THE CONSERVATIVE MOVEMENT by Paul Gottfried and Thomas Fleming (Twayne: $7.95)
"All Democrats object to men being disqualified by the accident of birth," says G. K. Chesterton in one of many witty quotes unearthed for this book, "tradition objects to their being disqualified by the accident of death." The notion that a conservative is simply one who celebrates "the democracy of the dead," as Chesterton put it, is ultimately inadequate, however, for the authors emphasize that today's mainstream conservatives praise advances in civil rights and sexual equality and in general, keep up with the time. There is a good deal of confusion in these pages over how far back conservatives should travel in search of philosophical principles. The authors offer a new definition of conservatism: "a series of trenches dug in defense of last year's revolution." But we soon see that the movement's roots reach back to Aristotle, who sanctioned social inequality by considering "monarchy, aristocracy, and limited democracies all to be forms of government that (satisfy) man's rational, material, and social needs." Another blurrily defined term is "liberty." Conservatives have "a high regard for . . . liberty," the authors write in the paragraph after their discussion of Aristotle. Whether peasants in Aristotle's monarchy can be considered "free" is not discussed, however.