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American politics is strange, as it was founded on liberalism. So, modern American conservatives are seeking to conserve the liberalism of the past. Yet some of the colonial, revolutionary, and early national leaders were often radically left-liberal and progressive. To conserve such a liberal tradition makes for an odd conservatism, depending on what the conservative selectively emphasizes and ignores.

Thomas Paine, for example, was one of the most radical; even by today's standards: critic of organized religion, advocate of progressive land taxation, proponent of citizens dividend, believer in a more direct democracy, etc. Yet often he ironically had more concern about what was being lost (e.g., feudal rights of the commoners) than were the supposed 'conservatives' of his era, such as Edmund Burke.

We are all liberals now, at least here in the United States. And amusedly, a British Tory and American immigrant like Henry Fairlie went so far as to argue where all socialists now, be it socialism for the people or socialism for the plutocracy. To conserve the Anglo-American communitarian tradition of Toryism translated as socialism; and indeed there were numerous examples of such Tory socialism that was suspect toward the modernizing and destabilizing force of laissez-faire capitalism.

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