Burke on Temperate vs. Hot Reform

In 1780 Edmund Burke was appointed to the lucrative position of Paymaster to the forces. At this time, paymasters were allowed to lend out excess money in their accounts at interest, thus taking risk with and profiting from public money (does this sound familiar anybody?). Burke put an end to this practice and accepted a salary that was 1/8th his predecessors! He did this despite serious financial problems that left him in perpetual debt his entire life.

Burkes most notable accomplishment during this period was the 1780 economics reform aimed at reducing Britain’s annual budget deficits of 14 million pounds. At the center of the reform was the bloated Crown Civil List. Burke sought to reform this list by:

  • Abolishing useless offices
  • Diminishing royal authority over distribution of pensions or secret service funds
  • Asserting control of parliament over civil service

In a famous speech to parliament, the Father of Conservatism, described the difference between ‘temperate’ vs. ‘hot’ reform.

Genuine reform, in order to reduce abuses, must be accomplished gradually, the reformer sounding the lead all along the way.

Early reformations are amicable reformations with a friend in power.

Late reformations are terms imposed upon a conquered enemy.

Early reformations are made in cool blood.

Late reformations are made under a state of inflammation.

In that state of things the people behold in government nothing that is respectable.They see the abuse and they will see nothing else. They fall into the temper of a furious populous provoked at the disorder of a house of ill fame. They go to work by the shortest way, they abate the nuisance, they pull down the house.

Are we too late for temperate reform? And is there another Edmund Burke out there?

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