What defines a liberal/conservative?

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Discus: College Confidential Café: 2004 Archive: What defines a liberal/conservative?
By Mosquito86 (Mosquito86) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 10:50 pm: Edit

Hey guys. Many people have different regarding this. I just wanted to hear yours.

What do you think separates the liberals and conservatives? What do you believe is the different between a Republican and Democrat? What do we mean by Liberal Republican and Conservative Democrat? Just anything that involves this topic.

I request that this not turn into some sort of liberal/conservative bashing things. Just some objective view points on this and the two main political parties in the US.

As well, I'm talking about lib/cons w/in that "box" in the political spectrum most Americans are part of. No the extreme cases on each side.

By Craigk10 (Craigk10) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 11:02 pm: Edit

It's become unbelievably distorted in order to get votes so it's difficult to say now in a clear, concise way.

By Mosquito86 (Mosquito86) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 11:08 pm: Edit

Many people have different views*** regarding this.

What do you believe is the difference***....

Not*** the extreme cases

By Jlq3d3 (Jlq3d3) on Saturday, August 14, 2004 - 11:45 pm: Edit

The words refer to:
Liberal (big) use of gov and Conservative(limited) us of gov.

By Titanz05 (Titanz05) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:03 am: Edit

anyone know a website dealing with this?

By Chavi (Chavi) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:09 am: Edit

I would make a differentiation between social issues and economic issues. There seems to be a pretty big dichotomy there. And then there's libertarian, a whole 'nother breed.

By Riflesforwatie (Riflesforwatie) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:10 am: Edit

Any definition will be politically motived as is jlg3d3's.

For instance, as a Democrat, I could say the following: "Liberals believe in a government that helps and protects people, while conservatives want a government that makes everyone fend for themselves."

I spun the words around to make them favorable to my point of view.

By Craigk10 (Craigk10) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:14 am: Edit

I stand by saying that you cannot make that differentiation although in a broad sense it is correct. Nice job Rifles by the way ... I picked up on that too. Look at the conservative sponsored gay marriage amendment. No matter how you feel about it, it is an expansion of the powers of federal government so it is not conservative in the sense you describe. What I'm saying is that although you are right, it is a generalization. It's all about votes anyway.

By Averagemathgeek (Averagemathgeek) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:40 am: Edit

Conservatives belief the government should defend traditional values (hence, being conservative) and belief the government should have a limited role in the economy (in theory, allowing competition to naturally raise quality).

Liberals belief in allowing the people to define their own culture. They also belief the government should regulate the economy to prevent coersive monopolies and protect the working class; they achieve these ends by placing high taxes on the wealthy and providing welfare for the lower class.

At least, that is what I think.

By Jlq3d3 (Jlq3d3) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 01:15 am: Edit

rifles, your definition is correct, but conservatives do not believe individuals should fend for themselvs, they believe in help and charity, just not govt based. However, most conservatives arn't that conservative, just libertarians. Most just believe in limited govt intervention.

And nothing was spun in my definition. It is why the words are what they are, that is the way in which the political philosophies were labeled. For example, a creme says "apply liberally", and liberal gov means liberal use of gov. While conservative use of gov means just that, conservative use of the gov.

Craig, the gay marriage issue is not conservative or liberal issue. A hardcore conservative (libertarian) wouldn't want govt sanctioned gay marriage, while a liberal would want it. A true conservative would not want any govt role in marriage.

By Craigk10 (Craigk10) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 01:27 am: Edit

Exactly my point Jlq3d3 ... a true conservative wouldn't want it, but the conservative side (Republicans) sponsors it, thus the definition is not as clear as the one given. My point is that politics has caused a change in the conservative (a liberal for that matter) ideology.

Your use of the world big has the connotation of excessive. I don't think you did so on purpose, but that's how many people interpret it.

By Riflesforwatie (Riflesforwatie) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 01:33 am: Edit

"A hardcore conservative (libertarian) wouldn't want govt sanctioned gay marriage, while a liberal would want it. A true conservative would not want any govt role in marriage."

A libertarian is not a conservative, though. In fact most conservatives decry libertarians... because a true libertarian believes in gay marriage and abortion rights. I prefer calling conservatives conservatives and libertarians libertarians. People often don't recognize the difference between the two.

Maybe they were more similiar at some point in the past... but the evangelical right has hijacked the "conservative" movement from libertarianism. Barry Goldwater was not a conservative; he was a libertarian... if that makes it any clearer.

By Riflesforwatie (Riflesforwatie) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 01:37 am: Edit

A definition that could be called politically motivated but nontheless common in America is the following I hear often:

A conservative is someone who believes in either:

-"conserving the Constitution"
-"taking the U.S. back to the original Constitution"

By Jlq3d3 (Jlq3d3) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 01:50 am: Edit

"A libertarian is not a conservative, though. In fact most conservatives decry libertarians... because a true libertarian believes in gay marriage and abortion rights."

You are totally wrong. A libertarian believes in a conservative govt as possible, with no social or economic intervention. They are on the conservative side of conservative. A true libertarian does not believe in gay marriage. A libertarian would not want govt issuing marriage licences. A libertarian is not for abortion rights, he would be for states, not the feds, to determine the law.

By Jlq3d3 (Jlq3d3) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 02:00 am: Edit

rifles, that was the definition a long long time ago when liberal and conservative had to do with the strict and loose constructionists.

By Riflesforwatie (Riflesforwatie) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 02:44 am: Edit

"rifles, that was the definition a long long time ago when liberal and conservative had to do with the strict and loose constructionists."

Traditionally, yes... but many conservatives today refer to themselves that way. (They advocate repealing 16th and 17th Amendments, to go back to the Founders' vision)

By Riflesforwatie (Riflesforwatie) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 02:48 am: Edit

"A libertarian believes in a conservative govt as possible, with no social or economic intervention."


"They are on the conservative side of conservative."

In a way. Many people in the Christian Right would disagree strongly.... because they are conservative for conservative values, or for going back to "older" values.

"A true libertarian does not believe in gay marriage."

Today's Libertarian Party believes in as many rights as possible. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I think their official position supports what I said.

"A libertarian would not want govt issuing marriage licences."

Well, I can see where you are coming from... but a conservative would want govt to issue them, because it contributes to a traditional value -- family.

"A libertarian is not for abortion rights, he would be for states, not the feds, to determine the law."

A conservative libertarian would agree with your position, but again, I undersatnd libertarians are for as many rights as possible, within reason... and I think many consider that within reason. But you are right about the states part.

By Riflesforwatie (Riflesforwatie) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 02:51 am: Edit

Read the Libertarian Party's platform on their website. I just can't see how they can be reconciled with the conservative Republican Party. They differ on a lot of views.

By Kissy (Kissy) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 08:56 am: Edit

"Liberals believe in a government that helps and protects people, while conservatives want a government that makes everyone fend for themselves."

My version: ".... while conservatives want a government that enables ALL to afford themselves of opportunities to HELP themselves."

Basic theory in childrearing: Indulge your children with handouts and be sure to let them know that when things don't go their way, they are the VICTIMS of circumstance or malicious intent by those who are better off. You'll be rewarded with lazy, whiny,unmotivated kids who have a sense of entitlement and loathe themselves deep down.

Take care of your children's needs, not many of their wants,teach them the consequences of their actions and give them the tools to learn to do for themselves and you'll be rewarded with kids who are motivated, HAPPY, self-sufficient, and productive members of society.

Welfare does have its place in society- for those who are truly in need, intended to bridge the gap towards self-sufficiency. It's not intended as a lifestyle, which it too often becomes. Enabling people with opportunities to do for themselves and their families (this includes less government interference), the government that our founders had envisioned, is the basic premise of our country's being. Our forefathers wanted a nation of LESS government, believing that society would flourish with fewer constraints and less intervention.

By Morgantruce (Morgantruce) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 10:13 am: Edit

They define each other:

In the deepest recess of his mind, a conservative pictures liberals as unwashed bomb-carrying anarchists.

In the deepest recess of his mind, a liberal pictures conservatives as people who would have fought on the side of the British during the American Revolution.

By Scorp (Scorp) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 12:26 pm: Edit

<<EDITED>> watch "My Land" that will make it all clear ;)

By Riflesforwatie (Riflesforwatie) on Sunday, August 15, 2004 - 01:49 pm: Edit

Kissy - that was the point of my original post. Different words with different connotations can used to define liberal and conservative, and how you say it makes all the difference. My definition was politically motivated.

Now, as for the reason for your definition... I don't think being a liberal is all about welfare. I have no problem with real welfare reform, but neither party seems interested in doing anything other than political sniping.

One more thing that bothers me about your reasons: liberals believe in a looser interpretation of the Constitution, which allows the document to change and grow with the times... while conservatives seem to think they are the only ones that KNOW what the Founders wanted. How is this possible? I believe it is impossible to know exactly what was intended for something 215 years old or so.

By Calkidd (Calkidd) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 01:02 am: Edit

"Welfare does have its place in society- for those who are truly in need" (oil companies, agribusiness, corporations that obtain no-bid contracts come to mind to a "liberal's" mind when he/she hears a "conservative" bemoaning the welfare system)

I hate it when people try to bring "our forefathers" into the political picture. Our nation's founders lived in a completely different era; many of them believed in the institution of slavery, and few if any ever envisioned that women would be able to vote.

To me, the difference between liberals and conservatives has to do with how people deviate from the absolute political center; on economic issues, do you err on the side of constraining costs, or do you err on the side of helping those in need? On social issues, do you err on the side of protecting institutions (i.e. marriage), or do you err on the side of fairness to individuals (i.e. same-sex couples)?

By Noodleman (Noodleman) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 08:32 am: Edit

Surpised, anyone? These are non-pejorative definitions.


1. Classical conservatism or institutional conservatism - Opposition to rapid change in governmental and societal institutions. This kind of conservatism is anti-ideological insofar as it emphasizes means (slow change) over ends (any particular form of government). To the classical conservative, whether one arrives at a right- or left-wing government is less important than whether change is effected through rule of law rather than through revolution and sudden innovation.

The classic conservative critique of radical excess is Edmund Burke's Reflections on the Revolution in France.

2. Modern conservatism or right conservatism - In contrast to the anti-ideological classical conservatism, right conservatism is ideological. It is typified by two distinct subideologies: social conservatism and fiscal conservatism which often come together in an economic conservatism. Together, these subideologies comprise the conservative ideology in most English-speaking countries: separately, these subideologies are incorporated into other political positions.

Social conservatism is generally dominated by defense of existing social norms and values, of local customs and of societal evolution, rather than social innovation. Applied to foreign policy, a mild social conservatism manifests itself in Rudyard Kipling's defense of the Indian natives against British imperialism and in American opposition to the "forced democratization" of post-war Iraq. In its more extreme foreign-policy manifestations, social conservatism breeds nationalism, tending towards isolationism, on the order of Pat Buchanan's anti-immigration, anti-internationalist stance.

Fiscal conservatism is the stance that the government must "live within its means". Above all, fiscal conservatives oppose excessive government debt; this belief in balanced budgets tends to be coupled with a belief that government welfare programs should be narrowly tailored and that tax rates should be low, which implies relatively small goverment institutions.
This belief in small government combines with fiscal conservatism to produce a broader ecomomic conservatism, which wishes to minimize government intervention in the economy. This amounts to support for laissez faire capitalism, and usually extends to opposing graduated taxes as unfair to the top tiers, proposing instead flat taxes, opposing welfare as unnecessary and counterproductive, opposing so-called double-taxation (taxing both companies and individuals during along the path of a transaction), and calling for broad deregulation of industry and a substantially decreased government bureaucracy. For some this is a matter of principle, as it is for the libertarians and others influenced by thinkers such as Ayn Rand and Ludwig von Mises, who believe that government intervention in the economy is inevitably wasteful and inherently immoral. For others, it shades off into business conservatism, a de facto politics of support for the interests of the business-owning class.

Business conservatism is conservative in the sense of wishing to keep wealth and power in the hands that currently hold them, but is far more simply pragmatic and instrumental than either classical conservatism or other forms of modern conservatism: for example, business conservatives often lobby for government subsidies that would be rejected by those whose conservatism is more purely a matter of principle.

Economic and fiscal conservatism coupled with liberalism is called (at least in the U.S.) "libertarianism", or (in its more extreme forms) "right-wing anarchism" or "anarcho-capitalism. An openness to government intervention in the economy coupled with social conservatism is typical of right-wing populism and (in its more extreme forms) fascism.

3. Neoconservatism -- strictly a U.S. term -- may be an oxymoron, but refers to a subclass of conservatives that support a more assertive foreign policy coupled with one or more other facets of modern conservatism. Historically, conservatives tend to be mildly isolationist, but with the rising internationalism represented by such groups as NATO or the UN, neoconservatism is on the rise. The "unipolar" assertions of columnist Charles Krauthammer are an example of neoconservatism. Neoconservatism underlies the policy of the George W. Bush administration in the Middle East, including (but not limited to) the 2003 Iraq War and its aftermath.

4. "Compassionate conservatism" a term popularized by George W. Bush, is held by many conservatives to be redundant, and a public-relations buzzword. Insofar as the presidency of George W. Bush has increased welfare substantially in the form of Medicare reforms and the No Child Left Behind act, it may be that compassionate conservativism is simply the synthesis of social conservatism and fiscal liberalism

Classical liberalism
An introduction
As said before, the original meaning of the term "liberal" refers to a tradition, founded on the Enlightenment tradition, that tries to circumscribe the limits of political power, and to define and support individual rights. Classical liberals still exist and they strongly differentiate genuine classical liberal authors from their contemporaries, and recognise among them John Locke (as opposed to Thomas Hobbes), David Hume (as opposed to Immanuel Kant), Adam Smith (as opposed to Jean-Jacques Rousseau). They consider John Stuart Mill as an author who wrote quite interesting things but not a genuine classical liberal; in his era they much prefer Frederic Bastiat. They favour a free market economy and reject any kind of government influence in society. They thus tend to be defiant to any kind of politics, including the politics of liberal politicians. Historically, classical liberalism has opposed mercantilism and socialism (as well as any form of collectivism). Classical liberalism is an identified theory of liberty, centred on notions of spontaneous order, natural law, property rights, and individual responsibility. This ideology flourishes in the 19th century and is often seen as being the typical ideology of the industrial revolution and the subsequent capitalist system. The key characteristics of classical liberalism are:

The importance of the individual
Toleration and diversity
As the industrial revolution began in the United Kingdom, so did the first conceptions of liberalism. The first liberal philosopher was John Locke (1632-1704) who defended religious freedom in his important work A Letter Concerning Toleration (1689). However, he would not extend his views on religious freedom to Catholics.

Locke was responsible for the idea of "natural rights" which he saw as "life, liberty and property". Natural Rights theory was the forerunner of the modern conception of human rights. To Locke, property was a more compelling natural right than the right to participate in collective decision-making: he would not endorse democracy in government, as he feared that the "tyranny of the majority" would seek to deny people their rights to property. Nevertheless, the idea of natural rights played a key role in providing the ideological justification for the (at least moderately democratising) American revolution and French revolution.

The main economist of classical liberalism was the Scotsman Adam Smith (1723-1790), who broadly advocated the doctrine of "laissez-faire" or "let [it] act" -- minimal government or command intervention in the function of the economy. Adam Smith developed a theory of motivation that tried to reconcile human self-interestedness with unregulated social order (mainly done in The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)). His most famous work, The Wealth of Nations (1776), tried to explain how an unregulated market would naturally regulate itself via the "invisible hand" of aggregated individual decisions.

American thinkers were also heavily influenced by liberal ideas. Both the third and fourth Presidents of the United States, Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) and James Madison (1751-1836), put the Liberal movement's ideas into practice. Not only did they set up a liberal democracy, they also furthered liberal ideology's influence on the American system of government, by advocating a system of checks and balances, federal states' rights and a bicameral legislature (two-chambered, like the US Congress' Senate and House of Representatives.) The seminal exposition of Liberal values in American govenrment is The Federalist (1788), more commonly known as The Federalist Papers, by Madison, Alexander Hamilton, and John Jay.

John Stuart Mill (J.S. Mill, 1806-1873) was influential in developing modern concepts of classical liberalism. He opposed collectivist tendencies but also placed emphasis on quality of life for the individual. He also had sympathy for female suffrage and (later in life) co-operatives -- positions which were, however, made somewhat unclear by his support of the British Raj, or British colonialism in India.

The classical liberal heritage
Classical liberalism in its pure form is in most countries not really organised in parties. Many classical liberals participate in independent think tanks and might be active in the official think tanks of liberal or liberal conservative parties. Classical liberalism remains is a source of inspiration in many liberal parties, as it is for libertarians and for neo-liberals (such as Margaret Thatcher). They all claim the ideological inheritance of classical liberalism.

By Simba (Simba) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 01:18 pm: Edit

great note

By Jlq3d3 (Jlq3d3) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 02:59 pm: Edit

Thanks noodleman.

By Noodleman (Noodleman) on Monday, August 16, 2004 - 03:41 pm: Edit

I aim to please. :)

By Reasonabledad (Reasonabledad) on Friday, August 20, 2004 - 01:16 am: Edit

Noodleman - interesting, but I think your assessment is not quite current. Much of what you describe as Liberal philosophy is really the Conservative philosopy of today in the US, perhaps because you leave out the "collectivist" impact of the Marxist/Socialist movement of the last 100 years or so, which has been heavily embraced by the American left, under the banner of Liberalism. Conservatism today does retain strong elements of resistance to sudden change, but also encompasses the points that I consider to make me a conservative (and occassionally a Republican):
1. Conservation of the Staus Quo, which has always included conservation of the environment (400 years ago this was seen in the movement against enclosure of common grazing lands, but principles evolve, even conservative principles).
2. Limited Government, most recently articulated by Ronald Reagan, is a key element of the conservative philosophy in America, and is frequently rejected as opposition to Progress by modern-day Liberals. You can see this point today when Liberals like Senator Kerry are trying to escape the pjorative (and redistributive) taint attached to the word Liberal, with the goal of "re-branding" themselves as "Progressives."
3. Balanced Budgets are deeply held conservative belief, although not in vogue with the current Republican administration (or with the Democrats in recent decades).
4. Strong Individual (Civil) Rights, deriving from a host of factors, including the historical idea from the founding of the Republic that the individual needed to have his/her freedoms clearly enumerated and that undefined rights belonged to the people, or to the States, but not to the top level of government. The debate over the 2nd amendment illustrates this very clearly, but I will not diverge...
5. The Unseen Hand. Again, Adam Smith (like Ayn Rand) is revered reading for most conservatives these days (for the last 50 years at least), whereas Liberals (reading Marx) are generally convinced that the system is "rigged" and that wealth needs to be drastically redistributed (a lingering Marxist concept from the mid 1800's). Again you can see this in the current politics where some conservatives support the flat tax idea but the current Liberal/Progressive leadership thinks we need to soak the rich with higher Progressive taxes at the top. This latter concept is often accompanied by rhetoric which implies that rich people don't deserve their wealth, or worse that they are hoarding wealth which the stole from the working class...well, this is clearly socialist dogma that has been creeping into American discourse for a couple of generations.

In my view, what most defines Liberals/ Progressives is the (often heartfelt, and very laudable) desire to "do something," preferably something really big, about important problems that face the nation/humanity. In service to this desire to do something, several Liberal philosophies and patterns of behavior have emerged:
1. The whole country works, so the government should make sure that everyone has their "basic needs" met, whether the individuals with the needs worked for the benefits or not. Since everything the government delivers to someone who "needs" it but doesn't have it, is taken by force from someone who worked for it but doesn't get to keep it (this is what taxes are, without the sugarcoating) there is inevitable segmentation (class warfare) into those taxing and those being taxed.
2. Certain groups are preferred, because of perceived, or real and historic wrongs done to their ancestors. Perpetual victim classes are created and sustained. Questioning this situation leads to inflammatory charges and counter charges.
3. Liberalism in America is a religion (the catechism is political correctness), not a political/economic philosophy. Those who don't beleive are apostate, and need to be taught the "true religion." This is the underlying reason why community service has effectively become a requirement for selective college admission. Service is your act of apology and reconciliation for being rich and/or exceptionally able.

That should be enough of a rant to spark a response.

By Calston (Calston) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 01:39 pm: Edit

Republicans hire exterminators to kill their bugs; Democrats step on them.... Democrats buy most of the books that have been banned somewhere; Republicans form censorship committees and read the books as a group.... Democrats eat the fish they catch; Republicans hang theirs on the wall... Republicans tend to keep their shades drawn, although there is seldom any reason why they should; Democrats ought to and don't.

I forget who wrote that.

By Calkidd (Calkidd) on Saturday, August 21, 2004 - 03:58 pm: Edit

The "liberalism is a religion" arguement is one of Rush Limbaugh's tried and true rants, one that paints a caricature of anyone who finds him/herself on the political left of Ronald Reagan. People can (and do) make similar overblown caricatures of conservatives. One could say that conservatism in America, like liberalism is a religion.

At the heart of this "religion" arguement seems to be the belief that all liberals are richer and more elitist than conservatives. If that were true, where would the billions of dollars that fund organizations like the Hoover Institute and the Heritage Foundation come from? Truck drivers?

Conservatives argue against taxes as unfair burden, as "wealth transfer," but they seem to have no problem with the police that protect us or the military that defends our country (and their own economic interests) - both of which consume plenty of tax dollars. They also conviently forget the role that the government plays to help businesses, not only by providing infrastructure and a level of education suited at least to providing a competant manufacturing force, but also to legally protect products through copyright enforcement, tariffs, etc. Our government provides welfare to large companies in the form of subsidies and no-bid contracts (i.e. Halliburton) - neither of which is discussed by the conservative pundits.

No attention is paid to the real benefits that diversity (in terms of ideas, political views, culture) has in terms of providing services and developing products; it seems to be an assumption that any failure on your part to get a job or otherwise achieve success can be chalked up to a woman or a minority getting an unfair preference - thus creating a special class of victims, white males aged 18-55.

Conservatives believe that we know better how to run a country than anyone else. No other way is valid, which is why the United States is alternately "the greatest nation in the history of the world" and "a shaddow of the great nation is was in the 50s, thanks to those no-good liberals." Because we know better how to run a country than everyone else, it's ok for us to overthrow foreign governments at our own whim (Latin America in the 70s and 80s, the Middle East between 1950 and today) and, in many cases, install dictators who are sympathetic to our own economic views.

At the heart of the conservative religion seems to be the belief that polticians ought to be role models for our children; thus, a person's "character" is almost more important than his/her policies and appointees. Despite all the things he did that ran contrary to the conservatives' views on how to run our country, Bill Clinton (hardly a liberal's liberal) was villified not for any tax plan or social legislation but for an extramarital affair (which was funded by those evil taxes that conservatives decry).

At the heart of many religions is the belief that all logical arguements would only validate whatever dogma being preached, that any disagreement must be irrational and naive. There is the tendency to cite experts only when their opinion is in agreement with the dogma (Adam Smith is of course a prophet for conservatives, but few of them mention his opposition to monopolies), or when it is an example of heresy (anything ever preached by Marx or someone influenced by him is regarded as completely invalid).

By Reasonabledad (Reasonabledad) on Monday, August 23, 2004 - 10:46 am: Edit

Calkidd - your comments are thoughtful, and on many points very insightful. There is certainly no monopoloy of either stupidity or venality in any political creed or political party. I have to admit that I did not know that Rush L characterizes Liberalism as a religion: I have just observed it myself. But I point out that just because Rush thinks it is true, this doesn't make it false. And if it is an accurate observation, it does not mean that the power of the observation is reduced if it is also true of the opposition (which I don't think it is, for the most part).

One of the things that I want to avoid is telling Liberals what they think: this is a pretty arrogant thing for me to do, so if I do this, then it is a mistake. In each case where I state what I think motivates Liberals, it is from my personal observations and discussions with many Liberals over the decades. As I mentioned, Liberlism is (in my experience) motivated by high ideals. It is in methods that I take issue.

I certainly can't speak for any group of conservatives, but I can say this for myself: when I see a Liberal idea that seems to be more just, or that simply works better, I adopt it. In fact, if you look at Noddleman's post, you'll see that this is the history of conservatism: slow change (and resistance to change), along with fierce support for ideas that have been adopted. In many ways, the difference between Liberals and conservatives is not about change, or specific policies (these arguments come and go with the decades), but rather with the RATE of change.

With regard for your specific comments about conservatives:

"At the heart of this "religion" arguement seems to be the belief that all liberals are richer and more elitist than conservatives. If that were true, where would the billions of dollars that fund organizations like the Hoover Institute and the Heritage Foundation come from? Truck drivers?"

No both philosophies have their rich and their poor. The big money in the current Presidential campaign is on the Kerry side, but the other side had the big money in several previous elections. It switches from side to side, trying to follow the expected winner.

"Conservatives argue against taxes...Our government provides welfare to large companies in the form of subsidies and no-bid contracts (i.e. Halliburton) - neither of which is discussed by the conservative pundits."

Conservatives don't generally argue against paying for services like police, military, or infrastructure. Conservatives argue against wealth transfer taxes, as inherently unfair. No-bid contracts (unlike their portrayal in the press) are usually no more or less profitable, and no more or less crooked, than other government contracts since they are usually performed on an auditable cost-plus basis. The last two administrations gave Halliburton (and many other firms) no-bid contracts. It's not a sign of evil, just a sign of an immediate need by the government for services, and perhaps a bit of a beaurocratic disregard for cost controls.

Conservatives don't know better than anyone else how to run a government...but the American system of representative democracy is a good model. Linking the installation of overseas dictators to American conservatives is a red herring. Dictators are cheaper and easier to install than real democracy (as we see in Iraq), so they are preferred by Presidents of all stripes.

I won't reprise the Clinton years: once was enough. But if we give up the concept that the President should be moral role model for our children (and ourselves), I think this is a very bad idea. What is the "worst" behavior we will allow a President to exhibit, before it is unnacceptable? This is a slippery slope argument, but there has to be (in my, conservative opinion) a line somewhere. If adultery is OK, what about spousal abuse? If yes, what about murder, if it was a long time ago...?

Let me put it another way: I would be happy to vote for a Liberal democrat if the alternative were a conservative billioaire who made his money in the porn business. I support free speech absolutely, but I don't want a porn king in the oval office, even if he is espousing conservative dogma. The need for ethics in government is real, and I think we should all apply standards to our public officials.

And by the way, I liked a lot of BC's achievements.

I'll leave you with this thought. One of the most common complaints about Bush (on the right) is that he is a mainstream Democrat who has hijacked the Republican party. (I've switched from Liberal/conservative to D/R). To many conservatives, the election choice this year is between the conservative and the Liberal wings of the D party. No conservative is running.

By Calkidd (Calkidd) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 08:17 pm: Edit

It is interesting to hear the view from the other side on the current administration (particularly when in non-rant form); I've heard a lot of conservatives decry Bush as being too liberal (I think this is with regards to immigration and some other economic things?). Many people on the left view Bush as an arch conservative because of his stands on abortion, his tax cut and the people he's appointed in his cabinet. For reference, many liberals saw Clinton as a socially liberal republican because of his stands on economic issues.

I suppose most of us see ourselves as being more politically centrist than we really are (nobody wants to seem unreasonable); it would be interesting to see differences in how liberals and conservatives placed public officials on a "scale" of left-wing vs. right-wing.

The character issue isn't something I see as a slippery slope. The two other scenarios, abuse and murder, are both serious crimes that could lead to incarceration - much worse than something that is immoral but legal. Unless a public official runs a corrupt administration, his/her "moral fiber" has very little impact on my life; the laws he/she puts into effect and the policies he/she enforces do.

And while I agree that some no-bid contracts are legit, the Halliburton situation in Iraq is highly suspect, on par with Clinton's pardoning of Mark Rich. The pentagon has raised questions about being overcharged on items like gasoline.

Subsidies aren't as charged an issue as no-bid contracts, but they have a much greater effect on our economy and lifestyle. If it is so wrong for our government to provide welfare on the scale of thousands of dollars a year to individuals (who happen to be people), why is it right for the same government to provide welfare on the scale of billions of dollars a year to individuals (who happen to be corporations)?

By Bobmarley (Bobmarley) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 10:36 pm: Edit

Basically, the definition I will give is that liberals are socially liberal (more personal freedom) and economically liberal (more government involvement in economics), while conservatives are conservative in both areas (less personal freedom, less government involvement in economics).

I would also like to add that I haven't read anything as wrong as Jlg3d3's posts for a while.

I would explain if olympic track and field wasn't on now, it should be pretty obvious though.

By Jlq3d3 (Jlq3d3) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:48 pm: Edit

"liberal (more personal freedom) and economically liberal (more government involvement in economics)"

it is hard to seperate them. min wage laws, social security, high taxes for social programs, rent control, gun laws, and title nine are all liberal ideals and they take away personal freedom.

By Jlq3d3 (Jlq3d3) on Thursday, August 26, 2004 - 11:53 pm: Edit

and when you move farther to the liberal side, as left as communism/socialism, almost all your personal freedom is removed with a centrally planned economy that dictates what is produced, for whom, and for how much.

By Neo (Neo) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 12:05 am: Edit

Mmm, Jl, that's very loaded language you're using there, and it's not right at all. Communism is not the same thing as Socialism -- no one in their right mind would compare the two to the degree you did. In socialist countries, the government does not "remove almost all your personal freedom", nor does it "dictate what is produced for whom and for how much". You know better than that. Stop insulting our

intelligence. Canada is a socialist nation, and they (Canadians) are not under a centrally administrated "dictatorship" as you'd have us belive, nor are her citizens stripped of their personal freedoms. Under socialist nations, average citizens recieve healthcare and *support* from their government. They don't have to be part of the elite, or the superrich, as you often find in Capitalism. The systems are quite different, and you know that as well as I do.

Of course, there has always been debates as to which method of government is better, but biased rhetoric like the rubbish you posted above doesn't do anything but rehash tired stereotypes and promote new levels of idiocy. Socialism is not Communism. Communism is not Socialism. The government of Canada, Sweeden, or France, for that matter, does not dictate the lives of its citizens.

If you want to talk about a nation at risk of losing the rights of her citizens, I suggest you begin with the united states. with four more years under ashcroft, these very discussions we're having on these boards could very well land us in "detainment" someday.

By Reasonabledad (Reasonabledad) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 09:46 am: Edit

JL is more right than wrong. When taxation rises to fund government programs, the freedom of individuals to enjoy the fruits of their labors is reduced, in order to provide enhanced living standards for those members of society that have not worked for the benefits they receive. This is the basic problem with socialism: it redistributes economic priveldges from those who created them to those who "need" them.

I'm surprised to hear someone claim that communism and socialism are different beasts. I thought that canard was dead after the cold war. The difference between the two is simply a matter of degree. By the way, the US is somewhat socialist too: these descriptions apply on a spectrum: they are not binary "yes" or "no" truths. Hence we are less socialistic than France, with many consequences. Having much experience with France, I can tell you that Americans are much more free then Frenchmen, as well as much more rich. The latter flows from the former.

By Jlq3d3 (Jlq3d3) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 01:54 pm: Edit

neo, you are very very wrong. You do not know what socialism is. It is a "stage of society in Marxist theory transitional between capitalism and communism and distinguished by unequal distribution of goods and pay according to work done". Simirlarly to communism, it advocates "collective or governmental ownership and administration of the means of production and distribution of goods... a system of society or group living in which there is no private property,a system or condition of society in which the means of production are owned and controlled by the state..."

That is the dictionary definition.

Canada and Western Europe are semi-socialist, but are more welfare-statist. They do not have complete govt control, but a lot of it. The govt owns the airlines, trains, rights to decide oil and medicine prices, dictates wages and vacation times, and chooses where a very large part of your income goes through very high taxes. In canada for example, a doctor cannot work in any hospitol if he also has a private practice that does not subscribe to the govt run insurance company. In mexico, you cannot buy gasoline and sell it, there is only one monopoly govt gas company called Pemex.

By Jlq3d3 (Jlq3d3) on Friday, August 27, 2004 - 02:00 pm: Edit

"dictate what is produced for whom and for how much"

Yes it does. In many european countries, in addition to high national and local income taxes, there are very high national (value added tax) and local sales tax. Well over 50% of your income is taken and the govt, not the person who makes the money, decides what to spend it on.

By Nutriamorada (Nutriamorada) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 10:30 pm: Edit

errr, how does Title IX take away personal freedom?

By Riflesforwatie (Riflesforwatie) on Saturday, August 28, 2004 - 10:42 pm: Edit

Title IX takes away personal freedom because it forces young girls to have the choice to play sports that they shouldn't have to play. Our government has no right to force girls to have the choice to play a sport. In fact, girls should have every right to decide if they want to be in an equal society or not.

If they want to be equal, great. If they don't, great... but the government shouldn't force them to be equal, or force them to have the choice to be equal. That's my take on it. I can also tell you about how the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments take away personal freedom.

By Jlq3d3 (Jlq3d3) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 12:44 am: Edit

"errr, how does Title IX take away personal freedom?"

It dictates to colleges how they should allocate sports funds.

By Takiusproteus (Takiusproteus) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 12:02 pm: Edit

People associate far leftist liberalism with high levels of control such as commmunism and socialism... thus labeling the whole liberal area as "EVIL!!!!!!!" Similarly, rightists are labeled as slavers and NeoNazis.

I think it's a bit more complicated than that and that clearly, with all of the variations even inside an individual party, you can't characterize a person's beliefs on a one-dimensional scale. It's really pretty planar, maybe even cubic.

One example of a two-dimensional system:
Y axis is Social beliefs, X axis is economic beliefs.
On the extreme ends of the Y Axis are Authoritarian (Fascism) and Libertarian (Anarchy). On the extreme ends of the X Axis are Left (Collectivism) and Right (Free-Market).

Personally, I'm a Left Libertarian ;)

By Jlq3d3 (Jlq3d3) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 03:21 pm: Edit

libertarian is not in any way anarchy. I view it linear. It is impossible to be a collectivist libertarian, and it is impossible to be a fascist free marketer. The liberals in this country behave more fasciest than socialistic. They want to retain private property, yet have tons of regulation and control from the govt. They want the gov to say what wages, hours, rents, and benefits must be. They want the gov to tell private institutions how to spend their money through laws such as title 9.

By Thermodude (Thermodude) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 05:45 pm: Edit

My personal opinion is that historically, there are really two directions on the political compass, the social one, and the economic one.

Just go to www.politicalcompass.org

By Nutriamorada (Nutriamorada) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 06:27 pm: Edit

libertarian is on the 'anarchy' side of that axis because they support social freedoms, while authoritarians do not.

the fact that liberals want to keep private property but have some government regulation makes them more socialist than facist.

and Title IX was enacted to help stop discrimination, how is this a bad thing?

By Hunter1985 (Hunter1985) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 08:06 pm: Edit

OK, while conservative/liberal may be a bit more obscure, I can give you the definitions of the Parties that usually associate with those ideologies-

Democrats- The Party of No Ideas
Republicans- The Party of Bad Ideas.

There you go, that is all you need to know about the two-party system in America.

Thank you Lewis Black.

By Jlq3d3 (Jlq3d3) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 09:22 pm: Edit

"libertarian is on the 'anarchy' side of that axis because they support social freedoms, while authoritarians do not."

Freedom is not anarchy.

"the fact that liberals want to keep private property but have some government regulation makes them more socialist than facist."

No, socialism is for govt ownership (such state run health care in canada), facsiest is a lot of govt authority directing private owners.

"and Title IX was enacted to help stop discrimination, how is this a bad thing?"

I am not arguing over whether it is good or bad, I am saying it is govt telling a private institution how to allocate its resources.

By Takiusproteus (Takiusproteus) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 09:40 pm: Edit

Anarchy is on the extreme end of the axis. As individual freedom grows greater and greater, you approach anarchy. Authoritarianism is the opposite extreme - the government places more and more restrictions on the individual until the individual has NO freedom.

Total freedom from any government is basically anarchy (no government). Total control under government is totalitarianism (total government). Keep in mind that this is a system of varying degrees and that it is a 2-dimensional plane.
Remember, this is the SOCIAL axis.
No Freedom <----------------------> Total Freedom
Totalitarian <---------------------> Anarchy

This is the ECONOMIC axis.
Collectivism <-------------------> Free Market
Lots of Control <----------------------> Less Control

Meaning: You can have lots of personal freedom and volunteer to work on a collective or in a free market. Or you can have no personal freedom and be forced into a collective and shut up, or work in a free market and still shut up or be shot.

By Songman (Songman) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 10:38 pm: Edit

someone said: conservatives believe in a past that never existed and liberals believe in a future that never will"

By Bunmushroom (Bunmushroom) on Sunday, August 29, 2004 - 11:23 pm: Edit

heres another famous line;

If you are under 25 and conservative you have no heart. If you are over 25 and liberal you have no brain.

By Songman (Songman) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 02:09 pm: Edit

I find this thread to be interesting. I wish more posters would have commented.

This morning it struck me (being over 50) that for the first half of my life (liberal or Democratic policies helped me to avoid some terrible situations and literally helped me to get into the middle class. (I was born into the lower middle or lower!) Yet, in the 2nd half of my life (The last 25 years) I have benefited more from Conservative or Republican like policies. Just the way I see it. This does not mean that I am a conservative now. Actually I am an independent. But I found this fact (for me) interesting!

By Olivecushion88 (Olivecushion88) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 02:31 pm: Edit

liberals want change, and want to act for the future

conservatives want stability, and want to uphold traditions and keep things as they were in the past.

thats the simplest definition i can think of...lol

By Jlq3d3 (Jlq3d3) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 05:05 pm: Edit

olive, that is one of the worst definitions. That would make a right wing capitalist in communist russia or socialist cuba a liberal. Both parties want change, they just want change in different directions.

By Goodchocolate (Goodchocolate) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 05:08 pm: Edit

...And that would make Reagan a liberal.

That "conservatives = status quo" definition is a bad one.

By Noodleman (Noodleman) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 08:07 pm: Edit


By Thermodude (Thermodude) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 08:24 pm: Edit

Interstingly enough, the definitions of conservatives and liberals change dramatically as history progresses. Take Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson.

Jefferson = Liberal Democratic-Republican = Weak Government, la-se-faire economics, thought government would not solve all problems (sound a little like Reagan...)...free trade, state's rights, supported by members of rural society, mainly in the south

Hamilton = Conservative Federalist = Strong Central Government, business regulation, regulated trade, believed that government should collect revenues, believed that government could solve problems if it threw money at them(something that Reagan critised strongly),...and...supported mainly by members of the industrial north.

Ahh...have times changed.

By Riflesforwatie (Riflesforwatie) on Monday, August 30, 2004 - 09:13 pm: Edit

Is it "revionist history" that is behind the fact that today we think of liberal movements as good, and conservative movements as bad?

Some examples:

state's rights. Today most (unless you are.... well, crazy) people support the power of the federal government and by extension the Union and not what the Confederacy stood for.

protectionism. I think most people would say that Hamilton's support for this helped the United States survive the first half of the 19th century.

slavery/abolition. Again, unless you are, well... crazy, you probably do not support slavery. Republicans were the abolitionists but today we admire Lincoln who could probably be considered a liberal.

Jacksonian democracy. I think this would be considered liberal today, and yet we think upon it generally favorably while we do not the same for modern liberalism.

labor unions and worker's rights. Now I know some people don't like this today just because labor unions donate heavily to Democrats, but putting that aside, I doubt that any workers would like to go back to the 16 hour day, 6 day workweek.

Progressivism. Most of the "advancements," if you like, of this movement are still enjoyed today.

New Deal. Again, besides increased government bureauocracy, I think most people would look favorably upon FDRs domestic actions.

civil rights. Some people hate LBJ, but not for this.

It's after this when liberals start to be trashed.... Great Society, later judicial activism, political correctness, big government under Reagan...

I just think it's interesting how the conservative counterparts to this might be criticized today. Some day in the future will we see some horrible consequence from Reagan's Presidency? Many people are thankful that there was a Hamiltonian balance to Jefferson's ideology. Slavery is criticized. States' rights conjure up racism and the Old South. Robber Barons in the Gilded Age and anti-progressivism. The isolationists of the 20s and 30s probably contributed to the rise of fascism and Communism. The GOPs anti-New Deal philosophy was soundly rejected at the Presidential level for 20 years and at the Congressional level for almost 75 years. Watergate, Barry "He's nuts" Goldwater, etc.. Of course the major notable exception is Reagan's defeat of Communism.

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