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The Fundamentals of American Conservatism and Liberalism

Updated on February 9, 2016

Apart from the current issues that Democrats and Republicans debate over; social programs, Health care, tax policies, gun control, Planned Parenthood, etc. The root of their beliefs congregates from a very fundamental core on how to govern a country. Values which may seem revolutionary on the surface, yet, have been the building blocks of many societies throughout history. Denoting the perception that either side is right or wrong, we’ll discuss the core value each party feels is the proper way to run the representative-democracy we know today as the United States of America. What essentially sets these two parties apart is how they perceive the country should distribute power, both of which differ from the classical sense of Conservatism and Liberalism slightly, yet still share values with the origins of their ideologies. Reiterating that neither one is necessarily wrong, both have strong moral convictions which are based in truth, and deciding which party to support is merely a matter of personal opinion that each man and woman of this great country has the right to endorse if their convictions lead them to.

Conservatives- This side of the spectrum believes in smaller federal government and more power to the states or major cities, trusting in communities rather than a single entity(the government), ultimately because they believe that power corrupts especially if one individual or group is holding all the cards. Coining the term “Traditional Westernism” this principle is based on the governing structure of the ancient Greek city-states, and in a more relevant sense, based on the Medieval Feudal System in which the power of a king is spread out among barons, earls, dukes and people of the like who owned land within the kingdom, supporting their sovereign based on cultural and security means. The current idea of conservatism argues against the centralization of the power of a state, from both a defensive view and a view that “lacks faith towards a ruling regime.”

  • Defensive in that conservatives suggest that if an all powerful government was to fall or become tyrannical, America’s first line of defense would be gone, leaving the rest of the country easily susceptible to either a foreign invader or the tyrannical regime.
  • They “Lack faith towards a ruling regime” in that it’s reasonable to believe, that if no other entity within the government can contest with the powers to be, then those in power couldn’t be held accountable for their actions and would more likely abuse their authority.

Liberals- This side believes that all people are inherently greedy and bound to seek advantage for themselves because people are motivated by self-interests, and to combat the status quo that is in place, we need strong institutions that seek to give everyone a chance to succeed. Though both sides argue their support for the working class, it’s the tenets of liberalism that seeks to always give the individual a voice, questioning constantly whether a law increases or decreases the freedom of the individual. It’s this idea that tends to act more progressive as it regularly aims to infuse all types of people into the political system, trying to incorporate all races, religions, genders or those who lack a gender, as long as the individual is a citizen of the country. Perhaps deriving its belief in the individual’s right to participate in politics from the Athenian democratic experiment, which understood the importance of checks and balances but sought to give all citizens the right to debate and vote individually, we can assume that liberals uphold that citizens regardless of their plot in life are social/political animals whose opinion are considered an asset to a state. This isn’t to say Conservatism doesn’t value the individual’s voice, rather the concept of “Traditional Westernism” inherently creates classes in society, from which conservatives feel an individuals can rise to facilitate based on their knowledge and participation within the community. But as liberals understand that people are inherently imperfect to failures and susceptible to such facets as, greed, racism, and blatant hate which arise from personal biases’, they feel that if an institution is set with a positive moral compass devoid of these human failures that people are less likely to be abused by an unjust system.


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    • Derek George profile image

      Derek George 19 months ago

      Thank you HSchneider, it's always great to receive positive feedback.

    • profile image

      Howard Schneider 19 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Very interesting overview of these 2 current political classifications. Of course, there are also many variations between these 2. Excellent Hub, Derek.