Andrew Sullivan makes a really good point in this blog post. It’s about politics, but it applies to, well, everything:
Of course, without Margaret Thatcher (or her equivalent, Rudy Giuliani), there would be no Bloomberg. The “small c” conservative point here, it seems to me, is that policy should reflect changing times. People forget that Reagan’s attack on government was premised on a particular time and place: America 1980. Ditto Thatcher in Britain 1979.
I think most Obama supporters in America would have been horrified at the extent of state power and trade union abuse in Britain in the 1970s. But today, there are different challenges that require different solutions. I’m a free market conservative, but I cannot defend the speculation and recklessness of the financial markets in the past decade. I’m a fiscal conservative, but I cannot defend the GOP in the 21st century. I’m for low taxes, but realistically there’s no way to get back to fiscal sanity without someone paying higher taxes at some point.
Just as it often makes little sense to criticize the policies of the past without putting them in the proper context, so too does it make little sense to advocate mindlessly adhering to past ideas when the conditions that justified them are no longer present.