What Are The Differencs Between Liberal and Conservative Thought

@debrakcarey (19925)
United States
June 14, 2011 2:03pm CST
Liberal or Conservative? I've seen attempts to define them and had to do some invetigating to settle in my mind just what were the differences. What I found was both are hard to define. One reason is that they have been used to refer to different belief systems in different centuries and different nations. Most would agree that liberalism in the 19th century differs remarkably from liberalism in the 21st century. Same with conservatism in the two centuries. The other problem is that there are many different branches within both philosophies that can be identified. Then there is the polarizig infuence of political propaganda to deal with. Both sides of the political spectrum tend to villanize the other. So, what are the differences? From Frank Meyer; The Conservative Mainstream The Christian understanding of the nature of destiny of man, which is the foundation of Western civilization, is always and everywhere what conservatives strive to conserve.That understanding accepts the existence of absolute truth and good and at the same time recognizes that men are created wit the free will to accept or reject that truth and good. Conservatism, therefore, demands both the struggle to vindicate truth and good and the establishment of conditions in which the free will of individual persons can be effectively exercised. Conservatives believe that the Constitution's program of protecting individual freedom in an ordered society governed by a limited state 'was the closest that human beings have come to establishing a policy which gives the possibility of maintaining at one and the same time individual liberty, underlying norms of law, and the necessary public order.' Conservatives are suspicious of the utopian approach that attempts to design society. Liberals are often found expounding on the move towards utopian goals. Philosophical differences: Nineteenth century liberals like John Stuart Mill believed government should be limited because man is essentially good. American conservatism believes government should be limited because man is essentially wicked. They seek to find a government in which bad men can do the least amount of harm. The fundemental error of the liberal of today is in treating society as a living organism and then treat this organism as the end or standard which decides all moral and political policy. He is all to ready to give up the individual's rights for the 'good of the whole'. Liberal and Conservative thought differ on the role of the 'state' in the public and private life of the individual. You must understand the differences between 'state' and 'society'. The state is the group who makes the laws and enforces them. Society is marked by the voluntary character of the individuals that make up the groups within it. The state and the society are not one and the same. The state uses force, society is voluntary. State enforces rule of law on all, society does not. You are free to choose what group within society you belong to, you are not free to decide if you will obey the state. Given man's tendency to expand his power over and abuse it, limited government with checks and balances makes more sense when choosing what form of 'state' you want ruling over you. We can go from no state (anarchism) to the all powerful state, totalitarianism. (statism, or state ism) or something in between like limited government subject to the wishes of the individual citizen by representation within that government...like the Constitution provides for. American liberalism is a humanitariam type of statism. The state as the always benevolent mother figure, or as some have put it, the nanny state. They believe it is the role of government to take care of society, to improve their lot in life. They believe in the inherent 'goodness' of man in that if you give people what they need they will make good choices. Hence they are for expansion of government encroachment on the individuals private lives. Sadly, this approach has been proven disasterous over and over again in human experience. Give the state more power over the individual and the tendency is to seek even more and more power. *Most of info here has been taken from; 'Social Justice and the Christian Church'; by Ronald H. Nash See also: http://freedomkeys.com/collectivism.htm Have I helped you understand the differences between American liberalism and American conservatism?
2 people like this
8 responses
@xfahctor (14126)
• Lancaster, New Hampshire
14 Jun 11
"What Are The Differences Between Liberal and Conservative Thought" By today's tainted definitions, the ares of their life they want to stick their noses in to. By the more classic definitions, liberal is what I and most libertarian/genuine tea party-ish, etc, would be. This ideology however is diametrically opposed to the social conservative ideology that seeks to legislate morality.
2 people like this
@debrakcarey (19925)
• United States
14 Jun 11
I agree with staying out of legislating morality as pertains to individual lifestyles. I was listening very close last night to the candidates thoughts on this. The one area I do think 'morality' should matter is in protecting innocent life, vulnerable citizens. After all, we don't mind to say murder is wrong. And the only way around calling abortion murder is saying the fetus isn't a human being yet. Modern science has proven that wrong. In the libertarian platform 'morality' is each individuals choice. BUT, each individual is not more important than the next.
1 person likes this
@xfahctor (14126)
• Lancaster, New Hampshire
14 Jun 11
"I agree with staying out of legislating morality as pertains to individual lifestyles. I was listening very close last night to the candidates thoughts on this. " So was I, and with the exception of Ron Paul, every other one of them failed miserably in that department.
2 people like this
@debrakcarey (19925)
• United States
14 Jun 11
I liked Paul as well, except for one thing. I am a little worried he isn't prepared to keep a strong military. Like I've said in the past, I am not for intervention or starting wars where our interests are not clear. BUT I do feel we need to keep a strong military to defend ourselves against the constant threats coming from the radicals in this world. I've been the victim of violence. While my heart says war is wrong, my head accepts the fact that oftentimes in this world, it is necessary to defend yourself.
1 person likes this
• United States
14 Jun 11
Just to ask a question I've been wanting to for awhile.. is anyone else bothered about Hilary Clinton being the icon for Politics on here? Anyway I don't think anyone is one or the other. There has to be a mix in order for someone to have half decent ideas (in my opinion). I wouldn't call myself a conservative or a liberal. I would say I was a conservative leaning Libertarian, in the sense that I think people are stupid and they aren't always going to make the best decisions, so why give them loads of power. Although at the same time I have loads of disagreements with conservative beliefs. I don't think the government should decide who can and cannot get married, nor do I think they should be telling them what choices they have to make (if you know what I'm getting at here). All in all, I think one man got it right. Being conservative when it comes to money and then being (kind of) liberal with people.
1 person likes this
@xfahctor (14126)
• Lancaster, New Hampshire
14 Jun 11
"Just to ask a question I've been wanting to for awhile.. is anyone else bothered about Hilary Clinton being the icon for Politics on here? " Yep, that's why I changed the default logo I see to the FreeStater logo.
2 people like this
@debrakcarey (19925)
• United States
14 Jun 11
I was just about to ask if youaremylush knew she could change the icon. I tend towards the libertarian platform too. My only concern there is I do believe we need a strong military in this day and age. Mind you, I am not for starting wars, only in being strong enough to win one.
1 person likes this
• United States
15 Jun 11
I took a while find out I could change the logo, too. But it does raise the question: Who picked the default logo for each category? PS- I'm using the "Americans will always fight for liberty" logo now.
@dark_joev (3043)
• United States
14 Jun 11
Well lets see here I think I take on that Liberal being of liberty so allowing people to do each their own but in our world liberal generally is meaning of a Socialist/big Government which in that case both the Mainstream Democrats and Republicans are Liberals and a very small portion of both of them and the other parties are Conservative. When I think of Conservative I am thinking of giving power to the Federal Government and Liberals are willing to give power to the government for everything. But I think X got it right that really Libertarians and other like minded people to the Constitution are actually of the Liberal Persuasion. But really I think that Social Conservatives really are just Big State Big Government Conservatives for the most part they want the Feds telling you who you can and can't marry which is wrong on a Constitutional level and as for the Abortion thing I personally Feel that Abortion is wrong when it is past the first term as getting rid of Abortion completely is an impossibility as some issues that would put the mother at risk but only show up once pregnant would cause the Mother and the Child to die. Which I think would have a higher moral cost. I also think Ron Paul is the only one who is a true Conservative in my definition as well he doesn't want the Feds to have a ton of power.
1 person likes this
• United States
15 Jun 11
I totally agree with your view of "Social Conservatives" but don't think you can lump "Libertarians" into the "Liberal" slot. A hands-off approach is very Conservative. If we could line-up Libertarian ideas on different issues I think we would find more individual lines showing Conservative. Which works for Ron Paul being in your Conservative slot.
@debrakcarey (19925)
• United States
15 Jun 11
@dark, Ron Paul is for very limited government. So, yes that makes him most conservative. Liberty/liberal may have started out being similar...it no longer is that way. I look at it this way, the liberals take WAY TO MUCH LIBERY with the CONSTITUTION. They don't like it and for the most part ignore it. But in its place they are giving more and more power to the President and executive orders. And are heaping up control over individuals and their private lives. We are becoming a totalitarian state due to the liberals meddling in private lives and claiming power the Constitution does not give them. A true conservative will support the Constitutional Republic. Keep in mind, liberals AND conservatives have lied to the people. When we listen to the candidates, lets listen closely to their views and determine if they are upholding what the Constitution says. I'd like to see a series of discussions on JUST WHAT DOES the Constitution say. Who's up for that? Take each article and disect it and explain what it is saying. Boring? That's why we're in the mess we are in, people do not KNOW how their country is suppose to be run. They focus on their pet issues and do not understand just what it is the Federal Government can and cannot do. Thats why the Tea Party came to be. To put the focus back on the Constitution.
@anniepa (27162)
• United States
18 Jun 11
First of all, I just have to know if you agree with this statement, specifically the last part: "American conservatism believes government should be limited because man is essentially wicked." I hope you don't think there are more "wicked" people than otherwise! As much as I disagree with just about everything those on the "far right" stand for, I don't think most of them are "wicked" or evil. Of course, there are some rotten liberals and some rotten conservatives as well as some rotten folks who really have no political leanings because they devote all their energy to their wickedness, but I believe there are more good people than bad and there's more good than bad in most people. Annie
@xfahctor (14126)
• Lancaster, New Hampshire
18 Jun 11
"American conservatism believes government should be limited because man is essentially wicked." OOH! OOH! ME! ME! Seriously though, that was a good question in itself and I really wanted to answer it too. Let's break it down...."American conservatism believes government should be limited...." That in itself would be a very inarticulate statement. the difference between modern "liberal" and conservative isn't bigger vs smaller government, the difference is only in which areas of your life they want government to be big in. "...because man is essentially wicked." Now we come to the heart of another and important similarity between the two. All elite minded government control freaks believe they should have control because man is essentially (choose one or more of the following) stupid, evil, greedy, sinful, wicked, typically lacking in ability to control themselves or too feeble to withstand insult, slight or bruising. I don't know that there are more stupid,wicked,greedy,etc people than genuinely good people. It all depends on one's personal life experiences are I guess. But a friend of mine does have a t-shirt that reads "Never under estimate the power of stupid people in large numbers"
1 person likes this
@debrakcarey (19925)
• United States
18 Jun 11
Romans 3: 23 for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God, Jeremiah 16: 7-10 Blessed is the man that trusteth in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreadeth out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat cometh, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit. The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it? I the LORD search the heart, I try the reins, even to give every man according to his ways, and according to the fruit of his doings. It is a well know doctrine of the Christian church that man possesses a sin nature. It is a historical fact that the American nation is a nation founded on Christian principles. Our founding fathers wrote the Constitution with minds and hearts guided by Christian principles. http://www.adherents.com/gov/Founding_Fathers_Religion.html#Constitution Lists the formal denominations of each of the delegats at the Constitutional Convention and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. They were Christians who believed that man was fallen and inherently sinful. http://www.christianparents.com/ffathers.htm In the Declaration, the Founders established the foundation and the core values on which the Constitution was to operate. The Constitution was never to be interpreted apart from those values expressed in the Declaration. Those expressed values are of God and from God. The First Amendment was clearly understood and explained by the man who wrote it and the man who first applied it as law. Fisher Ames wrote it. John Jay applied it as law while he was the first Chief Justice of our Supreme Court. Fisher Ames, the same man who wrote the First Amendment, also wrote that the Bible should always remain the principle text book in America's classrooms. John Jay, original Chief-Justice U.S. Supreme Court, said it is the duty of all wise, free, and virtuous governments to help and encourage virtue and religion. The Constitution of the United States of America was penned by the man who was head of the committee which created the final wording. That man, Governor Morris of Pennsylvania, was also the most active member of the Constitutional Convention. He spoke 173 times. He also advocated that "education should teach the precepts of religion and the duties of man towards God." An early House Judiciary Committee affirmed the Founder's lack of pluralistic intent when it declared: "Christianity ...was the religion of the founders of the republic, and they expected it to remain the religion of their descendants." " You do well to wish to learn our arts and our ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ. Congress will do everything they can to assist you in this wise intention." George Washington " Let...statesmen and patriots unite their endeavors to renovate the age by...educating their little boys and girls...and leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system." Samuel Adams "History will also afford frequent opportunities of showing the necessity of a public religion...and the excellency of the Christian religion above all others, ancient or modern." Benjamin Franklin "Only one adequate plan has ever appeared in the world, and that is the Christian dispensation." John Jay, ORIGINAL CHIEF-JUSTICE U.S. SUPREME COURT The founders of this country believed in the Bible as the Word of God, that without the mediating effect of 'religion' on the soul of man, man was lost because of his sin nature. And they wrote the founding documents with that in mind. The separation of powers because they understood the corrupting influence of power is but one example.
@debrakcarey (19925)
• United States
18 Jun 11
James Madison in the Federalist # 51: It may be a reflection on human nature, that such divices (as checks and balances) should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary.
@Rollo1 (16669)
• Boston, Massachusetts
14 Jun 11
I think Liberals believe they are humanitarian but they never take into account the natural tendencies of man. Everyone who has kids knows that they don't appreciate anything that comes too easily. The nanny state only creates a permanent underclass who are robbed of the experience of achievement and the understanding of value. A 'help up' is better than a 'hand out' and everyone should believe they are capable of handling their own lives and succeeding. Conservatives believe in limited government to make that individual success possible. They believe that government having too much power and limiting individual freedom of choice makes for a less stable and less capable society.
@debrakcarey (19925)
• United States
14 Jun 11
1 person likes this
• United States
15 Jun 11
I think that definition of "conservatives" is too forgiving of the Conservative idea of mandated morality and fear of change: The difference between large government and limited government is a different scale than Conservative VS Liberal. Although American politics likes to lump them together, Conservative thought and Small Government are not always tied. Communism is just one example of a Huge Government and a very Conservative ideology.
@debrakcarey (19925)
• United States
15 Jun 11
I did point out in my OP that there are factions within both the liberal and the conservative. That is why I AM going to be very careful. Long gone are the days when people voted party line. BOTH parties have been wrong on many things. But that is America. We are free to think and to choose.
1 person likes this
@djbtol (5501)
• United States
16 Jun 11
In my opinion, most of what you have included here is pretty accurate. It is a complex discussion because there are many aspects and many different opinions and justifications. What is clear is that the two groups have very different views, with significantly different consequences to the decisions made.
@debrakcarey (19925)
• United States
16 Jun 11
Yes there are as many different aspects as there are people with an opinion on it. There are serious consequences to the decisions made and that is why we NEED to be informed. Thanks for your response!
• United States
15 Jun 11
I wish definitions meant something but everyone uses words in a way that context is the most important thing. Unfortunately for me, my definitions do not hold up in common political discussion. Conservative should be reserved for people who dislike change, dislike spending and in general think the Universe will work out for itself. Now, while this is okay for some concepts of the political Right, it does not fit on all accounts. There is also a complication that I would include change BACK to a previous situation under Conservatism (people who yearn for "the good ol' days"). Liberal, as Conservative's opposite, is therefore better for people who continuously want to tinker and meddle, doing whatever is necessary to forge a better world. It must be remembered, though, that both ends of this simplified spectrum want to do the right thing for humanity. I think that gets forgotten by the extremes on each side. Believing in the inherent goodness or evil in mankind is a seperate sliding scale that need not match up with Conservative VS Liberal. In private, I stick to these definitions though I know it would confuse even well-versed political pundits. If we took each issue and placed people on a scale between the two extremes, as I defined, we would have a better understanding of our politicians. I once embarked on a thesis along these lines but gave up because I'm lazy ;) The "-isms" of government types do not fit on the scale well because each is made up of many smaller ideas. Anarchism, for instance, can be Conservative in that society will sort itself out, but it is Liberal in the sense that anyone can make changes to their surroundings at any time. Totalitarianism, similarly, can be Conservative it its hold on power but Liberal in its continued meddling in every facet of people's lives.
@debrakcarey (19925)
• United States
15 Jun 11
I agree with your first statement and that was why I posted this discussion. I run across the problem of having to define what I MEAN by the terms on a lot of discussions in politics here on the lot. The book I took some of my information out of says that conservatives are for less government- and liberal means more government meddling as you put it. I like to keep it simple. Of course, the candidates will all vary in degree on how much and in what capacity government should have power. Its up to US to decide what areas are most important RIGHT NOW. And a nuclear Iran is to me, more important than who gets to marry who. It went into definition of the 'state'. It also pointed out that because of the problems with factional and ideological fine points, people may be conservative in one area and liberal in another. Like I said above, we have to get united in what is most important and lay those factional differences aside for now. What I am trying to do with this discussion, it to put an end to the polarization of the American people. I know, I'm ambitious. I feel we have some serious problems as a nation and we may not get another chance to stop the destruction of America as we know it if we don't get this election right. I see bickering over DOMA and other social issues getting in the way of saving our right to even think about such things. Americans are good people for the most part. We may not agree on gay marriage, prayer in schools, even things like abortion (which I feel is VERY important, but willing to set aside at the time) because I feel the threat to our sovereignty is so great. If we are all under the thumb of the NWO, we won't be discussing or caring to discuss the rights of gays to marry. The main thing we need to think about is does the STATE have the right UNDER OUR CONSTITION to hand over OUR sovereignty to the UN, and does the state have the power to suspend CONSTITUTIONAL LAW? All other issues -where do they stand CONSTITUTIONALLY? Our system of Constitutional Republic governace made us great. And elements outside of America have whittled away through the courts at our Constitutional Republic way of governing. The Federal Reserve should NOT even exist. The UN should not tell US what to do, when to do it, or who to do it with. THAT is why I lean towards Ron Paul. BUT, I am also listening very carefully and reviewing carefully what the other candidates are for. IT IS THAT IMPORTANT and we need to stop bickering over issues for now. They scared us into electing Bush and Obama. Lets not allow ourselves to be led down ANYONES path but our own this time.
@Netsbridge (3243)
• United States
15 Jun 11
Several ideas today attributed to liberals and conservatives seem to have switched parties. However, one thing that has always remained true with political conservatives is their warlikeness and the belief that only they are entitled to knowledge.
@debrakcarey (19925)
• United States
15 Jun 11
Then why is it that Ron Paul is so anti war? Why is it that Obama, a liberal, has now got us embroiled even more heavily in the mid east and its conflicts? Entitled to knowledge? Perhaps you mean 'think they know best'? Again, the liberal tries very hard to make everyone else look stupid, deflect scrutiny from their lack of knowledge by using the race card and name calling has risen to a high art with liberals. IMHO, it is the liberal who believes only they can claim the high ground of 'rightness'. Look at the strategy they are employing against a NON candidate, Sarah Palin. Liberals are just as 'guilty' of thinking they know best. Read Sal Alinsky's Rules for Radicals. In there you will find a set of rules for discrediting conservatives...you just employed one of them. Insult and polarize.