The other day, I spent a few hours trying to pinpoint the fundamental difference between liberal and conservative thought. I normally go with "my opinions vs. the opinions of those other assholes," but that is unscientific and not very kind.
Some things I have heard:
*liberals are for big government, conservatives are for small government
*liberals are for regulation, conservatives are for deregulation
*liberals are for change, conservatives are for tradition.
And so on.
I'm not sure how true any of this really is. In the matter of sexuality, for example, liberals are more likely to say that what happens in private between consenting adults is not the government's business. Conservatives are more likely to say that in this case, the government should step in to protect people from harm and save Americans from their more evil tendencies. When it comes to economics, conservatives are more likely to say that what happens in third-world sweatshops between American corporations and their employees is not the government's business. Liberals will retort that the government should step in to protect people from harm and save Americans from their more evil tendencies (however, they will still buy the items produced in the sweatshops).
(Asher and I briefly experimented with a "not your business" categorization of various political philosophies, along the lines of the Religious Shit List.
Libertarianism was, "What I do with my gun is not the government's business." Totalitarianism was, "All your business are belong to us.")
Then, of course, there's the names themselves. "Conservative" indicates a reverence for the past, maintenance of tradition, and conservation of resources. "Liberal" implies permissiveness, generosity, big spending, and deregulation all in one go. In Latin America, a "liberal" is an economic conservative. "Neoliberalism" is an economic philosophy of extreme deregulation. And "conservation" is a rallying cry for conservatives and liberals alike, depending on whether money, values, or environmental resources are being conserved.
There's a conclusion, of course: liberals believe in regulating the economic and deregulating the social; conservatives believe in regulating the social and deregulating the economic. But I found the thought process a lot more interesting than the conclusion.
In other news: hi, I'm Zoe, entering livejournal space after months of lurkage. Welcome to my mind.