Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Difference Between Liberalism and Conservatism

I think the real difference between conservatives and liberals is that conservatives believe in an objective and constant truth and morality. Society can be in line with it or not, but it exists, regardless of whether or not anyone believes it. One example of this objective truth is the concept of inalienable rights. These are rights that all humans have by virtue of being human. Government does not grant them and government cannot take them away. They apply to all people, everywhere, at all times throughout history. It is inherently wrong for anyone to violate these rights, regardless of what the law says. Good law is in keeping with these inherent rights while bad law violates these rights.

In the US, our government was founded on the principle that all humans have these inalienable rights and that good government exists to protect these rights. Many of these rights were spelled out in the Declaration of Independence and in the Bill of Rights. However, not all the inalienable rights were listed there (nor were these documents meant to be a comprehensive listing).

All of these inalienable rights can be worked out logically from basic principles. For example, if anyone has any rights, they must first have a right to life. Without a right to live, there can be no rights. The right to self-defense comes directly from the right to life (i.e. you have a right to protect your right to life). The right to liberty is also derived from the right to life. If someone has power over you to enslave you, they also have the power to take your life, thus you have a right to fight against being enslaved in order to protect your life. The right to liberty also entails that you have the right to choose how to live your own life and make your own choices. It also means that you have a right to the fruits of your labor (a slave works for the benefit of someone else, but a free person works for his own profit as he chooses). If you have a right to the fruits of your labor, you also have a right to own property. If you can’t own anything, then you end up working for nothing, which makes you a slave. So you see how all these principles are worked out logically from beginning principles.

The idea of inalienable rights also holds within it an innate limitation on behavior because of the rights of others. If I have a right to own property, then it must be wrong for someone else to steal my property. If they can steal it rightfully, then I have worked as a slave for them. But if it is wrong for someone to steal my property, then it must also be wrong for me to steal their property. My behavior must be limited by the rights of others around me. Thus, my liberty to do as I choose is inherently limited to those actions which do not violate the rights of others.

It is on these principles that all our laws about crime are based. Murder is wrong because it is a violation of the inalienable right to life. Theft is wrong because it is a violation of the inalienable right to own property. Of course, we have laws in this country that make murder and theft illegal, but that’s not what makes them wrong. They would be wrong even if the law allowed these behaviors. And it would be inherently wrong for the law to allow such violations of human rights. The law doesn’t decide right and wrong. Right and wrong are based on objective principles. It is our duty, as citizens, to discern what inalienable rights exist and to protect them with good laws.


Liberals tend to see things differently. They tend to see morality as changing and based on what society agrees is right or wrong. Since, in our country, society sets the laws, they see the law as determining right and wrong (or determining what is and isn’t a right). So if the society votes that it’s a right to have healthcare, then it becomes a right. Or if society votes that the unborn aren’t humans, then they aren’t. It’s a totally different view of reality and morality. And it’s totally opposed to the view that there is an objective truth and morality. One side must be right and the other side must be wrong.

Conservative positions are all worked out logically from the viewpoint of objective morality and these basic principles we believe in. For example, while the idea of government mandated universal healthcare sounds good and fair on the surface, it isn’t really. You see, no one has a right to any commodity (i.e. anything that costs money). If you look at the list of rights in the Bill of Rights, none of them costs money. You have a right to life, liberty, a fair trial, free speech, etc. But none of those require anyone to give you something that costs them money. If people have a right to healthcare (or housing or food or any other commodity), then someone is required to provide it to them (whether they can pay or not). This means that someone must work for it, but then be forced to give it to someone else for free. That makes that person a slave. People have a right to work in order to provide themselves with food or housing or healthcare. But they don’t have a right to force others to provide those things to them for free (thus enslaving those people). Oh, and by the way, having government pay for it just means you have a middle man that extorts the money from the people (the taxpayers, anyway) and then gives it to others. It’s still a case of enslaving people by forcing them to provide things to others for free.

The rest of our conservative principles are worked out in much the same way. You have to be able to think logically to understand conservatism. In contrast, liberal views are based primarily on emotion and on telling the people what they want to hear. They sound good on the surface, but either aren’t practical or are really a violation of human rights when you get right down to it.

So, on the one hand you have a group that bases its views on absolute morality and basic principles that are then applied logically while the other side is based on emotion and what feels and sounds good. That’s the primary difference between conservatives and liberals.

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