NOTE: My statements are not necessarily my opinions. I often post point-counterpoint essays in which I strongly take one side of an issue and later counter that with antithetical views. This intellectual exercise helps me see the merit in opposing opinions and augments my creativity.

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

Notes:

  1. People think harder and produce better political arguments when their views are challenged
    Comment: I've done that for decades, bashing both liberal and conservative opinions, with people on both ends of the political spectrum not grasping how challenging them is a catalyst for sharpening them—and their minds.
  2. Hard-wired: The brain's circuitry for political belief
    Excerpt: “When people's political beliefs are challenged, their brains become active in areas that govern personal identity and emotional responses to threats, neuroscientists have found.”
  3. Discrimination on the grounds of political ideas prevails over any other based on Discrimination on the grounds of political ideas prevails over that exercised on the basis of other criteria
  4. Best-looking politicians lean right, best-looking scholars lean left
  5. People become more economically conservative when angered: Study finds relationship between economic political opinions and competitiveness, resource scarcity
  6. Believing the future will be favorable may prevent action
    Excerpt: “People tend to believe that others will come around to their point of view over time … this "belief in a favorable future" holds across various contexts and cultures … "It often seems that partisans believe they are so correct that others will eventually come to see the obviousness of their correctness," says behavioral scientist Todd Rogers of the Harvard Kennedy School, lead author on the research. "Ironically, our findings indicate that this belief in a favorable future may diminish the likelihood that people will take action to ensure that the favorable future becomes reality."”
    Comment: I came to the same conclusion decades ago.
  7. Birth of politics in children: The case of dominance
  8. Why Clinton and Trump backers don't mix
    Excerpt: “Living around people with opposing political viewpoints affects your ability to form close relationships and accept other perspectives—and may even change your personality …”
  9. Hey, tall guy! What's the politics like up there?: Study finds taller people are more politically conservative
  10. Nearly 80 percent of drivers express significant anger, aggression or road rage
    Comment: Cars provide anonymity that frees drivers to vent rage they would otherwise suppress, such as when encountering jerks in stores. Anonymity also gives Internet users freedom to blast others with the slightest provocation or justification, especially when discussing hot-button issues such as politics.
  11. Conservatives demonstrate more self control than Liberals, studies suggest
  12. Photo selection study reveals we don't look like we think we look
    Comment: That applies more to ID and online dating, yet it is also relevant to this topic in a more general sense because people often don't accurately perceive themselves. During my years of being a jerk, did I think I was? No, I thought I was perfectly reasonable and others were the problem.
  13. Physiological responses reveal our political affiliations
    Excerpt: “… political partisanship is rooted in affective, physiological processes that cause partisans to toe the party line on policies and issues, regardless of policy content. Previous research has shown that party identifiers are more inclined to agree with policy proposals that are proposed by their own party, independent of the content of the proposal. If the same proposal is issued by a competing party, they will be inclined to respond negatively to it.”
    Comment: This explains why partisans often reflexively agree with policies from their leaders even when those policies are morally or legally objectionable.
  14. Liberals are more emotion-driven than conservatives
  15. Most partisans treat politics like sports rivalries, instead of focusing on issues
  16. Thinking about a majority-minority shift leads to more conservative views
  17. Personality Predicts Political Preferences based on Compassionate Liberals and Polite Conservatives: Associations of Agreeableness With Political Ideology and Moral Values
  18. Is she a Republican? A Democrat? Who cares?

    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.

  19. Does Cupid Play Politics? That 'Something Special' Might Be Your Mate's Political Ideology
    Comment: See sidebar … as if I need to direct your attention to it! :-)
  20. Political Preferences Play Different Role in Dating, Mating based on Do bedroom eyes wear political glasses? The role of politics in human mate attraction
  21. Republicans have happier marriages than Democrats, study indicates
  22. What Do Liberals and Conservatives Look for in a Date?
  23. Political Participation Is Partially Rooted In Genetic Inheritance based on Two Genes Predict Voter Turnout
    Comment: What's fascinating about this is that some of the effects of those genes can be influenced by one's diet (as in nutritional status, not dieting to lose weight) and other factors. Considering what's at stake, and considering how far political parties go (overboard) to win, it is very surprising they don't avail themselves of the many scientific facts that could help them win elections now and in the future.

    I discussed one facet of biopolitics (how physiology affects behavior that affects politics) in Fascinating Health Secrets. I gave two copies to Al Gore (through a friend who worked for him). She said he loved reading the book on Air Force Two, but I wish he would have paid more attention to one part. Had he done that, he likely would have defeated George W. Bush and thereby saved the nation from Bush's #1 mistake.

    Missing the linchpin: Republicans who profess to revere education are blissfully ignorant of a power available to them as politicians they could use to ensure more future Republicans as well as immediate steps to increase conservative voter turnout. I graduated in the top 1% of my class in medical school and still (decades later) read every day about chemistry, biochemistry, physics, and physiology (and lots more), and I'm good at putting two and two together, but connecting the dots to see what politicians are missing in this case was child's play: just connect Fact A to Fact B, and let it gel in the mind for a split-second. If they can't figure out something so basic and so crucial to their success, perhaps it is no wonder why they can't solve our other national problems.
  24. New research shows how to make effective political arguments, sociologist says
  25. Conservatives and liberals do think differently: Research shows different ways of solving everyday problems linked to political ideology
  26. American liberals and conservatives think as if from different cultures
  27. Political extremists may be less susceptible to common cognitive bias
  28. Study finds partisanship most fierce among highly educated Americans
  29. Mitt Romney's Face Looks Different to Republicans and Democrats
  30. Like my body odor, like my politics: People are attracted to the body odor of others with similar political beliefs
  31. This Is Your Brain On Politics: Neuroscience Reveals Brain Differences Between Republicans and Democrats
  32. Obese Democrats blame genetics; Normal weight Democrats and most Republicans blame lifestyle
  33. Republican And Democratic Values Compared
  34. For Liberals and Conservatives, 'Belief Superiority' Is Bipartisan: People With Extreme Views Feel Most Superior About Their Beliefs
  35. Democrats, Republicans see each other as mindless, unless they pose a threat
  36. Parenthood Makes Moms More Liberal, Dads More Conservative
  37. Does Religion Make A Difference In Politics?
  38. Parenting and Temperament in Childhood Predict Later Political Ideology based on Developmental Antecedents of Political Ideology: A Longitudinal Investigation From Birth to Age 18 Years
  39. Liberal or conservative? Reactions to disgust are a dead giveaway
  40. The Role of Genes in Political Behavior based on The genetics of politics: discovery, challenges, and progress
  41. There May Be a 'Party' in Your Genes based on Is There a “Party” in Your Genes?
  42. Political Views May Be Genetically Influenced, Twin Study Shows
  43. Researchers Find a 'Liberal Gene' based on Friendships Moderate an Association between a Dopamine Gene Variant and Political Ideology
  44. Politics and Eye Movement: Liberals Focus Their Attention On 'Gaze Cues' Much Differently Than Conservatives Do based on The politics of attention: gaze-cuing effects are moderated by political temperament
  45. Political Views Are Reflected in Brain Structure based on Political Orientations Are Correlated with Brain Structure in Young Adults
  46. Political Conservatives Fear Chaos; Liberals Fear Emptiness based on What if there were no God? Politically conservative and liberal Christians imagine their lives without faith
  47. Satisfied People Are More Likely to Vote based on Life Satisfaction and Political Participation: Evidence from the United States
  48. Physical Activity Linked to Political Participation based on Participating in Politics Resembles Physical Activity: General Action Patterns in International Archives, United States Archives, and Experiments
  49. Partisanship Shapes Views On Political, Non-Political Issues
  50. New Study of Political Defections Identifies 'Personality Type' Prone to Switch Sides
  51. Politics and Prejudice Explored based on Reconstruing Intolerance: Abstract Thinking Reduces Conservatives’ Prejudice Against Nonnormative Groups (Excerpt from the first article: “… prejudice is not restricted to a particular political ideology.”)
  52. Something we should all keep in mind: Core Values Unite Americans, Despite Divisions and Republicans and Democrats Can Agree On Some Moral Issues, Study Suggests
  53. More Similar Than They Think: Liberals and Conservatives Exaggerate Perceived Moral Views
  54. Denying problems when we don't like the political solutions: Why conservatives, liberals disagree so vehemently
  55. U.S. states' personalities linked to their politics
  56. Psychological Common Ground Could Ease Tensions Among Those With Different Religious Beliefs
  57. Political attitudes derive from body and mind: 'Negativity bias' explains difference between liberals and conservatives
  58. Political Attitudes Are Predicted By Physiological Traits, Research Finds
  59. Tendency to Fear Is Strong Political Influence based on Fear as a Disposition and an Emotional State: A Genetic and Environmental Approach to Out-Group Political Preferences
  60. CBS Senior Legal VP, Hayley Geftman-Gold, Fired For Callous Las Vegas Victim Statement…
    Comment: This article elucidates the psychology that makes liberals tick.
  61. Name-Brand or Generic? Your Political Ideology Might Influence Your Choice
  62. Red Brain, Blue Brain: Republicans and Democrats Process Risk Differently, Research Finds
  63. Are conservatives more obedient and agreeable than their liberal counterparts?
  64. Political Motivations May Have Evolutionary Links to Physical Strength based on The Ancestral Logic of Politics: Upper-Body Strength Regulates Men’s Assertion of Self-Interest Over Economic Redistribution
  65. How the views of liberals evolved from the 19th century to the present day
  66. Moments of Spirituality Can Induce Liberal Attitudes, Researchers Find
  67. Liberals Aren't Like the Rest, or So They Think
  68. Most U.S. physicians are socially liberal, fiscally conservative.
  69. Here Are The Most Liberal And Most Conservative Towns In Each State
  70. Political leanings and time spent sitting around: Left wing 'armchair socialists' more physically active than political centrists
  71. Solved: Why Poor States Are Red and Rich States Are Blue
  72. How will Congressmen vote? Just look at their social circles, study finds
  73. How your brain is telling you to vote
  74. Emotional brains 'physically different' from rational ones
  75. As baby boomers age, do their decisions get better or worse?
  76. Musical tastes offer a window into how you think
  77. To strengthen an opinion, simply say it is based on morality: 'Moral' label instantly makes opinions more resistant to change
  78. Men Supporting Hillary Clinton Have Lower Testosterone
    Comment: The claim in that title isn't yet documented by science, but it would be interesting to research that.
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 …”

Comments (0)

post commentPost a comment or subscribe to my blog