An Essay On Liberalism And Conservatism

1298 words - 6 pages

The key differences between classical liberalism and contemporary liberalism are its views on the role of the government. As already stated, classical liberals have a negative view of the government. Classical liberals believe government must be limited or else it might become too powerful and oppressive against the members of society. Contemporary liberals, however, believe that government can protect financially disadvantaged individuals from powerful members of society. Contemporary liberals believe that powerful members of society use their property against the financially disadvantaged so they believe property, or material wealth should shared. Consequentially, contemporary liberals ...view middle of the document...

Thomas Hobbes was a supporter of an absolutist government as an alternative to disorder. He believed that limiting the power of the government could prove harmful to the state and could plunge society into a “state of nature”. His work in Leviathan had major impacts of both liberal and conservative thought (Baradat, 2009).
In the late 18th and early 19th centuries, the increasing rate of economic and political change resulted in the emergence of conservative philosophy. However, since it’s emergence, conservatism has had ideological divisions. In Europe with the exception of the United Kingdom, a form of conservatism developed that basically rejected any kind of reform. Yet, in the United States, conservatism accepted the idea of gradual change and ‘change in order r to conserve’. The most prominent themes of conservative thought are that society is comprised of moral individuals that share each other’s values and beliefs. Conservatives, like classical liberals, advocate a strong government but remain cautious of absolutism. In addition, conservatives advocate a strict enforcement of law and order (Baradat, 2009). Unlike liberal, conservatives are the most supportive of the status quo and prefer to not see it changed. This does not mean that conservatives are content with the existing system, but rather not change it because they believe it’s best conceivable existence (Baradat, 2009).
Another key figure in conservatism was Michael Oakeshott. He emphasized traditionalism with conservative thought. He suggested that conservatives favor traditional values and established customs. Best said in his own words, “to be conservative, then, is to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to misery, the actual to the possible” (Oakeshott, 1956).
Liberal and conservative ideologies are both heavily influenced by thinkers who were simply reacting to the times in which they lived. John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Edmund Burke’s philosophies have all played a role in the development of the political, economic, and social movement of liberalism and conservatism. Liberals are in favor of more centralized government, more government spending, higher taxes, regulation of the economy, civil rights, a willingness to reject tradition, more critical of private property, and maintains a collective identity and responsibility. Conservatives, on the other hand, are in favor of a less decentralized government, less government spending, less taxes, more economic freedom, civil liberties, patriotism, supportive of private property, and a willingness to embrace traditional values.

Baradat, L.P. (2009). Political ideologies: their origins and impact. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.
Curtis, M. (2008). The Great political theories: from the french revolution to the modern times. New York, NY: Harper Perennial.
Mill, J.S. (1869). The Subjection of women. Retrieved from...

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