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Old 03-05-2004, 09:34 AM   #1 (permalink)
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liberal and conservative, what do these words mean?

i posted this in another thread:

Quote:
but really, i don't understand the use of the term 'liberal' as a slur. by strict definition, wouldn't we all benefit from being open minded, tolerant and respectful of views and opinions other than ours, and receptive to change and progress? regardless of political parties, that is the basic philosophical framework of our government. i will challenge any democrat as vigorously as i challenge any republican, and i hope everyone else will do the same. many have laid down their lives so that we could do just that, and we honor them by enjoying those rights to the fullest extent. perhaps this is a topic for a new thread?
these are interesting times. the united states is seemingly split down the middle in terms of opinions, but the current information climate tends to oversimplify and cloud complicated issues. party politics engages in putting words into their opponents' mouths and effectively redefine positions until they are straw men they can topple easily. there is an us and them stance where people seek information only from biased sources and each side blames the other of spin and slander.

so what does it mean to be conservative? what does it mean to be liberal? are these stances exclusive of the political parties or are they integral? do people really understand these labels' true meanings or even how they have come to be used (or intentionally misused). what positions do they really believe in and what ideologies do they truly represent? is it even possible to characterize such complicated schedules of beliefs into just two sides? and why do conservatives hate liberals so much?

please treat this seriously, and try to avoid knee jerk posts that slam and perpetuate stereotyping. let's cut through that crap and get to the bottom of the divisiveness. i wonder if we are not as polarized as we are led to think, but have bought into the labels so the parties and special interests on both sides can better steer and control us to their own agendas.
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Last edited by gibingus; 03-05-2004 at 09:37 AM..
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Old 03-05-2004, 10:12 AM   #2 (permalink)
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I think that they mean very little. They are so overused and frequently abused by politicans, demagogs and the media that they have lost any real meaning. It is interesting to note that during the 60's, being called a conservative was often considered a slur much like many consider calling someone a liberal is a slur today. We also see many Democrats reclaiming the term liberal and wearing that mantle proudly.

I am generally socially liberal and fiscally more conservative. As much as people want to place me into a nice and tidy box labeled "Liberal" I just don't fit. Most of us don't fit. These words are too small to describe the totality of anyone.
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Old 03-05-2004, 10:17 AM   #3 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by mml
We also see many Democrats reclaiming the term liberal and wearing that mantle proudly.
Not Kerry, he was asked point blank the other day in an interview and refused to answer the question. He went into the usual 'labels' whine liberals like to use
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Old 03-05-2004, 10:19 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Well its tough to completely cut through all of the stereotypes, I'll try. It also depends in what context you look at it.

"Liberals" as a platform, and correct me if I am wrong tend to want to expand government Socialist style. They aren't necessarily anti-military, but they would rather spend the money elsewhere. They like taxes, man do they love those. Tend to be more pro-enviroment. People are insane if they think Dem's ("American Liberals") are not big money, because they are. They pander just the same as the Cons. And if they some shit hits the fan as in the realm of conflict they tend to try and find a more "peaceful" way of dealing with it.

To contrast Conservatives tend to like smaller government, lower taxes, and we'll kick your ass if you step out of line(at least more so then liberals).

If none of this makes sense of sounds right maybe I can say that all Liberals are troop/God hating pinko commies who loves welfare and Saddam, and all conservatives are fundamentalist < insert religion here > neo-cons who like to keep anyone who isn't rich or white down. Also we kill babies and kick puppies.
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Old 03-05-2004, 12:06 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Ustwo
Not Kerry, he was asked point blank the other day in an interview and refused to answer the question. He went into the usual 'labels' whine liberals like to use
that is precisely the kind of comment that serves no purpose and i aksed everyone to skip. you discredit the integrity of your beliefs if that is all you are capable of representing.

i expected more - from you, especially.
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Old 03-05-2004, 12:13 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Well, for a start, they mean very different thinks in America to they mean in Europe.

In the UK, a conservative is someone who believes in rarely changing, traditionalism, traditional forms of authority, and being tough on deviant beheaviour.

A liberal is someone who believes in a greater deal of economic and social freedom, and that the government should interfere less in people's lives - they believe in small government and the free market.

In America Liberalism and Conservatism are seen as competing political idiologies, in the UK they are often complimentary traits found in the political Right,

In any event, and inboth cultures, both words mean "capitalist" to me.
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Old 03-05-2004, 01:01 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Consevatives, like orrin hatch, tend to favor things like stem cell research, while liberals, like john kerry, mostly favored the war in iraq.

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Old 03-05-2004, 01:07 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by gibingus
that is precisely the kind of comment that serves no purpose and i aksed everyone to skip. you discredit the integrity of your beliefs if that is all you are capable of representing.

i expected more - from you, especially.
Point taken. I'll be honnest I didn't read your whole post, mml's post just reminding me of another Kerry spineless moment so I couldn't resist.
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Old 03-05-2004, 01:15 PM   #9 (permalink)
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Liberals tend to be in favor of big government, higher taxes, and social welfare programs. Common beliefs include pro-choice, pro gun-control or anti-gun completely, and anti-death-penalty. They favor progression and change, which is sometimes good and sometimes bad.

Conservatives tend to be in favor of small government, lower taxes, and most don't support welfare programs as much as liberals. They tend to be pro-life, anti-gun-control, and pro-capital punishment. They tend to be more traditional; conservatives as a whole tend to include more religious people than liberals. Conservatives are more traditional and resistant to change, ranging from "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" to complete stagnation. Like progressive liberal philosophies, traditionalism works some of the time, and doesn't work other times.

Traditionally, US Republicans are more conservative, and Democrats are more liberal.
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Old 03-05-2004, 01:18 PM   #10 (permalink)
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History lesson...............

Conservatives are followers of Adam Smith (Wealth of Nations 1776), Charles Spencer's "Social Darwinism" theory among others.

Liberals, were actually called Progressive Republicans in the early 1900's and fought for social reform through government laws. They advocated, smaller business, 8hr workdays, 6 work day weeks, regulations on child labor, laws to protect unions, unemployment insurance, a minimum wage system and so on. TEDDY ROOSEVELT (Mr. UsTwo's avatar) SUPPORTED THESE AND WORKED TO PASS MANY INTO LAW.

Teddy ended up spitting the GOP party and founded the Progressive Party. That party merged with the weak Democrat Party and didn't really do much until 1932. FDR was a Progressive Democrat, ran on and put into place many of his Uncle Teddy's ideologies.

The problem is Dems. like LBJ were trying to better thier image from Vietnam and the Civil Rights Movement. So they started outrageously spending. The GOP was no better because they realized the country's wealth was having a strong military presence anywhere communism was trying to take hold.

That's a basic overview....... if a conservative wishes to debate the facts over Teddy (who is used as a conservative icon today, but was as far from conservative as JFK was).

In the end the majority of Americans are moderates, we want fair social programs with balanced spending. That's why Limbaugh can't stand moderates because once the Dems. catch on and start using that as thier platform alot of "moderate" republicans will go back to the Dem Party.
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Old 03-05-2004, 01:59 PM   #11 (permalink)
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Sorry..... forgot to answer the "liberal" part.

Basically in the 60's the Dems became liberalfor spending and thinking socially.

The 60's are very weird as both parties worked closely behind the scenes. The Dems would allow more military spending and the GOP would allow more social programs through.

Then Nixon's scandal changed all that. The Dems saw a chance to take complete control by capitalizing on it and did so. THIS IS WHAT TRULY STARTED THE HATRED BETWEEN PARTIES. Before they were always willing to cover each others back, and share the power. (Just an overview not saying EVERY GOP and DEM did this)

But then Iran, high interest rates, inflation, a national deficit and the recession (because the unions were so strong they had inspired a stale product base, while imports stayed cheap and had innovative ideas.)

With Reagan came some cutbacks but also the theory that we would spend on military projects like *Star Wars* and force the USSR to spend themselves into bankruptcy. Which we did, but at the cost of social services. Reagan cut some programs but not many. Bush Sr. came in and didn't really have enough stroke with Congress to do anything. But this did push the country to the right fiscally, yet people stayed socially liberal.
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Old 03-05-2004, 02:19 PM   #12 (permalink)
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i remember my high school textbooks giving this brief explanation...

liberals- those who advocate change
conservative- those who desire to keep old norms (in a historical sense)

those aren't my words, but they do kind of give you a picture of where the roots of the terms lie. naturally, both liberals and conservatives want change... but conservatives often point to past strengths while liberals are often striving to break newer ground (notice i didn't say better ground).

a simplistic definition, but i think an effective one for what it is.

Strange Famous: thanks for pointing out the distinction between the term's meanings in the UK and the US. I know that confuses a lot of people on this side of the pond when the news channels flash the party/stances below their names.
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Old 03-05-2004, 02:25 PM   #13 (permalink)
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I would like to make a general statement here. Real life is not like mathematics -- few words have commonly agreed on meanings. And even if they do -- few seem to disagree when well-defined terms are misused. And what's more, in real life there's a competition going on -- a competition with words, for power, with rhetorics, for persuasion. Thus if someone uses the word liberal or conservative as a slur, you would be at fault to take that slur seriously.

What I understand as associated with these two words (in the positive sense, I'll leave the slurs for someone else):

A liberal is someone who tries to keep an open mind, and find the best solutions for problems, regardless of common beliefs and trusty traditions.

A conservative is someone who, before changing things, checks the existing ways of doing things. I'm not a conservative in the "slurry" sense, but there are advantages of this position. Like biological systems, what we have as status quo has often evolved into a "best possible" situation.

I would also like to know why conservatives hate liberals so much.
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Old 03-05-2004, 05:34 PM   #14 (permalink)
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In modern US politics, there are no longer simple "liberals" and "conservatives". There are social liberals, social conservatives, political liberals, political conservatives, fiscal liberals, fiscal conservatives (and I'm sure many more, but that covers the basics).

Based on the President's policies, I would call him a social conservative (anti-gay marriage, anti-right to privacy, anti-choice), political liberal (expanded role of government), and fiscal liberal (increased spending). So to define the President as a conservative is misleading at best. The same goes for Senator Kerry, a social moderate (anti-gay marriage, pro-choice, pro-right to privacy), political liberal (expanded role of government), and fiscal conservative (limit government spending, anti-deficit spending). To define him as simply liberal doesn't take into consideration some conservative qualities he has.
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Old 03-05-2004, 11:07 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Grothendieck
Like biological systems, what we have as status quo has often evolved into a "best possible" situation.
That's a pretty outrageous claim.
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Old 03-07-2004, 02:18 PM   #16 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by glamhawk
That's a pretty outrageous claim.
I know. But I think I can defend it. Maybe you would care to argue against my claim?
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Old 03-07-2004, 05:34 PM   #17 (permalink)
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in response

Quote:
Originally posted by Grothendieck
I know. But I think I can defend it. Maybe you would care to argue against my claim?
I'm really feeling lazy right now, so here's a short response. How do you know if something is the "best possible" situation? Are you talking about social darwinism? Is the population of poor people in the world best for you or for them? Or maybe you're just talking about social issues. The status quo in that case never seems to last very long and I don't se any sort of logical progression. If we were having this conversation when slave trade was the norm, you could say "the status quo has developed into a best possible situation." You would be wrong. Right now, you say that, and people in the future may scoff at that remark. The curren status quo always seems the best possible bacause if you though it wasn't, it would make you look at glaring flaws in the way we live. It's more comfortable to think that we are right in all matters.

Last edited by glamhawk; 03-07-2004 at 05:37 PM..
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Old 03-07-2004, 09:30 PM   #18 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally posted by Grothendieck
Like biological systems, what we have as status quo has often evolved into a "best possible" situation.
i would have to disagree with your use of such an analogy. in evolution, animals that survived and evolved are believed to have changed rather drastically over a relatively short period of time as a response to something. the animals that didnt go through such drastic changes went extinct. I believe the theory is called punctuated equilibrium, and it stems from darwins theory of natural selection in part. whether or not punctuated equilibrium theory is true or not is another debate, however its widely accepted.

ok back on topic...

i think this is an awesome topic, i was gonna make it myself but gibingus was 1000x more eloquent than i could be.

I believe that liberal means advocating change and conservative means keeping things the same.

i believe that the polarization of these words has been very deliberate in the effort to create an "us vs. them" mentality with the ppl that actually care. when ppl are in the "us vs. them" mentality, they usually start caring more about who wins than what the issues actually are.

This works in favor of all politicians, as the vast majority of them have huge skeletons in their closets that should be looked at as important issues. (not who cheated on who, who got a BJ, etc; but more like, where does your donation and funding come from, do you hold the ppl's interests whom you are trying to represent first or the interests of your financial backers first)
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Old 03-12-2004, 02:20 PM   #19 (permalink)
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good discussion thus far, but are we losing steam before we get to the bottom of this? we haven't heard why "liberal" is such a bad word from those that call themselves conservative, or moreover, why it is used as an instant insult to anyone who harbors an opposing view to what we might call the 'conservative' agenda.

i think mojo_peipei and mrselfdestruct sum up the stereotypical agendas pretty well. it does seem that there are many more shades of gray between those stereotypes, as sparhawk has brilliantly pointed out. and pan6467's background is priceless food for thought for anyone who considers themselves one or the other.

i'm going to venture a hypothesis for your consideration. i think that in the modern day united states, if there is any black and white difference between the factions, it boils down to this: conservatives/republicans seek to outsource government services to private companies and liberals/democrats seek to build federal infrastructure to service the citizens.

i suspect this is the key to the whole 'liberals raise taxes' notion, which always pops up at campaign time, but does not seem to hold true when looking at the gross revenue of the federal government. the total dollar amount the government pulls in year-to-year NEVER goes down, it always increases because the population continues to grow and the society develops. this means that both liberals and conservatives raise taxes, what differs is which income brackets they tax, how much they change the tax increases or decreases in those brackets, how much tax burden they place outside of the income tax and where and how they spend those tax dollars.

case in point, if republicans really believed in small government and the balanced budget, then they would have to support bill clinton over george bush. clinton managed the government more like republican than bush does, plain and simple. yet, conservatives hate bill clinton and love george bush... why?

i contend that the special interests on each side - liberal and conservative - mislead the public and cloud this single issue with the complicated slate of agendas including gay marriage, abortion, environment, defense, health care, education, and so on, in order to secure our tax dollars from the government for their own organizations in the form of grants, subsidies and subcontracts.

thusly, it appears to me that the real republican ideology is now being carried by the moderate majority of the democratic party. the republican party that currently holds office appears so mired in big business, that their motivations are completely suspect. the other issues are merely a smokescreen to distract us from the fact that our tax dollars are pouring into these corporations bottom lines.
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Last edited by gibingus; 03-12-2004 at 02:27 PM..
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