Russell Kirk’s Eighth Conservative Principle: Voluntary Community

As we advance to the Eighth Principle of The Ten Conservative Principles of Russell Kirk, you have to know that this one is one that is near and dear to my heart. It is an issue I have been writing about for the past few years and am continually trying to learn more about.

Kirk writes:

Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.

It is not good for man to be alone. What was true in the Garden of Eden remains true today. Community matters, but voluntary is the key word here. It is good for a group of religious believers to come together to worship God on Sunday morning because they want to. It is not good for the State to coerce the same religious believers to congregate together on Sunday.

You might wonder if there is a significant difference. Let me ask you this though. I would hope that you have some friends. You may have one friend or you may have a thousand, but I hope you have some. How did you become friends with these people? Maybe you became friends in preschool, maybe you met at work, maybe you met at church or maybe it was sheer happenstance. I may not know a lot about how you became friends, but I know why you remain friends. You are friends because you want to be friends. You have voluntarily chosen to become a part of someone else’s life. In other words. You are building a community with that person. You might play on a softball team together or play in a band with a few other guys. Maybe on the weekends you belong to the Rotary as well.

The vital thing to recognize about any of these associations is that you and your friends are doing them because you want to. As free people, you are freely associating with the people that you want to associate with, doing the things that you want to do.

Because these are associations that you have chosen, you are going to naturally have more enthusiasm about the causes you are acting on behalf of. As a really simple example, I am part of a Bible study on Wednesday nights. We all come together because we enjoy studying the word of God together, but no one is forcing us to be there. We all make our own, independent decisions to attend, but because of that, I feel like there is a sense of loyalty that brings us together. It is something that you can’t replicate outside of voluntary association. You could force us to be together, but it would not create the same culture that you get when you all choose to get together.

Ultimately, it is not good for man to be alone. However, it is also not good to force man to be a part of communities that he has not chosen. The conservative understands that voluntary association creates a culture of joy and loyalty that cannot be artificially forced. When these types of chosen communities come together, they have the potential to do wonderful things for their town or city because they are committed to particular causes together. Conservatives understand that the world would be better off with more of these constructive organizations.

If you enjoyed this post, be sure to check out the remainder of the series.

Russell Kirk’s First Conservative Principle: An Enduring Moral Order

Russell Kirk’s Second Conservative Principle: Custom, Convention, and Continuity

Russell Kirk’s Third Conservative Principle: Prescription

Russell Kirk’s Fourth Conservative Principle: Prudence

Russell Kirk’s Fifth Conservative Principle: Variety

Russell Kirk’s Sixth Conservative Principle: Imperfectability

Russell Kirk’s Seventh Conservative Principle: Freedom and Property Are Closely Linked

Russell Kirk’s Eighth Conservative Principle: Voluntary Community

Russell Kirk’s Ninth Conservative Principle: Restraints upon Power and upon Human Passions

Russell Kirk’s Tenth Conservative Principle: Permanence and Change


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