Conservatives pride themselves on being the vanguard for
what is great about America:
its values and liberties. Problems, however, arise when one examines both
conservative values and the methods they use to defend them. Perhaps a closer
inspection of both their values and methods is in order to verify the
First, what is a conservative? How do we distinguish a conservative from a liberal? A quick summary that I have seen conservatives use before can be found at click here
Conservative Beliefs vs Liberal Beliefs
Natural Law Positive Law
Established Institutions Progress
Liberty Over Equality Equality Over Liberty
Suspicion of Power Benevolent Government
Exceptionalism Human Perfectability
Of course the above list can be misinterpreted and false views of both Conservatives and Liberals can be easily arrived at by the reader unless one delves more deeply into the characteristics with which conservatives love to adorn themselves.
Belief in Natural Law, according to the above conservative website, is belief in both the existence of good and evil and that the source of all laws and liberties are from God or are Platonic, as opposed to originating with man. Man might recognize these laws, such as in a just government, but the Conservative believes that these laws exist regardless of man's recognition.
Here conservatives distinguish themselves from liberals by describing liberals as believing in progressive law. The difference between the two can be seen in the absence/presence of the term from the Declaration of Independence: "self-evident." The liberal, according to the conservative website, believes that rights originate when they are recognized by the government. Thus, according to many conservatives, liberals believe that man is the source of rights vs a higher authority. This jeopardizes our rights because just as rights can easily come through man, they can easily be taken away by man.
However, there might be a fly in the ointment for conservatives here. That fly consists of the possible differences between the set of laws and values recognized as coming from a higher authority vs the ones that conservatives recognize. Here, size matters for the Conservative claim to fame regarding values. The smaller the difference between conservative values and rights that are self-evident, the more the conservative can say he/she is walking the talk. However, the bigger the difference between these two sets of values, then the more the conservative can be seen as accepting a self-aggrandizing delusion. One can discover the size of this difference as we continue to examine conservative values.
The next comparison consists of the Conservative trust in Established Institutions vs the Liberal pursuit of progress. For conservatives, these Established Institutions already have name tags. These institutions are the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the Anglo-Saxon view of law and government, church and family. Here, Established Institutions are, without explanation and justification, identified. Do American conservatives wish to say that conservatives world wide hold to these institutions or just American conservatives. And if the latter, are American conservatives the only ones who cling to the correct institutions while conservatives from other parts of the world and liberals are wrong? If so, the implications are both obvious and ominous. The American conservative must not only be distinguished from all other conservatives, American conservatives must now unite for they are now engaged in a us vs the world battle for justice.
Here, liberals become an anathema to Conservatives because liberals see mankind's hope in how well they can tinker with, tweak and even replace the institutions that have been given from on high.
Here, of course, the Conservative must show how secular institutions, like the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, can be considered as coming from on high. The problem for the Conservative though is that the only sources for acceptable institutions are culturally and even racially defined: the American Christian religion, documents from the American founding fathers, and Anglo-Saxon tradition. What is presupposed here is a cultural and even racial superiority. Pointing out the latter will no doubt produce a defensive reaction. But when established institutions are identified with an ethnicity, what other conclusions can be drawn? The Conservative belief in Established Institutions is a self-proclamation of cultural and ethnic superiority.
Of course, American Christian conservatives will use the Bible as their defense of Established Institutions. They assume that their recognized Established secular Institutions are Biblical ones as well. It is at this point that American Christian Conservatives feel pressured to draw close ties between the Bible and the work of our nation's founding fathers. The pressure becomes so great that obvious discrepancies between the two are denied. This pressure also moves some conservatives to defend unconscionable institutions from the past such as slavery because such was seemingly endorsed by the Bible.
The next Conservative vs Liberal value sound off comes on what to put the most precedence, liberty or equality. Conservatives believe that, with the exception of equal rights and opportunity, one must choose between liberty and equality. To choose equality is to limit freedom.
The problem here is that the forms of equality that the Conservative sees as threatening are vague. It is acknowledged that equal standing before the law, regardless of wealth and nobility, are consistent with what the Founding Fathers promoted and thus a part of the Established Institutions. So what equality do conservatives find so troublesome?