Political Dimensions


Politically conservative as a concept encompasses a broad set of principles, values and policies and suffers from sometimes contradictory definitions. The following is a short consideration of the plain english sense of conservative as an instinctual principle applied to people’s wider set of political dimensions.

Disambiguation is warranted.

This is not about conservatism. It isn’t about identity or philosophy or party. It’s about a single dimension of a fraction of a personality trait that happens to overlap in meaning and pronunciation with conservatism.

A sense of status quo, what is and what could be.

When people weigh decisions ranging from trivial personal matters to significant societal changes we intuitively account for the status quo as we see it. This sense of status quo operates somewhat like it ts relationship to perceived best and worst realistically possible futures. and the implications thereof. People and groups vary in their sense of distances from status quo to “worst” and “best” and the ratio between the two and this is our definition of the conservative dimension. We could alternatively think of it as the believed probability of a random change making things better.

Progressive: Things could be much better so...
great change for the better is necessary
expedience is valued over caution
desperate measures may be necessary
Conservative: Things could be much worse so...
any change might be for the worse
caution is valued over expedience
desperate tendencies must be tempered

It’s not that simple.

It’s easy to say that the real world doesn’t work exactly this way, for example most things in life aren’t a zero-sum game and making things better doesn’t at all dictate such a simple adjustment of the odds. In the intuition of people in general though it may well be a zero-sum assessment with occasional semi-conscious adjustment.
It seems that different contexts can and should be treated independently, for example generally conservative people can be very unconservative in certain contexts and vice versa. It’s much less evident that people treat independent contexts with a completely independent sense of status quo. More probably every context is coloured by the individual’s overall sense of status quo.
A potential contradiction is the effect on confidence after a success or failure. These feelings can be explained as an adjustment to the imagined limits of potential outcomes and are mostly temporary unless repeated in the mid-term. Better outcomes seem more attainable after a success and a conservative person will feel less so but the strongly conservative person will also intuit a need to be watchful for frivolity. Worse outcomes seem more likely after a failure and the less conservative person will feel more so but the much less conservative person will also intuit a need to be watchful for opportunity.
The human intellect is not well optimised for accurate probability estimation and relies on many shortcuts and anecdotal compensations both personal and cultural. Though there may be no actual probability calculations occurring the effective result is nevertheless an approximation of the same.


Optimism and pessimism are about expectation. The conservative dimension is a matter of potential and risk. An optimistic conservative envisions a steady course of careful improvement. A pessimistic non-conservative predicts continued inaction and lost progress.
Life, love, liberty, property and community only bear on conservative thought in so far as they exist in the status quo and partly define outcomes for the better.
Moral, philosophical, artful and playful have fleeting intersection if any.

Conservative dimension clichés.

Don’t rock the boat.
What have we got to lose?
Life is good but that’s easily fixed.
We have to do something.

Political dimension survey question examples:

The current state of [political sphere] is: very bad○ bad○ indifferent○ good○ very good A significant random change in [political sphere] will probably make things: much worse○ worse○ don’t know○ better○ much better [General political authority] should act quickly and decisively to make things better: ○ very false○ false○ maybe○ true○ very true In [political sphere] uncareful or rushed improvement is better than no improvement at all: ○ strongly disagree○ disagree○ possibly○ agree○ strongly agree Sometimes [political context] can only be improved by large sweeping change: ○ strongly disagree○ disagree○ other○ agree○ strongly agree Page Break

How to be conservative.

Conservative is practical and acts to affect optimal rate of progress for the better through a balance of empirical, rational and intuitive means. Its primary concern is not what better looks like but how to get there safely.
Being comfortable and not wanting change lends one to favouring conservative views but it’s not a rational principle for long term political or personal good. If upon becoming uncomfortable, one wishes for uncareful change then one is not and probably was not ever conservative.
Progress towards the better is desirable to everyone in principle, yet some conservatives may settle for the status quo and resisting any change that may be for the worse, ambivalently leaving all progress to the non-conservatives. Some other conservatives will choose to pursue careful change for the better as preferable to uncareful change or stagnation.
Tradition has a place in conservative thinking as a resource of well-known outcomes however enacting uncareful change to preserve tradition is an unconservative position and strong indication of a distorted sense of status quo. A realistic conservative thinker will expect change to occur, sometimes gradually and sometimes suddenly and yet still advocate careful accommodation or mitigation, especially in times of rising desperation.
Dogma occludes truth and is not aligned with good conservative practise.
Nostalgic notions that tend to boil down to enforcing purity of one kind or another invariably necessitate dangerously significant change.
Activism doesn’t seem like a conservative pastime yet it exists from peaceful advocacy of well-considered policies for improvement all the way to violent protest against terrifying change.

How conservative to be.

Everybody is conservative, some hardly at all and some only occasionally. The extremely conservative is less likely to come up with unconventional ideas than the minimally conservative, who may avoid serious blunder by consulting with the former. The middling conservative will appreciate that there are many clever and well scrutinised ideas with which to better the world, carefully.
Conservative is not a moral dimension so relax and be precisely as conservative as you are. Also make friends outside of your end of the dimension.


This is the original work of the author in thought and text.
Copyright license is by Creative Commons – Attribution
Feedback will be gratefully assimilated via matt@exfinium.com
End of draft 1 notes
To-do: Annotate and footnote every assertion and categorize as guess, vague memory or citation
To-do: Investigate other document codings besides Word

Brain farts.