There are several kinds of liberalism, and several kinds of conservativism. The classic American liberals might be Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy, and Lyndon Baines Johnson. The classic American conservatives might be Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.
Classical LiberalismIn my opinion, Roosevelt, Kennedy, and Johnson made great contributions to American society, some of which were tied to classical liberalism. Hardcore conservatives do not like FDR nor Johnson. They connect them with all our present-day “evils,” like big government and wasteful spending. These conservatives do like JFK better, though, because of his pro-business policies. Some of the tenets of classical liberalism are:
1. A belief in big government. The government can provide services to society that individuals alone could never or would never provide, such as the regulation of business.
2. Redistribution of wealth. Government can put a halt to monopolies and protect the individual from corporate greed. The government can redistribute money from the rich to the poor. Capitalism needs to be regulated. Socialism is the ideal. Some liberals veer off into communism.
3. Paternalism. For example, the government can be set up to protect the people from the greed of corporations or the ravages of the economy. The government can guard the individual even from his own greed, for example by forcing him to set aside money for his own retirement.
4. Social welfare. The government can provide services that individuals can’t in areas like healthcare, unemployment, disability insurance and so on.
5. A concern for the poor, the disenfranchised, and the victims of life. Government can be kind to the lower strata of society and help them when they are down and out.
6. Social engineering. The government can promote behaviors that are productive and discourage behaviors that hurt the individual. For example, the government can ban or regulate gambling.
7. Social justice. The government can penalize things like discrimination.
8. The protection of civil liberties. This can include such things as voting rights and even “freedom of choice” with abortion.
9. Protecting the environment through government regulations.
Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan perhaps embody best some of what classical conservatism represents.
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