Why and to what extent, have conservatives supported One Nation principles? 
One nation conservatism stems from the paternalistic branch of conservatives and thus has a bias towards principles such as social duty and moral obligation, specifically the obligation of the better-off in society to support or aid the less well-off, reflecting Disraeli’s desire to prevent the UK becoming ‘two nations; the haves and the have nots.’ This essay will argue that there is support for One Nation principles throughout the many traditions within conservatism but that there is significant opposition to some One Nation principles also.
One principle in which there is support for by some conservatives is pragmatism. The basis for pragmatism in One Nationism is reflected in a fear of revolution, stemming from ever widening social inequality. Disraeli feared that ‘social inequality was the seed of revolution’ and thus aimed to improve the conditions of the less well-off in society so as to keep them content with their living standards. However it is important to note that these improvements are limited to the desire to ensure that the poor no longer pose a threat to established order. This pragmatic approach to politics and social policy is reflected in Burke’s statement that ‘a state without the means of some change is without the means of its conservatism.” The conservative New Right have accepted pragmatism, evident in modern times where the Conservative party under Cameron has kept many social security and welfare programs running in the UK.
By tradition, conservatives have had a tendency to be empirical in nature. Empiricism refers to the use of the knowledge derived from the past in remaining pragmatic in solving current political problems. The empirical nature of conservatives is evident in Burke’s assertion that “no generation should ever be so harsh as to consider itself superior to its predecessor.” Thus, One Nation conservatism may been favourable to some conservatives since a paternalistic body with links to the past can uphold the workings of the past which have responded well for several hundred years. The paternalistic bodies of authority in One Nation conservatives will uphold the famous conservative phrase that “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it…”, thus showing clear compatibilities with other forms of conservatism.
One Nationism also supports the principle of hierarchy in society as they believe it to be both natural and inevitable. Their firm attachment to a society structured by an inevitable hierarch derives from the innate roles in the family, where the father is to be the head of the household and his family – to whom which he will ‘provide’ for – are his subordinates. It follows that this view on hierarchy compliments authoritarianism which is evident throughout both traditional conservatism and neoconservatism. The former tradition also views hierarchy as natural and uses the image of the father as the head of the family, as the right to exercise ‘power from above’.
The latter highlights the significance of a hierarchy as to the maintenance of security, such as that ‘knowing where you stand’ in society, or in a social group. They believe that this security is provided by the father of the family via means of strong paternalistic curtailment of liberty. As this view of hierarchy leads itself to authoritarian views, Libertarians strongly disagree with the principle. They believe that government should have the least possible regulation on social life. Thus they view the positive curtailment of liberty to be a violation and believe that negative liberty has priority over all forms of authority, tradition and equality.
From the view that the father is the provider in a family, One Nationism has constructed its approach to social policy. Disraeli was a supporter of noblesse oblige, that is, the ‘price paid’ in return for operating authority as a government as the political obligations of the state to maintain a stable society and economy. The principled basis for One Nationism is that the ‘rich’ have a moral obligation to help the ‘poor’, as the positions of both are largely based on the accident of birth which is supported by Rawls’ notion of brute luck.
Duty is therefore the price of privilege and those who are privileged must shoulder the burden of those who are not. This view has been supported by Social conservatives who have kept to the Labour policies of for instance providing a wide range of choice in the provision of education and the NHS. However these views are not accepted by other forms of conservatism such as the liberal New Right, who see the social reforms and policies as creating a ‘culture of dependency’ which may lead to the breakup of the nuclear family, as the father is no longer the ‘provider’.
One Nation conservatives also support the idea of planned capitalism. This is a pragmatic rejection of the laissez faire approach to the economy mainly because of the crisis of the Depression of the 1920s. This ‘middle-way’ economics aimed to keep some aspects of a free market but couple them with social and welfare policies funded by government.
They believed that the state had an obligation to intervene in the economy to provide welfare services to prevent abject poverty. This is somewhat supported by Christian conservatives who aim to help the ‘needy’ in society. There is also further support of ‘compassionate conservativism’ since the 1980s and a shift away from market fundamentalism. However there is further disagreement with neoliberalism as they disagree in state intervention in social or economic policy and are not attuned to the view of the deserving poor.
In conclusion, it is evident that there is agreement between conservatism and One Nation principles on matters such as hierarchy but the extent to which depends on how the view is portrayed. Different traditions view the principles in different lights and thus have different outcomes regarding the principle. It is also evident that One Nationism shares many similarities with the conservative New Right but finds itself largely at opposition with neoliberal viewpoints. Thus, One Nation conservatism has tended to find support due to its emphasis on empiricism, natural inequality, tradition and the organic society. The overall conservative support towards One Nation notions is to a large throughout traditional forms, and is limited when theories of neoliberalism develop.