Political conservatism is, broadly speaking, support of traditional political views and values. Consequently, what might be conservative in one society might be quite radical in a different society.
Conservatism, at least as it is often thought of in the United States (only? anybody know?), has two important aspects:
- Fiscal conservatism: the support of a traditional economic system of a place (or of an idealized version of such a system, perhaps never fully realized).
- Social conservatism: the support of traditional values, i.e., morality, and particularly of religious morality; also, support of governmental restrictions on personal behavior with an aim of upholding traditional values.
It is possible for one to be a fiscal conservative but not a social conservative; in the United States at present, this is the stance of libertarianism. It is also possible to be a social conservative but not a fiscal conservative. At present, this is a common political stance in, for example, Ireland and among some American leftists.
- Personal responsibility
- Support for Judeo-Christian religious and moral values.
- Support for strong law enforcement and strong penalties for crimes.
- Restraint in taxation and regulation of businesses.
- Support for a strong military, and well-defended protected borders with regulated immigration
- Support for drug prohibition.
- Opposition to gun control laws.
- Opposition to (or support for lessening) many social programs such as welfare and medical care (though many do favor the country's mandatory user-funded retirement benefits system).
- Opposition to policies such as affirmative action and multi-lingual education which can be perceived as government favoritism of minority groups.
Conservatives differ widely on some issues as well. For example, many support open international trade, while some support some form of protection for domestic business such as import tariffs.
History of conservatism
Conservatism as a political doctrine
Below was copied from conservatism; needs to be integrated into above.
While the word Conservatism is often used to describe merely an attitude of supporting how things currently are, it can also refer to a political doctrine that originates in Edmund Burke. Conservatives are not opposed to progress per se, although they are often more doubtful about it than followers of many other ideologies. Conservatives do not reject reason completely, but they place much more emphasis on tradition or faith than is common in politics today. According to the author of the Conservatism FAQ, the essence of conservatism is "its emphasis on tradition as a source of wisdom that goes beyond what can be demonstrated or even explicitly stated."
Conservatives emphasise traditional instiutions such as the family or the church, which they see as more personal than either the modern state or corporations.
Within the United States, there are several distinct elements in the conservative movement. Neoconservatives originate in American liberals, primarily from the Northeast or the West Coast, who during the 1960s began to move starkly to the right. Palaeoconseratives, by contrast, originated in other parts of the United States; they lack the background of having formerly been proponents of liberalism.
Conservative views on the economy often overlap with those of libertarians, but they disagree with the libertarian position on social issues. However, there are some libertarians whose views on social or cultural issues are closer to conservatism than most libertarians are, such as Llewellyn Rockwell or Murray Rothbard; these are sometimes called palaeolibertarians.
Other sources of the thought of some conservatives include the distributism of G. K. Chesterton and the French traditionalists (e.g. Henri Corbin). Some conservatives have also originated from the Frankfurt School, after taking (like the neoconservatives) a turn to the right; such are the editors of Telos.
Palaeoconservative publications: Modern Age, Chronicles
Neoconservative publications: Commentary, The Public Interest, First Things (has expressed controversial attitudes towards religion and against separation of church and state that many other neoconservatives reject).