The Differences between conservatives and liberals are more than just differences in opinion about current or even past political policy questions. The differences arise from core fundamental beliefs in the nature of people and the universe.
I like to go to underlying root causes for the differences between liberals and conservatives instead of how the differences are revealed in current or even recent policy debates.
Nine Root Cause Differences Between Liberals and Conservatives (meaning the US Political use of the terms)
- Conservatives believe in absolute right/wrong while liberals hold to moral relativism as their view
- Conservatives believe that man (humanity) cannot be perfected. Liberals hold high notions about the perfectibility of man. This can also be revealed as Conservatives believe in original sin and that people are inherently self-serving.
- Conservatives believe in equality of economic opportunity while liberals tend to focus on equality of economic outcomes.
- Conservatives believe that the only rights are negative rights. Liberals also believe in positive rights. A negative right is the right to not have something physical or transcendental taken away by the government or some more powerful entity. Positive rights are rights to actually have something. Medical care is a good example. Conservatives believe that no one has a right to take medical care (your life) away from you while liberals believe that everyone has a right to medical care no matter what.
- Conservatives believe that the mere fact that something is traditional or has been proven practically to work has immense value in decisions of policy. Continuity in culture and society is important. Liberals tend to place zero or very little value in this.
- Item #2 above (imperfectability of man) makes conservatives believe that government should be small and have absolute limitations on what it can do and what parts of the economy or culture it is even allowed to touch. The liberal belief in the perfectibility of man (Humanism) makes them view an active and large government as important in that perfecting. They also tend to see the limit of government as “whatever the majority thinks is appropriate”.
- Conservatives believe that freedom and property are intrinsically linked and cannot be separated. Liberals tend to view property as something that society allows a person to own. Conservatives believe that property ownership is an inherent, natural or human right and believe that its existence is necessary for great cultures and societies to be built and to continue to exist.
- Conservatives believe that small voluntary communities are the core of civilization and freedom. As such, they promote individualism over collectivism. They promote local government power over the government power of a national or federal government. Liberals tend to view collectivism and Federal government power as just as important as individuals and local government power.
- Conservatives, and not liberals, believe in what has been called “the principle of prescription”. We believe that society has been built on the shoulders of great minds and men who have learned over time what works and what does not work. We believe society should build on these prescriptions of old and be supplemented with new prescriptions based on what works. Liberals tend to reject this and fall for new and often Utopian ideals in how society should be built forgetting what has been done by great minds of the past and what, practically speaking, works today.