The definitions of conservative and liberal

Your assessment of whether you are a conservative or liberal might change after you read their dictionary definitions:

Conservative is supposed to mean a person who:
(1) favors traditional customs, views, and values; tending to oppose change or innovation, or to limit it by supporting, at the most, minimal and gradual change in society;
(2) is reluctant or averse to change, novelty, or new ideas and opposes sudden change in the established order, endorsing change only if it occurs slowly and in small measures;
(3) is disposed to preserving existing institutions and conditions, or restoring traditional ones;
(4) is traditional, cautious, guarded, conformist, old-fashioned, square, or unimaginatively conventional (don't shoot the messenger—that's what the dictionary said!)

Liberal is supposed to mean:
(1) not limited to established, traditional, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry;
(2) open to proposals for reform or new ideas for progress;
(3) tolerant of change or the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded;
(4) accepting; not criticizing or disapproving;
(5) showing respect for the opinions, practices, or rights of others;
(6) full of love and generosity;
(7) tolerant and forgiving under provocation;
(8) inclined to forgive and show mercy;
(9) indulgent, easy-going, charitable, open-minded, understanding, sympathetic, kind-hearted, unprejudiced.

Based on their dictionary definitions (that do not conform well to self-categorizations and objective assessment in the real world, thus frequently making these labels meaningless), liberals are more likely to embrace change, while conservatives are more likely to oppose it.

Now let's see a show of hands. If you like the way things are now, raise your hand. Hmmm, looking around, I don't see many hands raised, proving that most of you are smart enough to realize that a sinking ship desperately needs remediation; that is, change to correct problems.

Who doesn't perceive the need for change? People who:
(1) Have rocks in their heads
(2) Are stoned on drugs
(3) Are too young to know better
(4) Are sitting on a pile of gold and oblivious to the suffering around them

I was a staunch conservative during the years the United States was seemingly on the right track, but now that we've derailed, my allegiance to the existing order has changed.

Shortly after my Mom was diagnosed with cancer, she asked her oncologist if she should do anything differently. The doc replied, “Just keep doing what you've been doing.”

What she'd been doing led to cancer; just keep doing it? Where's the logic in that?

Similarly, what the United States has been doing has led to a national debt that seems mathematically impossible to repay without pixie dust or a miracle invented by an Einstein. Let's forget about the pixie dust and focus on major breakthroughs that fundamentally improve life. It's been done before—repeatedly—and it will be done again, changing the world for the better.

Regardless of what you think about abortion, drug legalization, immigration, taxation, regulation, the optimal size of government, and the other issues that separate conservatives from liberals, there is a clear and compelling need for change. Do you agree?

But are conservatives truly opposed to change? Or just change imposed on them?

TED talk: Professor Jonathan Haidt on the moral roots of liberals and conservatives:

One of my relatives is stridently liberal and a gifted genius. She wrote the best parts of a bestselling book but let her then-husband take all the credit. Although she strikes me as super-smart, she also strikes me as being so unhappy she seemingly wounds people just to vent whatever it is she's feeling inside. Liberal and unhappy: is there a connection?

Evidently yes. Quoting from The New York Times:

“Political junkies might be interested to learn that conservative women are particularly blissful: about 40 percent say they are very happy. That makes them slightly happier than conservative men and significantly happier than liberal women. The unhappiest of all are liberal men; only about a fifth consider themselves very happy.”

Unhappy people tend to be more pugnacious. They're more eager to vent their venom, and have more of it. Misery loves company, so they often enjoy making others miserable, too.

“There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as caring and sensitive because he wants to expand the government's charitable programs is merely saying that he is willing to do good with other people's money. Well, who isn't? And a voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he will do good with his own money—if a gun is held to his head.”
P. J. O'Rourke

“I wonder how many of the people who profess to believe in the leveling ideas of collectivism and egalitarianism really just believe that they themselves are good for nothing. I mean, how many leftists are animated by a quite reasonable self-loathing? In their hearts they know that they are not going to become scholars or inventors or industrialists or even ordinary good kind people. So they need a way to achieve that smugness for which the left is so justifiably famous. They need a way to achieve self-esteem without merit. Well, there is politics. In an egalitarian world everything will be controlled by politics, and politics requires no merit.”
P. J. O'Rourke

Related articles:

Not all liberals want more of your money


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    Comment: I came to the same conclusion decades ago.
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    Comment: This explains why partisans often reflexively agree with policies from their leaders even when those policies are morally or legally objectionable.
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    Not many men would reject a woman who looks like this even if their political ideology differed. Of all the women I dated, I discussed politics with only one. Perhaps politics is increasingly important in this era of hyperpartisan polarization and opponent demonization.

    Red-blue (Republican-Democrat) marriages can work out just fine. Example: My conservative brother who married an über-liberal. She knows Michael Moore personally and isn't shy about expressing her opinions, but we got along fine when I was an über-conservative.

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The views expressed on this page may or may not reflect my current opinions, nor do they necessarily represent my past ones. After reading a slice of what I wrote in my various websites and books, you may conclude that I am a liberal Democrat or a conservative Republican. Wrong; there is a better alternative. Just as the primary benefit from debate classes results when students present and defend opinions contrary to their own, I use a similar strategy as a creative writing tool to expand my brainpower—and yours. Mystified? Stay tuned for an explanation. PS: The wheels in your head are already turning a bit faster, aren't they?

“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

Reference: Imagining dialogue can boost critical thinking: Excerpt: “Examining an issue as a debate or dialogue between two sides helps people apply deeper, more sophisticated reasoning …”

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