How Is Conservatism Different Than Liberalism?


Quick Answer

Conservatism in the United States differs from liberalism in its emphasis on limited government, individual responsibility, unregulated markets and traditional values. Liberalism places a greater emphasis on government action to achieve social equality and protect citizens.

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Full Answer

One of the major differences between conservatism and liberalism hinges on the role of government in the lives of citizens. From a liberal perspective, it is the government’s job to ensure social equality and well-being for all, typically through social programs that help those in need, from food assistance to affirmative action. Conservatives promote individual responsibility, emphasizing the need for individuals to solve their own problems. Conservatives and liberals clash over social programs, which are commonly funded through taxes. Conservatives often view taxation for social initiatives as an unjust redistribution of wealth from the middle and upper classes to the poor.

Perspectives on the economy are another major difference between conservatism and liberalism. Conservatives prefer free markets and limited government intervention in business, asserting that markets are most effective when unburdened by government regulations. Liberals hold that government must regulate big business and protect the interests of citizens.

Social issues are the third major difference between conservatism and liberalism. Conservatives in the United States hold socially conservative views informed by Christianity, including opposition to abortion and gay marriage. Liberals typically hold more progressive views, supporting policies such as gun control and lenient immigration reform.

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