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February 14, 2004

Conservatism vs. liberalism: What do we believe?

As many of you know, I was once very much a conservative republican. Since then I have changed my views quite a bit. I'd like to believe that these changes have been due to careful analysis and consideration of alternative viewpoints. I've come to a point where I, like many others on both sides of the isle, do not like the terms republican and democrat or conservative or liberal. If you feel that way, I can hardly blame you, these varying terms and their definitions have caused a tremendous amount of confusion. What does it mean when someone says, "I am a conservative?" In all likelihood, there is no one definition of any of these terms anymore. What I am particularly interested in is our differing opinions on the matter, since I know they differ. To this end, I have a favor to ask of you, the reader. I rarely ask for favors so I expect you to comply, if for no other reason, than the pursuit of knowledge.

The first part of the favor is to answer the following questions, honestly.
1. What does it mean to be a conservative?
2. What does it mean to be a liberal?

Here is a bonus, optional question.
If you are a conservative, how do you think liberals would answer the question of what it means to be a conservative. If you are a liberal, reverse the question.

The second part is to ask someone or someones you know the same questions. Preferably people that differ in opinion from you on the matter. I will do the same and post my results, however, I will only post mine after some others have posted, so as not to completely give away the views of the author.

I really appreciate this, and I'm not just saying that either. What you are about to do is important to me...

Do it for America!

Posted by wonko at February 14, 2004 11:18 PM

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» Conservatism and Liberalism (or, too long for a blog comment) from Hyperbole
I started writing this as a comment to this entry in Brain Flossing, and realized my response was too long for a comment. So I'll post it to my own blog, thank you very much. ;-) I think that defining... [Read More]

Tracked on February 15, 2004 10:52 PM

» Conservatism and Liberalism (or, too long for a blog comment) from Hyperbole
I started writing this as a comment to this entry in Brain Flossing, and realized my response was too long for a comment. So I'll post it to my own blog, thank you very much. ;-) I think that defining... [Read More]

Tracked on February 15, 2004 10:52 PM

» Conservatism and Liberalism (or, too long for a blog comment) from Hyperbole
I started writing this as a comment to this entry in Brain Flossing, and realized my response was too long for a comment. So I'll post it to my own blog, thank you very much. ;-) I think that defining... [Read More]

Tracked on February 15, 2004 10:56 PM

» Conservatism and Liberalism (or, too long for a blog comment) from Hyperbole
I started writing this as a comment to this entry in Brain Flossing, and realized my response was too long for a comment. So I'll post it to my own blog, thank you very much. ;-) I think that defining... [Read More]

Tracked on February 15, 2004 10:57 PM

» A Previously Unannounced Break From Blogging from Intangibles in Decrescendo
While I had taken an unannounced break from blogging, I have been following an entry on Wonko's Blog about Conservatism vs. Liberalism. If you're reading this, I would suggest you check it out and give your input on this discussion.... [Read More]

Tracked on February 18, 2004 06:28 PM

» A Previously Unannounced Break From Blogging from Intangibles in Decrescendo
While I had taken an unannounced break from blogging, I have been following an entry on Wonko's Blog about Conservatism vs. Liberalism. If you're reading this, I would suggest you check it out and give your input on this discussion. PS. Make sure you t... [Read More]

Tracked on February 18, 2004 06:30 PM


Hmm, tough one for me, seeing as how I feel the same way about this as you do. However, I REFUSE to choose a side.
As far as the definition of Democrat and Republican, I think the terms no longer have any real definition. There no longer seems to be any middle ground, people are either on the Right or on the Left. That is to say, they are conservative or liberal and that's it.
The conservative usually hold beliefs that are more traditional, obsessively patriotic and support big corporations or big money. While liberals are also patriotic, the weight of their beliefs lies in tolerance. Tolerance for everyone and everything. They generally believe in helping others and you'd be hard-pressed to find them standing in line to support your favorite big corporation.
Over the last decade or so, it seems that the conservatives and the liberals have moved further away from each other, if for no other reason, to move farther away from each other. I think it used to look more like this: (L and R on each side represent Left and Right, m = middle; Lib and Con = Liberal and Conservative)


and has become more like this:


So, in my opinion, if you wanted to know the definition of Liberal, it's the antonym for Conservative, and vice versa.

Posted by: obigabu at February 15, 2004 12:02 AM

well before I post my answer, I also have draw the distinction of liberal and conservative as antonymes in many cases (working on the basis of an individual in society, not in the government) however I find that quite the opposite from obigabu that the problem in with our two part system right now is that they are exactly the same, infact they have almost always historicaly been exactly the same. Niether capable of moving to either the right or left inorder to satisfy the middle majority.

Posted by: Anders at February 15, 2004 02:26 PM

Conservatism vs. Liberal

Fist I think it’s important to break these into several categories so that one can better understand where one is coming from.


Domestic Policy: Usually founded on Christian moral ideals, and the belief that there is greater moral right than the protection of natural rights. Often I believe the policy actions of the conservative lead down the paths of greater control of the population through coercion of the state. That is by increasing legislation that limits the freedom of individuals.

Often times I find that extreme conservatism leads to the blatant denial of sever racial inequities within our country. And the use of extreme cases to assure us that minorities are doing just fine in America.

Economic Policy: Tends to be extremely free market, in the interest of capital gains and highest economic output. While leaving behind the poor or underprivileged in society. These policies are typically best suited to keeping the rich rich, and the poor poor, and are used to enforce the classist state of our nation, keeping the top ten percent rich, and the bottom 90% unaware and poor.

Foreign Policy: I tend to find that in cases of foreign policy it’s not that the conservative is more or less willing to go to war than the liberal; it’s simply that the conservative is more willing to follow the whims of his country, and less willing to fight against it. This is often times accompanied by a strong sense of patriotism and an idea that disobeying ones country is ethical wrong. Many time morals come into play when making foreign policy decisions.


Domestic Policy: In many cases this is founded on the belief in the strength of individual rights, willing fight to keep all legality out one personal space. Often times believes in more socialist policies of the state, willing to pay more taxes for the benefit of the poor or needy. Equity is of greater concern in these cases, all men are believed created equal, regardless of class or race, thus the upper class is under moral obligation to aid in leveling this playing field.

Economic Policy: Tends to be again more socialist in nature, allowing governmental control into the economy. This is typically in the form of worker relief, or taxes, or subsidies etc., to further environmental and or domestic policies. Often times this is the weakest part of the liberal scheme, and the one that is torn to pieces in debate and or on the voting box. Often times such issues as welfare and or the environment will come before profit in the eyes of a liberal, this is one of the key parts of liberal argument.

Foreign Policy: As an individual in society the typical liberal view is that of pacifism at all cost, to prevent war and to fight against it. As a politician it’s on the same level of the conservative and wars will be fought to further the economic gain of the United States. Much like the domestic policy morals have little to do with the liberals foreign policy decisions (save natural rights).

Posted by: Anders at February 15, 2004 02:36 PM

The terms are misappropriated all the time, but I believe in the strictest definition, that to be conservative is to believe existing policies are the best means to an end (hence conserving what is already there). Anil Dash put into words a concept of liberalism which I cannot hope to beat: "the belief that the best solutions to existing problems are yet to be found."

Posted by: kasei at February 15, 2004 04:22 PM

A much better general definition, thank you!

well said.


Posted by: Anders at February 15, 2004 04:30 PM

Kasei and Anders, you both hit it on the head!

Posted by: obigabu at February 15, 2004 05:37 PM

Very well put. When I first thought of asking this question I was worried people would confuse average everyday liberals or conservatives with liberal or conservative politicians. In my opinion, there is a difference, more so on the conservative side. I think the actual views of conservative citizens differs greatly from the actual views of their political counterparts. Maybe its as true of liberals as well. Also, there is a HUGE difference between a Republican Politician and a conservative, or a Democrat and a liberal citizen. Most Democratic politicians take as much special interest money as their peers across the isle and as such, are very pro big-business. Most liberals are NOT pro big-business. If you disagree, please tell me.

That said, my question was more geared towards the average person, not the politician. Anders, I couldn't agree with you more on those definitions of conservative and liberal politicians. However, I think the average person may differ. Is what you said your beliefs on politicians or everyday Americans (if there is such a thing)?

Posted by: Wonko at February 15, 2004 10:35 PM

I started writing a response, and wrote too much. So now it's here instead:

Posted by: gefilte at February 15, 2004 10:59 PM

I plan on asking a number of my friends this question and already have an answer from one. I asked one of my best friends who is in his 40s and grew up in predominantly republical towns. I am very tempted to comment on what he said as I go, but I think I'll give his part first, and then give my opinion.

He said he considers himself a conservative republican with many liberal views. For example, he said that the conservatives were not very environmentally friendly and that they would cut down all the trees if we let them. He is an outdoors person and very pro-environment. Then he said that he isn't against ALL logging like the liberals, but thinks regulated logging of farmed trees made sense. Farmed trees meaning, they are planted for the purpose of logging and replanted once they are used. He then went on to say he didn't agree with the liberal stance on logging as it was his belief they were against any cutting down of trees anywhere for any reason.

On the matter of entitlements: He said that he was against how the liberals just wanted to give people money for nothing. He went on to say that the welfare system was totally messed up and he would rather the government make them work (for the government if needed) so they would have to earn their money. It was his feeling that the liberals wanted to just give money away where the conservatives didn't want to help the poor at all.

On taxes: He seemed confused. He said that a flat tax made sense, but at the same time felt the conservatives help the rich too much and don't care for the poor. He doesn't believe everyone has the same chance to make it rich and believes debt and consumerism is bad. He went on to say that consumerism is very much a conservative thing.

I asked whether he was getting more liberal or more conservative as he got older. He implied he was getting more liberal mostly because of living in Mammoth. Being surrounded by rich people who look down on those less fortunate has made him more compassionate for the 'other' perspective.

That was his bit, now my interpretation. His parents were conservative as were all his friends. He grew up in rural california and Nevada which tends to be republican. It appears to me that many of his views on liberalism are from listening to Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives description of liberals. Like believing that liberals are against all logging, or that liberals just want to give money away. I used to listen to Limbaugh when I was young and so can say this from experience. He had exaggerated views of liberal ideologies and if it weren't for these exaggerations he would definitely tend more liberal, however, liberal has such a negative connotation for him, he would never want to admit it.

On another note, while at work, I asked a very young stoner, snowboarding bum the same question. His response was short, but interesting.

"Liberals are like for the environment and for people, you know community, and against war and such. Conservatives don't care about the environment and want war. They care more about businesses than people and don't care for the poor."

This last answeree, I have no doubt, has never followed politics. He probably does not have a high school diploma. I am guessing his views were imparted by his environment as well. I get a little frustrated when I think about how our environment determines our views one way or another. Either we believe what we are told when we are young, or we reject them wholly. That is an oversimplification of course, but more true than not. This issue of liberalism vs. conservative seems more susceptible to environmental forces than many other issues. People become liberal hating conservatives with exaggerated, nonsensical views of liberalism, or they become conservative hating liberals who believe conservatives are really evil, deep down. It seems that a debate between most people is almost impossible with so many misconceptions ruling peoples views.

Posted by: Wonko at February 17, 2004 07:49 PM

Hmmm, Well I have to say this is the exact reason why I will not choose one side over the other. I believe what I believe, not because I'm told, but because I see. I have some of the same feelings as your 40 something friend (as you already know). However, I don't listen to the narcotic Limbaugh, and the ideas I have about have about our system come from living in our system, and I give concessions to both sides on many issues. I think it's important for people to work for what they want. I know I just had a conversation with you (wonko) about how I think it may be possible to not work as much doing things that we hate and instead spend more time doing the things we love. But at the same time I recognize that we NEED to work in order to receive the necessities of life, i.e. food, shelter, and some forms of entertainment. I don't think it's unreasonable to ask people to work for things they want/need. On the other hand, I feel that we are required to work too hard for the necessities of life. I'm not trying to be lazy here, I just see that in America, it seems we have to work so many hours to keep or jobs and in return, sustain life. It's not uncommon for the average person to exceed 40 hours a week in their job, whether it is their career or a job on the way to that career. I know I'm getting off topic with that but I wanted to declare that I don't hold absolutes and that is why I personally find it impossible to pick a side. It seems that picking a side had negative connotations in itself. If I said I was liberal, and then made the same comment about people working for what they need or want, people would question my belief system, and try to hold me accountable to other things which that system holds as truths. If I was to say that I was conservative, I would be baited with questions about human equality and the economic security of the lower and upper-lower class. I choose to hold my own beliefs and instead of run around ranting about what I do or do not believe, give my opinions about these things when asked or see the opportunity to make a change in something.
Although, I could throw all that out the window if I could become a registered Whig party constituent.

Posted by: obigabu at February 18, 2004 06:23 PM

Ok I have read the original blog and the following comments and find them interesting yet bias. I am going to go against the grain and admit that I consider myself to be a conservative, although as most who have posted, I do not like calling myself democrat or republican. So that being said this is what I believe. I am not a proponent of big business, but I do see those big businesses playing a vital role in our economy and supplying millions of jobs. I do not believe that we should constantly punish the rich for simply being rich. While there are those who are rich from inheritance or luck most millionaires and billionaires are self-made, these people have worked very hard to build a business and in turn created wealth, what the heck is wrong with that. I am a social worker and I have to say that liberals (the majority of social workers) just want to create more programs and more programs and simply put a Band-Aid on the problem. I see the more assistance that people have to save them the more saving they need rather then trying to make it on their own. I see conservatives as wanting to look at what are the causes of the constant increase of social ills (domestic violence, homelessness, substance abuse, chlid abuse, etc.) are and deal with the root of those problems. I hate war, but absolutely believe that at times it is necessary to go to war, although there needs to be ample evidence to support it. I believe liberals often downplay the abilities of people and feel that in every aspect of life they must intervene, I believe this is true for regular people not just politicians and that conservatives have greater faith in human kind and their ability to rise above. So there you go the beliefs of one conservative social worker.

Posted by: Ginabeanna at February 18, 2004 07:04 PM

okay...well...I started by critiquing ginna's view of liberal and democrat, and I wanted it to be gentle and nice, but firm and factual. But i broke down in the middle and just start screaming to be heard over the blaring roar of the blind masses, as corperations, big buisness, and our govenment officials sell our minds, bodies and what little freedom we've garnered to the highest bidder.

so I wrote this

I want really to apologise for making this an debate style issue if that's what comes of this, however I think they are exrtremely important topics to discuss if not chaotic and disorganized.



Posted by: Anders at February 18, 2004 09:24 PM

DAR broken link!


this is the link...please read and comment!



Posted by: Anders at February 18, 2004 09:25 PM

First of all, to those who are worried about getting 'off-topic', don't worry. I'm not a big fan of strict rules of engagement anyway. Lets just deal with issues as they arise. I will try and moderate.

I read all of your responses and it is still clear to me how many misconceptions liberals have of conservatives and visa versa. After reading Gina and Obigabu's responses, I have to say they personally have misconceptions of liberalism. These misconceptions support Obigabu's notion that labels are bad, but unfortunately, without labels we can't have agreement. We can't form groups to support each other. We can't debate because everything is too nebulous. Ideally, labels would be accurate. So, to make things fair, I want to defend conservatives first.

As I stated before, I used to be a conservative. I spent more than half of my life as a conservative republican. I think I have a good grasp on conservative beliefs and motives. I want to talk about motives specifically because I think that is where the debate gets hung up most of the time. When I was a conservative, my motives were similar as they are now. I believed that everyone mattered, regardless of race, gender, or origin. In this regard, my motives haven't changed. I was against almost all social and environmental programs back then, but not because I didn't care for poor people or the environment. It was because I believed what I was told that in America, we all have the same chance to 'make it' regardless of class, race, etc... Furthermore, I didn't believe there were classes per se. I also believed the motivations of the liberals were flawed. I believed they wanted to give poor people a free ride. That they thought the environment was more important than people and jobs. I thought they wanted to punish the rich because they were jealous and wanted us all to have the same amount of money like a communist state. However, going back to the motives issue, my motives were pure, as I believe Gina's and Obigabu's motives are pure. Whether conservative politicians motives are pure is another matter. I am sure they are as (un)pure as liberal politicians.

Now I lean more liberal, but my motives are the same. The only thing that has changed are my views on what means to achieve those goals. Now, in retort to their comments. I agree with Anders that statistically, millionaires and billionaires are NOT self made, but handed down to. I do not believe most liberals want to give money away to the poor for nothing or that they want to punish the rich for being rich. I now see that these beliefs were implanted in me by the conservative I listened to and believed, whether friends, family, or famous. Liberals want to give everyone the same chance, because they believe everyone does not have the same chance. Both Liberals and Conservatives want an America were anyone can succeed. The only difference is that conservatives believe they already have that chance. I would rather see a works program where people have to work for their money than just give money away and I think most liberals would agree. However, what most liberals would agree more to is that changing our biased education, health, and wages system is the REAL way towards class equality. Because there ARE classes, despite my prior belief. Classes in the sense that the world is different depending on your class. A rich person can borrow millions with no collateral, ie. no risk, to invest and make more money, again with no risk. A poor person can't borrow anything to save his life. Of course, all debt is bad, another one of my new liberal beliefs. Conservatives believe that debt is good because it stimulates the economy. They also believe spending is good (for the same reason). Liberals criticize conservatives for these beliefs, but most conservatives hold these beliefs for the same reasons liberals don't. Conservatives believe that by borrowing and spending, thus stimulating the economy (in their view), it helps everyone, rich and poor alike. Liberals, with the same motives, believe that borrowing and spending only helps the rich and enslaves the poor to the rich through debt and consumerism.

Its the same with the Drug debate that Anders brought up. Neither want to see drugs ruin the lives of their friends and children. Both, coming from the same place, draw different conclusions. There was an AWESOME Chapel show last night that had a skit showing what it would be like if drug dealers were treated like corporate execs and visa versa. It showed the cops calling the drug dealer to warn him about the upcoming arrest and asked if he could turn himself in at his convenience. Meanwhile the corporate Enron type exec had his house raided and his dog shot. Then the drug dealer sat in front of a senate subcommittee and plead the fifth. Meanwhile, the white exec had much unfair treatment by the police who told blatant lies to the jury of the defendants peers, who ended up being a jury of lower class black people. It was funny, but poignant as well. Remember, no one from the Enron scandal is in jail yet, but you can spend a year in federal prison for having a small amount of marijuana. But I digress.

Without going too far into 'the debate', I want to reframe our conversation in this way. First of all, I want everyone in this debate to acknowledge (silently) that the person on the other side of the isle is not their adversary. The conservative is not the enemy, nor is the liberal. We all really have the same humane and just motives. There are really two main differences that separate us, one an extension of the other. First, our beliefs on the reality of present day American. More specifically... Do we all have the same chance in this country? Are there classes and is there class, gender, race prejudice. How much danger is the environment really in?
With the same pure motives, liberals and conservatives differ on those beliefs, which leads to different beliefs on what should be done, or done differently in this country. If there are classes and we all do not have the same chance for success, why, and how do we narrow the divide? Taxes? Wage control? Health care? Education?
If the environment really is in bad shape and will have severe negative impacts on humanity in the future, what can we do make sacrifices now to protect it in the future?

So, I think the debate on what REALLY is the truth needs to proceed the debate no what needs to be done. If we have different understandings of the truth, we will obviously have different ideas as to the resulting application to our lives and this country.

With that, I leave with with this question. If there is only one truth, how can we come to agreement on it?

Posted by: Wonko at February 19, 2004 09:32 AM

I really want to Emphasize that when I started out I want to just point out the falicies of stating opinion as fact, or even factual falacies and using ginna's post as a jumping boared seemed fine in that case. However, by the time I reached the end (this is something I tend to do and I'm trying to stop and get better at not exploding like this.) I had whirled myself into my own world, where it was just me ranting and raving. Truely I wish If I could now I would remove any relevence this had to ginna, I made it too personal, and risked hurting people, and as such risked shutting them off from the words of other people in this discussion.

Truely I appologize, and I commend Wonko for stating just about everything I did, while making it impersonal and calm. I wish I had that kind of control.



Posted by: Anders at February 19, 2004 11:22 AM

I have decided to recall my decission to not choose a side. With this said, I have chosen a side and from now on I'm going to conscider my self an obigabuist and follow the obigabuic party.

Posted by: obigabu at February 19, 2004 03:49 PM

you'll be the first to go in the whig revolution...traitor...

Henry Clay

Posted by: BIG WHIG FO LIFE at February 19, 2004 06:34 PM

Kasei just sent me a link to JFKs acceptance speech as the liberal party's nomination for president in 1960. He does a great job of defining liberal in terms most people would agree with, though he does not go into the minutia. What really struck me about the speech is how relevant it was for today. If you replaced 1960 with 2004 and the word War with Terrorism, it could be John Edwards or Kerry giving a speech for the dems. What really struck me was how he proposed we deal with foreign policy. Basically we need to lead by example, not by force. More timely words were never uttered so long ago.

It is not that long a speech. I highly recommend you read it.

Posted by: Wonko at February 20, 2004 03:16 PM

Beautiful! My response is simple: I am apolitical (NOT antipolitical).

Posted by: The WeeBee at February 11, 2005 06:19 AM

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