Conservatism is defined in many ways by politicians and pundits, but what does it really mean? When people think “Conservative” they often think of literal dictionary definition. This is how the media and the Progressives/Liberals have tried to portray Conservatism. In fact, this is how many Republicans have portrayed it. Since this is a popular starting point for defining conservatism, we’ll start there as well. We will then attempt to break it down and explain why it is really an inaccurate portrayal.
According to Merriam-Webster Online, Conservatism is defined as the “disposition in politics to preserve what is established.” This is generally taken to mean that Conservatives are generally resistive to change and progress and wish to maintain the status quo and institutions that currently exist. This definition of Conservatism, however, is largely inaccurate. You’ll notice that in these articles we capitalize Conservative and Conservatism because we are referring to a specific political philosophy and not a general definition.
It is true that Conservatives are generally more conservative, in the strict sense of the definition, when it comes to societal change and Government action than Liberals, but Conservatives are not opposed to change and they do not wish to always maintain (or conserve) the status quo. Conservatism does not necessarily aim to conserve the current structure of society, but rather an idea that permeated the thinking of our Founding Fathers, which at the time was considered quite liberal.
Conservatism, therefore, could more accurately be named Classical Liberalism. For the purpose of simplicity, we’ll continue to describe our political philosophy as Conservative, but this does lead to an important question: What is Classical Liberalism?
Classical Liberalism (i.e., Conservatism) is the idea that our power and our rights come from God, and we then, via a democratic process, grant some of that power to governments. It is the idea that individuals, not government have the power and responsibility to drive social and economic progress; that government works best when it is as small, local, and unobtrusive as possible; that all life, at all stages, is meaningful; and that compassion and charity cannot be legislated.
As Conservatives, we believe that these ideas are timeless and will never become outdated. Though it is philosophy rooted in history and experience, it is a forward looking and holistic political philosophy. Although specific policies must change and adapt to the present, the basic tenets of Conservatism, in our view, will always be applicable to the needs of society. We believe that these ideas, which are based more on experience and intuition, as opposed to theoretical ponderings, provide the answers to poverty, hunger, and other ailments of society. We believe that society will advance and prosper when Conservative policies are implemented and Conservative philosophies adhered to.
There are many prevalent myths concerning Conservatism that need to be dispelled. Conservatives are often portrayed as greedy, racist, homophobic, xenophobic, closed minded, white, rich people who hate the poor and the planet. This is where many Liberals and Progressives are mistaken. This misconception is most likely the result of our lack of support for legislating or regulating, through government, these concepts. We oppose such legislation because we believe that it won’t have the effect intended by its proponents. Moreover, we don’t support Conservative principles and policies because we believe that they will make us more prosperous, but because we believe that they will allow everyone to become more prosperous. We will cover the specifics of these myths in forthcoming articles.
Progressives claim to support freedom and liberty (and many undoubtedly do), but you cannot have more freedom and more government at the same time—the two ideas are diametrically opposed to each other. On the political binary scale lies absolute and totalitarian government on the far left side and total anarchy on the far right side. Conservatism is set as close to the right side of the spectrum as possible so as to limit government to the fullest extent without resulting in disorder, chaos, and the retardation and eventual breakdown of societal progress. We understand that some government is necessary, but we also know, as did our Founders, that too much government will restrict societal progress and prosperity.
Whereas Progressives maintain that Conservatives (and philosophies right of center, as described above) are stupid and void of intellectual thought (e.g. George Bush, Sarah Palin, George H.W. Bush, Ronald Regan, Gerald Ford), Conservatives believe that Progressives are merely wrong. It is possible for two people to look at the same data and come to different result without one of them being stupid. Conservatives are not stupid or misguided; we just have a different world view and philosophy which guide our thought processes.
Our convictions and strict adherence to Conservatism do not make us crazy or extreme “right-wingers,” they make us passionate. We don’t intend to create a perfect society or utopia, but we do believe that Conservatism will lead to a more perfect society than political philosophies which argue governments and mobs will. Our goal in this series is not to convince Progressives or Liberals that they are wrong (though we do believe they are) but rather to convince them that Conservatism is not a philosophy of hate, greed, stagnation, and backward thinking.