Conservative vs Liberal
The epithet conservative or liberal is used to describe political and economic views and affiliations. The meaning of "conservative" or "liberal" could be different in different contexts - social, economic and political. They also differ in usage in different countries and over time.
|Improve this chart||Conservative||Liberal|
|Political Views:||Prefer smaller government, less regulation, most services to be provided by the private sector in a free market, and a literal interpretation of the Constitution.||Prefer more regulation and services like free universal health care to be provided by the government to all citizens.|
|Economic Views:||Government should tax less and spend less. Cutting spending to balance the budget should be the priority. Higher income earners should have an incentive to invest (credits). Charity is the responsibility of the people.||Government should provide more services to the less fortunate (like health care) and increase taxes if necessary. High-income earners should pay a larger percentage of their income as taxes.|
|Social Views:||Opposed to gay marriage, abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Support the right to bear arms, death penalty, and personal responsibility as an individual.||Gay couples to get equal rights like everyone else (e.g. marriage); abortion should be legal; support embryonic stem cell research. Support restrictions and regulation around the right to bear arms.|
|Personal Responsibility:||Individuals should exercise personal responsibility and it is the governments role to hold them accountable even with severe penalties. Laws are enacted to reflect the best interest of the society as a whole.||The people should look to the government to provide a structure. Laws are enacted to protect every individual for an equal society sometimes at the expense of economic freedom if neccessary.|
edit Social Issues
In terms of views on social issues, conservatives oppose gay marriage, abortion and embryonic stem cell research. Liberals, on the other hand, are generally supportive of the right of gay people to get married and women's right to choose to have an abortion, as ruled by the U.S. Supreme Court in Roe v Wade.
With regard to the right to bear arms, conservatives support this right as it applies to all US citizens, whereas liberals oppose civilian gun ownership - or at the very least, demand that restrictions be places such as background checks on people who want to buy guns, requiring guns to be registered etc.
edit Economic Issues
Economic conservatives believe that the private sector can provide most services more efficiently than the government can. They also believe that government regulation is bad for businesses, usually has unintended consequences and should be minimal. So they favor a small government that collects lower taxes and spends less. Liberals believe that many citizens rely on government services for healthcare, unemployment insurance, health and safety regulations and so on. So liberals favor a government that taxes more and spends more to provide more services to citizens. Some good examples of this policy split are the Environmental Protection Agency (liberals think it's vital and some conservatives want to abolish it or scale down its role), and the Medicare and Medicaid programs: liberals want to expand the program and conservatives believe the government should provide vouchers so citizens can buy insurance privately.
In the early part of the twentieth century, liberals - especially those in Britain - were those who stood for laissez fair capitalism. In more recent times, however, the nomenclature seems to have reversed.
edit Political views
Political liberals are those who favor a larger, more powerful government with stricter regulation of industries and more government involvement in health care. Political conservatives favor a smaller role of the government in health care and overall regulation of commerce and other aspects of citizen's lives. They also prefer privatized health care rather than government-sponsored health care.
Political conservatives prefer the private sector to play a larger role in day to day life and the government playing a limited role. They believe the government tends to take away political freedom through various rules and regulations. They also believe that states should have more power and independence rather than the federal government regulating aspects of political life.
edit Psychological traits
Jonathan Haidt, a University of Virginia psychology professor, has examined the differences between liberals and conservatives on moral values like Harm/Care, Fairnesss/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect and Purity/Sanctity. He outlines the psychological differences in this fascinating TED talk:
Haidt has also written a book, The Righteous Mind, based on his studies conducted over several years on liberal and conservative subjects. Nicholas Kristof, an avowed liberal, offered an unbiased review of the book and cited some interesting findings such as:
- Morality for conservatives includes three values that are not so important to liberals: loyalty, respect for authority and sanctity.
- Some research suggests that conservatives are particularly attuned to threats, with a greater startle reflex when they hear loud noises. Conservatives also secrete more skin moisture when they see disgusting images, such as a person eating worms. Liberals feel disgust, too, but a bit less.
- Liberals prefer dogs who are gentle but not subservient, while conservatives seek dogs who are loyal and obedient.
Liberals should not be confused with libertarians. Libertarians believe that the role of the government should be extremely limited, especially in the economic sphere. They believe that governments are prone to corruption and inefficiencies and that the private sector in a free market can achieve better outcomes than government bureaucracies, because they make better decisions on resource allocation. Liberals, on the other hand, favor more government involvement because they believe there are several areas where the private sector -- especially if left unregulated -- needs checks and balances to ensure consumer protection.
The primary focus of libertarians is the maximization of liberty for all citizens, regardless of race, class, or socio-economic position.