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Conservative? Liberal? Moderate? Or Just Don't Care?

Updated on December 27, 2012

What's Your Label?

Do you consider yourself a liberal, conservative, or moderate? Do you know the difference between these political terms? For most of my life, not only did I not know the definition of these words, but I didn't really care to. And I hate to admit this publicly, but for many years I didn't even vote. Why? My excuses were many. I was too busy with everyday life, didn't know anything about politics, and mostly, I was too embarrassed because I had never voted and didn't know how it was done. I would have to show up at the polls in my 30's and ASK someone how to vote- then EVERYONE would know what a political slacker I was. How mortifying!

My husband didn't vote either. His excuse? He didn't believe it would make any difference who was elected because he believed all politicians were crooks and wanted the same thing-power.

I still don't understand everything about politics. But bit by bit I am learning. My husband is learning much faster than I. And we both vote. First we had to determine what we believed. The following is a very short, simple explanation of what it means to be conservative, liberal, or moderate.

Labels, Labels...We All Love Labels

How would you label yourself?

See results

Great Books to Read

My political education began one year at a homeschooling convention when I came across the Uncle Eric Series written by Richard Maybury. I believe these books explain politics, economics, and law in a way that anyone can understand. The books are short, easy reading and written so that middle school to high school age kids can make sense of them. You will also find information in them that you can use to teach important life lessons to your younger children. All in all, the best civics and political science program I have ever read. After reading this inexpensive series, you will have the basic information that you need to choose and vote for political candidates that support what you believe in.

Are You Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused? (An Uncle Eric Book)
Are You Liberal? Conservative? Or Confused? (An Uncle Eric Book)

One of the best books I've ever read on this subject. Told in a simple and fascinating way so that anyone can understand. I loved all of the Uncle Eric books!

 

Liberal

Just What Does That Mean?

Dictionary.com defines the word Liberal in ways that I find confusing. It says that liberals "are favorable to progress or reform, favorable to concepts of maximum individual freedom possible."

Wikipedia states, "The main focus of modern liberalism in the United States includes issues such as voting rights for all adult citizens,equal rights, protection of the environment, and the provision by the government of social services, such as: equal education opportunities, access to health care, transportation infrastructure, basic food for the hungry and basic shelter for the homeless."

Hhmmm. These all sound like good things. And maximum individual freedom? That really sounds good.

But Mr. Maybury, in his book, Are You Liberal? Conservative? or Confused?, has a different definition of Liberalism. He defines a liberalist as "A person on the left side of the left-right political spectrum." He says that Liberals believe in less government control in social issues such as drug use, illegal aliens and homosexual rights, but more government control in economic issues ( how we spend our money), which includes such things as taxes, socialized medicine, education, and gun control.

That doesn't sound like maximum individual freedom to me.

Conservative - Another confusing label

Dictionary.com defines the word conservative as "disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change."

Wikipedia says this about Conservatives: "conservatism is a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and supports, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism and seek a return to the way things were."

These definitions both sound on the negative side to me, as if conservatives want to live in the past and are resistant to any change.

Mr. Maybury defines a conservative as " a person on the right side of the left-right political spectrum." He says that Conservatives want no government intrusion in economic issues such as taxes, socialized medicine, education and gun control; but support government control in social issues such as pornography, abortion, homosexual rights, and illegal aliens.

What Do I Believe?

Then and Now

I always believed LIBERAL meant a belief in rapid change from the status quo and high government involvement in every aspect of our lives. And I thought CONSERVATIVES believed in less government intrusion in our lives in all areas and in slower and carefully thought out changes in government when needed. So I considered myself a MODERATE, which I thought meant some point in between the two - change when needed and less government control in all areas.

After reading Mr. Maybury's books, I found that both Conservatives and Liberals both want government control, just in different areas. And that Moderates want government control in all areas, not less. No wonder we are all confused! The word "moderate" sounds like it means the middle ground and I think that's what many people believe when they use that term.

Here's a great example Mr. Maybury gave, of the difference in these two belief systems: During the Vietnam war, the Liberal's objective was peace; the Conservative's objective was victory. Neither one wanted war, they just disagreed on how to get there. A current example would be Obama's Healthcare Reform. All Americans know that we desperately need a better healthcare system; both liberals and conservatives can agree on that point. But the way to solve the problem - that is a different story and one that is causing extreme controversy between liberals and conservatives today.

Have the definitions of these political terms changed over time? I would venture that most people don't really know the true meaning of these political words. We just see the "other side" as bad. Maybe the real issue we need to think about is how much do we want the federal government to intrude in our lives?

Mr. Maybury coined a new label, "juris naturalis" which is the belief that government should be limited in all areas, the exact opposite of moderate. I believe that describes my belief. I think a more well-known term is "Libertarian." I don't like this word because it sounds too much like the term "liberal" and seems to be somewhat associated with bunches of people holed up in the woods building their own arsenal to protect themselves.

The Question Should Be:

Just how much DO we want the Federal government to intrude in our lives?

The Debate Is On! - Is Our Constitution Outdated?

There has been recent debate over the past few years on whether our national constitution is in need of change. Liberals say it is outdated and needs to be changed to reflect the changes in our society over the past 200 + years. Conservatives say it is perfect the way the founding fathers wrote it is and it would be disastrous to make any changes in it. What do you say?

Should we change the United States Constitution ?

Let's Take Another Look - Did you change your mind?

Now that we've looked at the real meaning of the political terms: liberal, conservative, moderate, and juris naturalis, have you changed your mind in how you would classify yourself? Let's redo the poll and see.

What political label would you call yourself now?

See results

Leave Your Comments Please - And if you want, share with us if you are politically active or not

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    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      The terms/labels are almost meaningless and the definition changes depending on who is using it.

      For example, George W. Bush is often called a "conservative." Many who take upon themselves the title of conservative don't consider him anything of the sort, and say he's a "neoconservative" which is like a fascist warmongerer.

      Or many neoconservatives call Ron Paul a "libertarian" even though many conservatives called him a conservative.

      Confusion abounds due to dishonesty, and people like ex-President Bush who want you to think they're something that they're not.

    • bossypants profile image

      bossypants 4 years ago from America's Dairyland

      Very thought provoking lens! Like you, I used to see moderate as the center of the continuum and didn't realize its true meaning. The comments posted here demonstrate what a hot topic this is!

    • profile image

      TanoCalvenoa 4 years ago

      @anonymous: Well said.

    • Vortrek Grafix profile image

      Vortrek Grafix 5 years ago

      Liberals understand freedom (what the USA is supposed to be founded upon) considerably better than conservatives. Conservatives are more resistant to change and are less tolerant to new ideas and ways of life which transform the spirit of the times throughout a given culture's history. My mantra is: Thesis, antithesis, synthesis ... all things morally or cosmetically arbitrary in nature are in a perpetual state of evolutionary refinement. Learn to accept and assimilate anything, however potentially controversial, which is freedom of choice and does not impede upon anyone else's freedom. Conservatives sometimes have a hard time dealing with the inevitable reality of that statement, and try to legislate morality to counter change.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      There is no difference really between democrats and republicans, just two branches of the same tree of fascism. They pretend that they have different philosophies to keep the sheep going to the polls and voting. I dropped out of this game a long time ago.

      If you vote, you have no right to complain...I know most of the sheep think it's the opposite, but that's why they are sheep.

    • profile image

      Edutopia 5 years ago

      Both liberals and conservatives want the government to intrude on your lives, but like you said, where they want it to intrude on your life depends on which party you are talking about.

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      After reading the definition of a moderate how in the world can people refer to Romney as being a moderate because he sure as heck does not believe the government should be more involved in everything. Maybe Gingrich doesn't understand what a moderate is? Which I highly doubt. Something here doesn't make sense.

    • shellys-space profile image

      Shelly Sellers 6 years ago from Midwest U.S.A.

      The older I get, the more Politically active I have become. I have always been an Independent, I used to more liberal, but the older I get, I have become more conservative. I have always cared about debt in my personal life and the government. I am debt-free, except for my home.

    • KimGiancaterino profile image

      KimGiancaterino 6 years ago

      I have always voted, and have also taken time to learn about the issues and candidates. It's so frustrating when my informed vote is cancelled out by an uninformed voter who pulls the level for the same party over and over again. I'm with stargazer00 ... if you don't know what you're voting for, please stay home!

    • SandyMertens profile image

      Sandy Mertens 6 years ago from Frozen Tundra

      Nice write up and glad that you are trying to get informed in politics. And to give the confusing definitions and labels on these terms, which you have. However, I would not take Mr. Maybury's book as gospel.

      It has always been said that (I hate these terms) liberals believe in more government control and conservatives, less government control. However, what I have seen all my life is completely the opposite. As far as illegal aliens go, Republicans (better term) have been more lacks on them. Supporting big business and allowing illegal aliens into this country. In fact, President Bush (Republican) wanted to make it easier to give citizenship to these illegal aliens, instead of kicking them out of the country. Bush was also a warmonger and started the mess that we are in now.

      Conservatives give tax breaks for the wealthy and big business. They have tried for years to cut out Social Security and Medicaid and have compromised both.

      My state right at this moment has a conservative governor (Governor Walker, Republican), who is not willing to compromise, gave tax cuts for big businesses, in the process of cutting Medicaid, school funding, health care benefits, lowering the standards on pollution control and taking away recycling. If this is not government control, I don't know what else to call it.

      I do agree with stargazer00, that we should vote for the candidate for what they stand for. This should be looked at regardless of party lines. But you can not believe any of the ads for the candidates either. They can legally lie to the public.

    • balancebydesign4u profile image
      Author

      Carol 6 years ago from Arkansas

      @SandyMertens: This is exactly what Mr. Maybury is saying: BOTH liberals and conservatives believe in government control-just in different areas! He calls the Juris Naturalis (which is what I would call Libertarian) as being against big govrnement. That's probably what the Tea Party movement is about. Thanks for reading my lens and commenting.

    • SusanDeppner profile image

      Susan Deppner 6 years ago from Arkansas USA

      I love this! I have a few of the Maybury books and need to pull them out and review them. He makes the issues clear enough for middle schoolers but not too simplified for adults. I second your recommendation. Fabulous lens!

    • Dianne Loomos profile image

      Dianne Loomos 6 years ago

      I want the government to stay within Constitutional bounds. This is our best hope for America. I believe that people who have not been paying attention to the process should not vote. You should know the candidates and what they stand for if you are going to vote. I know that everyone has the right to vote but it comes with responsibility.