Many people hold strong beliefs as to how society should work and what role the government should play in forming that society. Political beliefs vary from “right” to “left”. When it comes to political beliefs, conservatives (to the right) tend to prioritize order over equality and freedom. They value tradition and property rights and are often resistant to change. They sometimes clash with libertarians and populists.
People have a range of beliefs. “A belief” is having trust and confidence that something is true. You might believe what a parent or friend says without immediate proof that it is true.
Political beliefs involve questions about how society should work, especially how the government should operate. These beliefs help us decide who to vote for at election time.
Liberals and Conservatives
We can view political beliefs as a range of understandings about how society should operate. Some people lean toward the right and some lean toward the left. The right side is conservative, the left side is liberal. This is called the political spectrum.
In today’s political system, Democrats as a whole are more liberal while Republicans are more conservative. Each party has a range of beliefs, so there are conservative, moderate, and liberal-leaning Democrats and Republicans. A “conservative” is usually a Republican.
What Does A Conservative Believe?
A typical way used to divide people into political groups is to look at how they look at questions involving freedom, equality, and order. Most everyone thinks these things are important in some fashion. But, sometimes we have to make choices when they conflict.
Conservatives strongly support order. They respect authority and believe in a strong military. Conservatives are particularly upset when authority is criticized and somehow disrespected.
When conservatives support civil liberties, they often in some way help protect order. The right to keep and bear arms is important to protect us against crime and disorder.
Religious freedom is important because morality is necessary to protect us against the flaws of human nature. Also, religion is important because we have a duty to follow God’s authority. The church cannot be totally separate from the state. It is necessary for good government.
Conservatives argue property rights are very important. A market economy works best with little government regulation. Government has its role. But, it should tread carefully here.
Moderate Republicans are better than Democrats but are liable to surrender too much.
Benefits of Being A Conservative
A conservative supports many beneficial things. Their very name shows that they “conserve” important traditional values. Experience shows us what works. Change should come slowly.
Liberals are too reliant on the government. Experience again shows this.
Liberals also are too idealistic. For instance, the United States should focus on its own needs. Realistically, sometimes this means we have to work with bad foreign leaders. Liberals accept this up to a point, anyhow, including making compromises when supporting Israel and others.
Morality is very important. Conservatives help to promote it, including in ways a selfish, individual-focused society may ignore. A lack of morality causes many problems, including crime and social problems. What is moral and immoral varies based on culture and philosophy. Abortion is an example of an immoral act according to many conservatives. Conservatives are pro-life.
Conservatives also support federalism. This is the system that grants some powers to the national government but retains many for each individual state. State discretion is a positive approach, providing a more careful way to handle change. A “one size, fits all” national approach can be reckless.
Conservatives respect civil rights. Republicans helped obtain them in the first place. But, personal responsibility, family values, and free enterprise all in the long run protect them best. Justice Clarence Thomas is one example of a conservative civil rights advocate.
The same thing applies to civil liberties. They support civil liberties in various ways, including property rights, the right to bear arms, and again abuses of civil litigation. Liberals argue they support civil liberties, but selectively do so, and love trial lawyers way too much!
The Challenges of Being A Conservative
James Madison and Thomas Jefferson opposed the conservative Federalist Party. They saw that even President George Washington showed the problems of conservativism.
Religion is important but mixing church and state is problematic. There are a range of possible religions. Individual moral choice, not morality compelled by the state should be honored.
Property rights can be taken too far. It can lead to inequality with a rich elite having too much power. Social spending and progressive taxation (16th Amendment) can promote equality as well as help the needy among us. Needy are not merely to blame because of their moral failings.
There is a need for some authority. World War II shows that sometimes we even have to go to war. But, authority can be abused. Conservatives are too friendly with authoritarians. And, conservatives are too free with gun rights. Reasonable gun regulations are the best policy.
International agreements and the United Nations are important for global security, including dealing with issues like global warming. Nationalism can be taken too far.
Libertarians argue conservatives do not go far enough with their distrust of the government. They agree taxes should be low and gun rights are important. But, libertarians also believe that individuals should have more personal freedoms. They support freedom over order.
Populists are also sometimes allies with conservatives who criticize them. Populists support order but also believe equality (among Americans) is important. Social welfare programs like Social Security are important to them as is restraining the power of the rich and powerful.
People who know me are well aware that I am a liberal-minded person.
Nonetheless, I respect the importance of humility. Politics is a matter of weighing competing interests. There are rarely simple answers to fundamental questions when there is room for wide disagreement. No one political ideology has all the answers.
Sometimes, restraint is the appropriate path. A middle ground, including involving such things as regulating firearms, can displease some liberals. But, it can be the best approach