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Difference between Liberalism and Conservatism


Liberalism is a political dogma that takes defending and promoting the autonomy of the individual as a central political problem. Liberals consider that the government is key in protecting individuals against mischief from others. However, the liberals understand that the government can jeopardise liberty. According to Richhardson (2008), liberals support the view that liberalism entails a devotion to a plurality of political values and not the pursuit of one supreme value such as freedom. Conservatism, on the other hand, is a political dogma that stresses the value of conventional practices and institutions. Conservatives rebuff the positive view that people can be morally enhanced through social and political change. According to Richardson (2008), conservatism places high value on community, established institutions, order and authority, and tends to favour stability over change. Unlike liberalism, conservatism is comfortable with inequality and hierarchy, sceptical or hostile toward radical reform and is quick to condemn the perceived excesses of egalitarianism or individualism. This paper highlights the differences between liberalism and conservatism.


Liberalism is usually treated as it is a complex of doctrines that are not subject to simplification. It involves enthusiasm for individualism, toleration, freedom and reason. With respect to America, liberalism stresses those components of a political cultural that seek to foster the development and well-being of the individual. Liberals stress the elements that support the active role for government in the provision of services. The liberals support the raising of minimum wage, increase of taxes for the rich, equality of rights and civil liberties. In addition, liberalism supports the affirmative action that prevents discrimination of blacks and women in America and promotes citizenship for illegal migrants and gun control. More essentially, given that liberalism promotes the responsibility of individuals for their own fates, liberals in America support same-sex marriages and abortion.

A liberal person believes in liberty. With respect to liberalism, laws, police and judge are necessary to secure the liberty and life of the individual. However, coercive power may work against the individual. Therefore, the main problem in liberalism is to invent systems that offer the government the power required to protect the individual liberty while preventing the government from abusing the power. With regard to liberalism, a woman holds the right to decide what she should do with her body. Liberals believe that an unborn child is far from being human and therefore does not hold separate human rights. Alexander (2015) asserts that liberalism entails the limits of restrained government, the maintenance of the rule of law, the sanctity of private property, the avoidance of discretionary or arbitrary power and responsibility of individuals for their own fates. Alexander (2015) further asserts that the liberals maintain that whatever one wants to attain in the world can be judged only with respect to the fact that basic debt is owed to the self. Liberals accord less value to group memberships, but favours that the government take an active role in the economy and provide a wide array of social amenities to the citizens, particularly, the minority, the marginalised and the poor.


While liberals offer the self and the call for government to address issues, conservatives believe in limited government, a powerful national defence, conventional American values and individual liberty. Conservatism stresses that the government should take the role of providing individuals the freedom they need to attain their own objectives. Conservatism does not put emphasis on the role of government in solving problems but rather emphasizes empowerment for the individual to address problems (Bulman, 2009). As a result, conservatism upholds components of a political culture that put emphasis on individualism and limited government. Conservatives shape American as a region where individuals must be admitted in learning institutions and get jobs based on their merits and abilities rather than through affirmative action. Conservatism also has made America a place where gun ownership is allowed with individuals being allowed to defend themselves. According to conservatives, laws relating to gun control do not prevent crimes nor prevent criminals from acquiring the guns. They maintain that allowing law-abiding people to hold guns would reduce crimes (Levinson, Williams & Parker, 2016). Conservatism increases high rate of imprisonments and lowers the rates of unionism. According to Alexander (2015), conservatives contend that there is no obligation to change the world as human imperfection and unforeseen upshots make it impossible to understand that change will be for better. Unlike liberals, conservatives are resistance to change, but only accept change when it becomes inevitable. Contrasting liberalism, conservatism supports legal immigration and rejects amnesty for illegal migrants. With regard to same-sex marriages, conservatives maintain that marriage is a union between one woman and one man. They believe that same sex marriage violates religious beliefs and moral values. More so, the conservatives do not promote high taxes for the rich, but instead promotes reduced taxes and a small government that enjoy restrained power. In American, conservatism is linked to the Republican Party while Liberalism is linked Democrats.


Political conservatism and liberalism vary in protect versus provide orientations, particularly providing for group members’ welfare and protecting the group from mischief. Conservatism is based on avoidance, focuses on preventing negative upshots and seeks to control society through inhibition in the interests of social order. Liberalism, on the other hand, is approach based, focuses on developing positive outcomes such as societal gains and seeks to control society through activation in the interests of social justice. The domains of individual autonomy and social regulation are reflections for conservatives and liberals. The disparities in motivations and regulations of liberals and conservatives suggest basic differences in conceptions of liberal and conservative groups and their foundation of membership. While the liberals centre on intragroup interdependence and variability, conservatives centre on the intergroup common social identity and boundaries. Liberalism promotes active role for government in provision of services while conservatism promotes individualism with limited government role in the provision of services.


Alexander, J.(2015). The major ideologies of liberalism, socialism and conservatism. Political Studies, 63 (1), 980-994.

Bulman, R.(2009). To provide or protect: Motivational bases of political liberalism and conservatism. Psychology Inquiry, 20 (2), 120-128.

Levinson, S., Williams, M., & Parker, J.(2016). American conservatism: NOMOS LVI

Richardson, J.(2001). Contending liberalisms in world politics: Ideology and power. USA: Lynne Rienner Publishers.