Well choosing sides between Burke and FDR is certainly an easy task. And not only because Burke saw, as Jonah quotes him seeing, that often we must “bear with infirmities until they fester into crimes,” or because he saw, as Iain notes in his wise post below that “To innovate is not to reform” (I had a few thoughts on Burke and that distinction here a few months back). It is also because Burke understood what a conservative view of human nature and human affairs should mean about the role of government. The folks who want to quote Burke against conservatism too rarely consider his explicitly stated views about the role of government, especially in his too rarely read 1795 “Thoughts and Details on Scarcity” where he says, for instance:
To provide for us in our necessities is not in the power of Government. It would be a vain presumption in statesmen to think they can do it. The people maintain them, and not they the people. It is in the power of Government to prevent much evil; it can do very little positive good in this, or perhaps in any thing else.
Burke was a conservative reformer, who understood the importance of government and politics but also the limits of government and politics. I’m on his side.