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US conservatism: positions and beliefs

As with global conservatism, the US flavor claims to have one set of beliefs but shows their true colors to be rather different.

claims actual

In the US, conservatists often advocate for:

  • personal responsibility – the idea that each individual is solely responsible for his/her own well-being; government exists solely to ensure that the rules are enforced, which includes protection from hostile external forces. (This is often used as a cover to dodge social responsibility, however.)
  • small government: "The government big enough to give you everything you want is big enough to take away everything you have." – attributed to Gerald Ford [1] and frequently misattributed to Thomas Jefferson by conservatists in order to give it more credibility. (Conservatists will, however, support "big government" when it aligns with their actual goals – so again, this is just a dodge.)

Social Conservatism

Social conservatives argue that there is "wisdom embedded in [existing] social structures/norms", and that we tamper with those structures at our peril. In other words, the current social norms are the way they are because they have been proven to work over a long period of time, and there is considerable danger if they cease to work properly.

This statement implies several things:

  • Current social norms have existed for a long time.
    • This is not really true, especially with regard to the particular norms most strongly advocated by conservatists.
  • We don't know how those norms got the way they are or how they operate on society.
    • This claim is at odds with the idea that we as a civilization have been documenting our own history in considerable detail for many centuries now, and are indeed quite capable of noting which experiments have succeeded, which failed, and which were made popular or unpopular without correlation to (and for reasons other than) their success or failure at their intended purpose. There is in fact an entire field of science -- anthropology -- devoted to the study of different human cultures existing and past, and the ways in which they functioned or failed. The social conservative attitude essentially favors custom over understanding, shuns experimentation, and fears the possible consequences.
  • Society works just fine how it is, and does not need improving.
    • This is only true for a small minority, and provides cover for failure to address a large number of social issues experienced by the majority.

Social conservatives are at odds with social liberals on certain issues:

Fiscal Conservatism

Fiscal conservatism expresses concern about government expenditure they view as unnecessary, and tend to prefer solutions where private industry or "faith-based" groups provide the bulk of the funding. For this reason, they tend to seek solutions based in free market incentives. They also tend to be against government regulation, however, which they unfortunately often seem to forget is a requirement for a free marketplace.


Conservapedia definesConservapedia is an unreliable source. (US) Conservatism as having the following attributes:

  • promotes moral and economic values beneficial to all
  • looks to the insights of economics and the logic of the Bible for the benefit of all
  • favors conserving value by not giving handouts to anyone who does not really need them

It then also goes to list a number of specific political positions favored by neoconservatism, neoliberalism, and dominionism.

«A conservative typically adheres to principles of personal responsibility, moral values, and limited government.»

Heritage Foundation

The Heritage Foundation, a conservatist think-tank, states a belief «in individual liberty, free enterprise, limited government, a strong national defense, and traditional American values. We want an America that is safe and secure; where choices (in education, health care and retirement) abound; where taxes are fair, flat, and comprehensible; where everybody has the opportunity to go as far as their talents will take them; where government concentrates on its core functions, recognizes its limits and shows favor to none. ... we believe the values and ideas that motivated our Founding Fathers are worth conserving.» This would seem to be a reasonable definition of the best attributes of American conservatism.


US conservatism has stood against:

  • The American Revolution
  • right of poor people to vote
  • public education
  • compulsory education
  • abolition of slavery
  • voting rights for black people
  • voting rights for indigenous Americans
  • voting rights for women
  • anti-trust laws
  • labor rights
  • worker safety laws
  • 40-hour work week
  • 8-hour work day
  • paid vacations
  • child labor laws
  • national parks
  • ending alcohol prohibition
  • US/Social Security
  • interstate highway system -- not sure about this; Eisenhower was a Republican
    • conservoids do seem to be against spending money on transportation infrastructure, though
    • the Federal Aid Road Act of 1916 was introduced by two Democrats and signed by Woodrow Wilson, a Democrat
    • the Federal Aid Highway Act of 1921, however, was introduced by a Republican
    • It's still arguable that this was a very progressive initiative, though, by today's standards -- regardless of party.
  • civil rights act
  • desegregation
  • interracial marriage
  • Medicare
  • unemployment insurance
  • workman's compensation
  • welfare laws
  • environmental protection laws
  • Endangered Species Act
  • Family Leave Act
  • banking and speculation regulations
  • emergency loans to US auto manufacturers (...but was that a good thing?)
  • the Affordable Care Act
  • gay rights, gay marriage