Fatalism is a distinct flavor of the conservative disposition, but the distinction between fatalism and plain-vanilla standpattism usually doesn’t matter, since they arrive at the same principle by different routes: We shouldn’t do anything we can’t predict all the consequences of, which in practice means we should do as little as possible.
Still, there’s a unique appeal to fatalism, especially the cheerful kind: “Consider the birds of the air. They neither sow nor reap, and usually only live for about three years before being eaten by a predator or having their habitat displaced by a strip mall, and personally it doesn’t seem like much of a life to me, flitting around chasing bugs with no sense of higher purpose. But they do look very pretty, even if they have no concept of beauty.”
One of the all-time greats of Tory fatalism was the Victorian British prime minister Lord Salisbury, as seen very clearly in this passage from the biography/memoir his daughter wrote:
“I don’t understand what people mean when they talk of the burden of responsibility. I should understand if they spoke of the burden of decision—I feel it now, trying to make up my mind whether or no to take a greatcoat with me. I felt it in exactly the same way, but no more, when I am writing a despatch upon which peace or war may depend. Its degree depends upon the materials for decision that are available and not in the least upon the magnitude of the results which may follow.” Then, after a moment’s pause and in a lower tone, he added, “With the results I have nothing to do.”I’m not sure why the U.S. never developed a native strain of political fatalism. Perhaps because our Irishmen are all Democrats.
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