What is Political Conservatism?

Meaning of Political Conservatism

Political conservatism is a philosophy characterized by a belief in individual freedom, small government, low taxes, and fiscal responsibility.

Like many political ideologies, it is sometimes misunderstood. For example, many people believe that conservatism is simply a desire to maintain the status quo or even return to previous conditions.

Indeed, when political conservatism emerged as an identifiable ideology in Europe after the French Revolution, it was exemplified by resistance to change and adherence to the status quo, which was seen as representing continuity and stability.

However, in the following centuries, political conservatism has developed a clear set of political goals as opposed to mere nostalgia and, in many cases, promotes a change from the status quo.

Conservatives argue that the economy would be stronger with less government interference.


Small Government

Modern political conservatism advocates small government. From this point of view, the government assumes only those things that cannot or should not be carried out by individuals or private companies, such as road construction and common defense.

It is the conservative view that most government involvement in business, including regulation, amounts to interference and that a nation’s economy would be stronger with less interference.

Opposed to Economic Interference

Political conservatism also opposes government intrusion into people’s economic lives.

From the conservative perspective, government-run welfare programs, whether established for retirement and health care or simply as assistance to the poor, substitute government judgment for their own with respect to saving and planning. .

Many conservatives believe that these programs make citizens more dependent on the government. When people become destitute or needy, many conservatives believe that it is the responsibility of the social infrastructure, including religious groups and charitable organizations, to address the problems of the poor.

Low Taxes

The conservative position is usually that government should operate at a subsistence level, generating enough revenue to support essential spending.

In some cases, the conservative approach to government budget deficits has been to seek spending cuts. When this goal is unattainable, Conservatives generally resort to borrowing to make up the deficit, rarely resorting to tax increases that would increase the economic burdens imposed on citizens .

Conservatism also opposes government attempts to influence the economy, often through fiscal policy, to achieve socially desirable goals.

Conservatives argue that such attempts often have unintended adverse consequences. Socially desirable results, according to conservatism, will be achieved if the free enterprise system is allowed to function.

There is also disagreement among conservatives about taxes. A progressive income tax is seen as a penalty imposed on achievement, with some Conservatives preferring a flat-rate income tax, but others supporting a consumption tax.

Conservatism also opposes taxing businesses, arguing that business taxes are inevitably built into the cost of goods or services and passed on to the consumer, thereby blurring the nation’s true tax rate.

National defense

A strong national defense is a characteristic of the conservative philosophy. Many Conservatives believe that this is the highest priority a government can have. Political conservatism advocates the dedication of all necessary resources to establish and maintain national defense at its highest possible level.

Social Conservatism

Like most systems of political thought, political conservatism is a controversial ideology, sometimes because people and groups with other agendas cling to the conservative label as a vehicle to spread their own message.

Although they may feel a community of interest, they also blur the distinction between political conservatism and schools of thought outside the political realm, such as social conservatism.

In many cases, in fact, the distinction between these two particular groups can sometimes be difficult to discern.

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