An Hypocrisy of Terms: Liberal and Conservative

I originally posted this on February 14, 2008 here. Up until I started caring about the wars, my mind tuned out the phrases like leftist, the right, conservative, and liberal. I had not yet realized that liberal and conservative were adjectives that are purposely misused as nouns to sow division. Please also pardon my youthful naivete in the election process.

As basically a beginner in politics (I would say 6 months ago your author was indeed quite politically apathetic), one of the many things that are confusing to me is the very definition of liberal and conservative. Why, what can stump the walnut-sized brain of your author? Am I just being silly? Well, first some of the definitions from Google search that I most commonly associated with these terms –


1) Tolerant of change; not bound by authoritarianism, orthodoxy, or tradition

2) Liberalism refers to a broad array of related doctrines, ideologies, philosophical views, and political traditions which hold that individual liberty is the primary political value

3) People who generally like to reform current conditions. Liberals are often referred to as the left wing.


1) Resistant to change

2) Conservatism is a relativistic term used to describe political philosophies that favor traditional values, where “tradition” refers to religious, cultural, or nationally defined beliefs and customs. The term derives from the Latin, conservare, to conserve together; “to keep, guard, observe”.

3) People who generally like to uphold current conditions and oppose changes. Conservatives are often referred to as the right wing.

Soooooo…. if I live under a liberal government/society where liberty is the primary value, but I don’t want to change it, am I then a conservative? Why do the terms mix definitions of change/reform attitude with political values? Shouldn’t for one particular value, no matter what it is, have a choice between maintaining that value, changing the value in one direction, or changing it in yet another? Why do we have to insinuate that political Conservatives are stubborn-minded and resistant to change? Why do we have to insinuate that political Liberals are fickle-minded? Maybe these are just terms meant to confuse, divide and conquer.

I suggest more truthful terms – say when the government spends the money it procures from its people, on a certain issue you are either ‘anti-tax’ or ‘pro-benefits’ which the proponent-preferred alternatives to ‘pro-tax’ and ‘anti-benefits.’ For instance, if I am a Government proponent of say, give everyone Health Care, I can say I am ‘pro-benefit’ and my opponent is ‘anti-benefit’. If I am an opponent of Health Care, I can call myself ‘anti-tax’ and the opponent ‘pro-tax.’ This is name-calling, but at least its fair.

Issues that don’t (necessarily) involve government spending the money from We the People are straight-up controls of freedom that result in a code of laws which limit (yes, ALWAYS LIMITS) personal liberties and economic liberties. Yes, we can’t have Warren Z’s ‘Excitable Boy’ running around eating everyone so we limit his freedom with a punishment if he acts this way. Your same personal freedom is limited when your government stipulates you can’t use drugs (even if you directly harm no one else). Your economic freedom is limited when your government claims it can rightfully take your wages from you via income taxes. “That government is best which governs least.” Thomas Paine

Politically an individual should be defined in two ways – the true measure is of course is how they ACT and what they DO – politicians are on display for us and show this via their voting records, thoughts for new acts of legislature. And without real actions to judge, we are left to measure people by what they SAY and THINK. This is damn dangerous, since people can be fooled. “You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” – The $5 Dude. Ideally in politics We the People start by giving some minor responsibility to an individual on what they SAY and THINK, and as they perform, We the People watch how they ACT and what they DO, and if they talk the talk but walk the walk (and we like it) we advance them.

Anyone care to set me straight? C’mon, tell me how it is!

Intelligence is quickness in seeing things as they are.” – George Santayana

When we are planning for posterity, we ought to remember that virtue is not hereditary.” – Thomas Paine, Common Sense, 1776

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