The three classes of conservatives, their origins, and their futures
Nassim Taleb has a uniquely helpful way of categorizing people and institutions based on how they are affected by shocks, whether in some physical sense (like if they take a fall, do they break a bone or get stronger) or in an epistemic sense (like if some piece of their worldview is wrong, do they collapse or grow). See his easily readable presentation here, and check out his blog for more detailed examples.
His three classes are "fragile," "robust," and "anti-fragile." When given an unexpected shock, fragile things tend to break, robust things tend to heal back to where they were before, while anti-fragile things actually grow stronger from the shock.
We can use this lens to distinguish between groups who all call themselves "conservative" but in fact differ fundamentally.
The fragile conservative is the helicopter parent type: they prefer a system that is so shielded from risk that it becomes weak and unable to withstand life's inevitable shocks. That creates a positive feedback loop, as the mother of an incredibly frail and sickly child instinctively tries to shield it even further, until the kid is incapable of performing basic life functions on its own, and is hooked up to a clutter of machines. Their motto is, "You can never be too worried."
The robust conservative is the traditionalist type: they prefer a system that has withstood the test of time, or more specifically it has passed a survival test among rival systems. As long as you don't really whack it over the head, it'll heal itself. The aversion to blind trial-and-error limits the amount of further progress that could be made, but they are fine with that because the system can only heal itself up to a certain level of injury before breaking, and discovering exactly where that threshold lies is not worth the risk of blowing up society. Their motto is, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" (though they would never use those exact words).
The anti-fragile conservative is the hillbilly (not redneck) type: they prefer a system, never explicitly detailed, that not only withstands shocks but benefits from a good deal of rambunctiousness. They are too restless to sit through yet another generation of the same ol', same ol' and want to tinker around with things to see if something better can be done. It is not radically experimental, which would be like a genetic mutation rate that was so high it prevented parents from faithfully passing on fitter genes to their offspring. Nor is it experimental for its own sake -- only to discover better adaptations. Their motto is, "It may taste like shit, but it'll put hair on your chest."
Taleb already applied the taxonomy to modes of subsistence, but there's more to add. The fragile conservative is a product of single-crop agriculture or modern market economies, and their prototypical ethnic group today is the Ashkenazi Jews, forced into and adapted to a managerial niche in Central and Eastern Europe.
The robust conservative is a product of diversified agriculture -- not that there might not be a dominant, staple crop, but there is still a web of other crops to fall back on if one gets struck. Being more robust, these tend to be larger and more enduring farming societies, and their prototypical ethnic groups are the Han Chinese in Asia and a good deal of the French and Germans in Europe. The hunter-gatherers would probably have produced these kinds of conservatives, but their way of life was not robust enough to withstand the incursions of horticulturalists, agriculturalists, and pastoralists.
The anti-fragile conservative is not a hunter-gatherer, as their way of earning a living does not have the risk/reward set-up that allows for really huge pay-offs. Instead, they are a product of nomadic pastoralism, and also of groups with mixed agriculture and pastoralism. In such societies, after a string of unsuccessful raids, a herdsman may run off with dozens or hundreds of a rival's livestock, increasing by orders of magnitude his pre-existing stock. (The large amount of meat brought down by a hunter who kills a giraffe cannot be stored as flocks of animals can be.) Their prototypical ethnic groups are the Near Eastern Semites (for purer pastoralism), along with the races from the hilly and mountainous parts of Europe such as the Scottish and Italians (for agro-pastoralism).
Taleb points out that the fragile systems are doomed, and indeed the long history of monoculture farming and the brief but disturbing history of hyper-specialized capitalism seem to confirm that. Entire ways of living that were robust have nevertheless nearly vanished, such as hunting and gathering.
Most of history has been a contest between larger and more diversified, though more static, farming societies vs. smaller and even more diversified, and far more dynamic, herding societies. Depending on exactly what window you choose, either one could be seen as having the upper hand. However, the most genetically prolific man in history was Genghiz Khan from the pastoralist Mongols. Niall of the Nine Hostages in agro-pastoralist Ireland ranks among the most prolific too. Genes for digesting lactose have spread across much of the globe thanks to milk-drinking pastoralists. And culturally, by far the most dominant language family is Indo-European, which was spread by an initially tiny group of agro-pastoralists, while the dominant religions are the three monotheisms originating from pastoralist tribes of the Ancient and Medieval Middle East, perhaps with a mixture of pagan Proto-Indo-European mythology. Rock music took the world by storm, and it was cooked up by Scotch-Irish hillbillies and Britons with noticeably non-Anglo surnames like McCartney, Lennon, McCulloch, Jones, etc.
So while large and diversified agriculture has not disappeared, it does look like the future lies with a society that is more pastoralist in character -- smaller in scale, less crowded in density, diversified, offering rare but fantastically high pay-offs, stewardship of the environment, treating animals with dignity instead of as beasts of burden, frequent social interaction, lively music and dancing, a culture of honor and hospitality, warmhearted and good-looking girls... and you get the idea. Again I ask, is Australia the country of the future?