I heard a good way to distinguish a liberal and a conservative today on the radio.
A conservative is one who believes in the Constitution and believes that the Bill of Rights limits government from intruding upon individual liberty. The Bill of Rights is descriptive.
The liberal, on the other hand, believes that although the Constitution limits government's intrusion upon individuals, it does not explain what the role of government should be. The "should" is the key. "Should" is a judgment of value, a moral imperative. And the judgment is prescriptive.
Should there be an "ought" or a "should"? And by what measure do we assess the prescription? If someone legislates that we all are to work 3/4ths of the year to provide for government's "necessities", then is this what the "should" should be? Or has government over-reached its bounds? Is the private sector to be responsible for the "moral"? If so, then how is this postulated? By non-profits? Are Americans still "rightful owners" of private property, or does government intrude upon that "right"?
Morals are taught in kindergarten. There, children learn to share, not take another's toy and to respect others. Government should not be teaching 'kindergarten", but unfortunately, parents and teachers are not teaching what they "should" and it ends up being a matter for government to "take care of" in addressing criminal behavior. Then, we all pay for what others have not taken care of.
Society will not be able to function if parents and teachers are not able to help undergird and undertake "training" children to understand that it is not right to take another's toy, or that it is inappropriate to talk while the teacher is talking. Respect is a necessary value for one to learn in kindergarten.
Conservatives believe in individual liberties, but these liberties are not absolute, when it comes to required behavior. Society demands attention to other's rights, as well as one's own. The required behavior are written in the laws that define our society. But, conservatives limit the other's rights, when it intrudes upon their own. This is responsible behavior and it demands responsible and respectful behavior from others.
The liberal must love when others intrude upon their rights, because it means that they are "needed" and that they have a "function" in society. The liberal needs to be needed. He is the eternal co-dependent. The liberal views the conservative as selfish and narcisstic, as he believes that the "moral imperative" is an "absolute". And the liberal's moral absolute intrudes upon the conservative's liberty bias.
The conservative is not necessarily driven by "evil" in protecting his values of liberty and conscience. The conservative just values his own independence too much to allow government to "tell" him in a prescriptive way "who, what, when and how".
(Perhaps, I have over-stated the liberal's position, as I consider myself a conservative. But, it seems to me an injustice and a moral failure to "demand responsibility from one side and allow irresponsibility on the other. That is my take, at least.)
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