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What Does It Mean to Be a Conservative?

Updated on October 4, 2012

In the United States of America, there are three major political factions - Liberals, Conservatives, and Moderates (or centrists). This hub discusses the group labeled "Conservatives." In general, conservatives can be characterized as those who adhere to the following:

  1. Traditional values
  2. Personal responsibility
  3. Smaller government
  4. Lower taxes
  5. Strong national defense
  6. Business friendly
  7. Pro Life
  8. Generous to others (as discovered from a recent research project)

A Conservative Believes in Traditional Values

First, a conservative is one who believes in traditional values (e.g. strong families and religion). As those who champion traditional values, conservatives believe that marriage should be defined in traditional terms; that is, between one man and one woman.

A Conservative Believes in Personal Responsibility

Second, a conservative believes that each person should take personal responsibility for their actions. This means that a person should accept the consequences of their actions. If they commit a crime, they should be prosecuted and serve out the appointed sentence. If a man and a woman sleep together and a child is conceived, they should take care of the child. Even so, most conservatives are willing to recognize and take into consideration at least some extenuating circumstances.

A Conservative Believes in Less Government

Third, a conservative is one who believes in less government. As such, they attempt to limit the role of the central or federal government.

A Conservative Prefers Capital Investment over Paying Taxes

Fourth, a conservative believes in paying less taxes.

  • They believe in paying less taxes because they should be able to keep a fair share of their hard earned dollars.
  • They believe government is an inefficient proxy when it comes to administrating the economic and financial welfare of its citizens.
  • They believe that capital investments by private donors is a better solution for stimulating the country's economy.


A Conservative Believes in a Strong National Defense

Fifth, a conservative believes in a strong national defense. Conservatives believe that the most important role of government is to protect the physical well-being of its citizens. As such, they believe that the bulk of taxpayer dollars should go to keeping the military in a high-state of readiness.

A Conservative is Pro Business

Another characteristic of conservatives is they are pro business. Again they believe that businesses should pay less taxes so they can have more capital available for expansion which includes hiring more workers who will also make money to spend into the economy.

A Conservative Believes in Giving to the Cause of the Needy

Finally, conservatives believe in helping the poor and the needy. This is probably the least recognized quality of conservatives. Arthur C. Brooks, a professor at Syracuse University, published "Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth About Compassionate Conservatism." After he finished his research for the book, Brooks was surprised by the results. He was surprised because he discovered that "liberals are markedly less charitable than conservatives" (as cited by George Will, 2008). Brooks who was once a committed liberal was shocked because he lived under the assumption that his liberal colleagues were more generous to the poor than conservatives. In fact, Brooks discovered that conservatives out gave liberals by four to one and that those who give are more apt to give in multiple ways including money, goods, and volunteer time.


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    • ecoggins profile image

      ecoggins 4 years ago from Corona, California

      Thank you wba108 for your encouragment. I appreciate your comments, very much.

    • profile image 4 years ago from upstate, NY

      I absolutely agree! I think this describes conservatism in a nutshell. Like your description of preferring capital investment over paying taxes. The government sure is:

      "an inefficient proxy when it comes to administrating the economic and financial welfare of its citizens."

      A little known fact is that conservatives a personally more charitable than liberals. Excellent!

    • Christel Platt profile image

      Christel Platt 5 years ago from Charleston, West Virginia

      Very Easy to understand the way you wrote it, I hope more and more young people start learning about their values and goals and choose to become a part of change for the better. Seems like all the RNC and DNC was, was a he said she said, they need to do this, they need to do that MESS. I hope we can all put aside our differences and come together to make our Country what it is very capable of, strong, and safe. It doesn't matter who I am voting for, what matters is that, whoever wins I will put aside whatever needs to be put aside to better my childs future. Great Article.

    • The Frog Prince profile image

      The Frog Prince 7 years ago from Arlington, TX

      Excellent and spot on. I am a conservative myself.

      Voted up.

      The Frog

    • ecoggins profile image

      ecoggins 8 years ago from Corona, California


      Thank you for your comments. Your argument is very well stated. There are those from both sides of the aisle who have and do exploit the name of God to make themselves look good, but whose actions in business have nothing to do with God or charitable compassion. And, no doubt, we have seen in the last decade what has been true since the dawn of time that those with the resources to do so often exploit those who don't. This is not a conservative-liberal thing; it is as you point out a human thing.

      In an ideal world, neighbor would care for neighbor regardless of their race or color of skin. Those who reap an abundant harvest (so-to-speak) would share with those who did not. Then there would be less need for government and less need for taxes which are conservative values. According to Brooks (who was a committed liberal scholar), his findings show that a true conservative is more apt to reach out and give to his neighbor than the average liberal (the liberal wants the government to forcefully take it from the haves and give it to the have nots).

      Truth is to be balanced there are good and bad examples on both sides of the aisle. However, I think all of us would want to pay less taxes and would want everyone to take personal responsibility for their actions regardless of what has gone on before us.

      Change begins with you and I.

    • profile image

      Balance 8 years ago

      So, with communism, you trust the government to take care of you. With capitalism, you trust rich people to take care of you. Sure, they throw you some crumbs and put out some carefully engineered recreations, so that you can feel like you have some freedom of movement and choice in your life.

      As a former conservative who was forced to wake up, I'll say that, from my experience, being a "conservative" means you simply repeat the dogmatic ideals that are handed down to you, and refuse to respect or acknowledge people who don't adhere to the same views.

      Traditional Values:

      Check a history book and see how those values have faired. Strongly upholding religion? In America, strongest religious roots are in Christian religions. Check American history (not just one book either) on historical treatment of blue-collar workers, the poor, minorities, etc.

      Personal Responsibility:

      Means absolutely nothing if you make enough money. It's something you can use to guilt those below your income level into actually paying taxes and debts.

      Less Government:

      Again, awesome if you're rich, because then there's basically no powerful force to make you treat your employees human beings and pay your taxes, or not ship all the work overseas when you wanna make a few extra billion.

      Capital Investment Over Paying Taxes:

      Of course. Taxes are public money, and, ideally, the public (ie. everyone) has a say in how that money is spent. Capital Investment is private money that enhances private power. Nobody can force private power to do anything it doesn't want to do (which is basically anything that negatively affects the quarterly statement).

      - Paying less taxes because they should be able to keep a fair share

      Key words being "fare share." When you make enough money for yourself and fifty people to live comfortably on, and there are people everywhere around you who can barely make enough for themselves, I contend that you are keeping more than your "fare share."

      - government is an inefficient proxy when it comes to administrating the welfare of its citizens.

      It's staffed by the same thing that runs the corporations: fallible human beings. Remember reading in some important document about all men being created equal... No inherent reason why government is more or less efficient than private corporations. Still, at least the government, ideally, is "of the people, by the people, for the people." Private corporation is a private tyranny. Which one is more apt, inherently, to act in the interest of the people's welfare?

      - capital investments by private donors is a better solution for stimulating the country's economy.

      Better for stimulating the rich man's elite economy. Absolutely. Because the rich are what matter.

      Strong National Defense:

      Don't know anyone who doesn't wanna protect themselves. As long as we aren't talking about fueling the military industrial complex, I'm with ya on that. Would hardly call it the sole domain of conservatives, though.


      Of course. Refer to earlier comments.

      Believes In Giving to the Needy:

      Sure, once he rapes the environment and demoralizes his labor force, he sets up a charity and gives what amounts to a pittance of his total profits, because, again, it's good for business to appear charitable. It's easy to give crumbs to the poor when you still get to eat the whole load, and you don't have to care what makes them poor (especially when it's you hogging the whole loaf).

    • RevLady profile image

      RevLady 8 years ago from Lantana, Florida

      Well, I'll be darn. Thought I knew what a conservative was. Thanks for filling in many holes in my understanding.


    • ecoggins profile image

      ecoggins 8 years ago from Corona, California

      Thanks James for the uplifting comment.

    • James A Watkins profile image

      James A Watkins 8 years ago from Chicago

      Excellent! I surely appreciate this pithy and strong explication of what a Conservative is. Good read. Thanks.

    • ecoggins profile image

      ecoggins 8 years ago from Corona, California

      Destined to win. Thank you for your encouraging comments. I do appreciate them very much.

    • Destined To Win profile image

      Destined To Win 8 years ago

      Great hub. I like how you identified and defined who a true conservative is. Sounds like a great thing to be. I always enjoy reading the articles you write.


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