
  34. Ibid., 85.
  35. Ibid., 83, 81.
  36. Burke, cited in MacCunn, "Religion and Politics," 183.
  37. Ibid., 186.
  38. Burke, Reflections, 51, 54.
  39. Ibid., 52.
  40. Stanlis, Burke and the Enlightenment.
  41. Burke, Reflections, 86.
  42. Burke, "Tract on the Popery Laws," cited in Stanlis, Burkeand the Enlightenment, 18.
  43. "[T]he notion of a higher law above municipal codes andconstitutions, with which Whiggism the supreme achievementof Englishmen and their bequest to the nations." (LordActon, Lectures on Modern History [London: Macmillan and Co.,Limited, 1930], 217-218)
  44. Burke, cited in Stanlis, "Edmund Burke in the Twentiethcentury," 23.
  45. Adam Ferguson, cited in Hayek, Constitution, 57.
  46. Burke, "Popery Laws," cited in Stanlis, Burke and theEnlightenment, 16.
  47. "The people at large...should not be suffered to imaginethat their will, any more than that of kings, is the standard of rightand wrong.... [T]hey ought to be persuaded that they are...[not] use any arbitrary power whatsoever...or to exact from[public officials] abject submission to their occasional will."(Burke, Reflections, 82) And "[n]either the few nor the many havea right to act merely by their will, in any matter connected withduty, trust, engagement, or obligation." (Burke, New to Old, 162)
  48. Burke's view was similar to that of Hayek: any proposedstatute, said Burke, must be "reconciled to all established, recognizedmorals, and to the general, ancient, known policy of the lawsof England." (Burke, New to Old, 134)
  49. See F.A. Hayek, Law, Legislation, and Liberty (Chicago:University of Chicago Press, 1973-1976).
  50. Burke, "Popery Laws," cited in Stanlis, Burke and theEnlightenment, 17.
  51. Hayek, Constitution, 8.
  52. Burke, Reflections, 216.
  53. Ibid., 218.