I have a long essay up at Takimag.com on Edmund Burke. I criticize the modern tendency to invoke Burke for liberal causes, as if his concerns were chiefly procedural. Burke’s philosophy is much more than a habitual disposition to gradualism and decentralization. The content of political activity matters. I write, among other things:
Burke’s latest fans, however, misunderstand something important about Burke and his philosophy by abstracting from his ouevre only the following two ideas: (1) criticism of ideological fanaticism, particularly the concern with uniformity, and (2) Burke’s promotion of gradualism under the rubric of “organic change.” Burke had many more themes, all of which find echoes in conservative thinkers today. For example, Burke also defended the necessity of social inequality, political authority over moral matters, organized religion (including state support of the same), sound money, chivalry and traditional sex roles, and traditional political institutions, most notably in the form of hereditary monarchy. Burke was neither a libertarian, nor a Classical Liberal. He famously sparred with Thomas Paine, who penned his obnoxious work, The Rights of Man, as a criticism of Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France.
Modern “Burkeans,” who defend such varied matters as universal healthcare and gay marriage in Burkean terms, effectively cut Burke’s philosophy in half, focusing exclusively on his concerns for procedure and the pace of political action, while distorting or ignoring Burke’s more controversial treatment of the substantive ends of politics.