Today’s U.S. conservatives usually hold at least 1 of 3 positions:
- They’re religious conservatives who believe Christian values should inform how we shape society
- They’re conservative about the U.S. constitution, and want to make sure we don’t stray too far from founders’ vision
- They’re economic conservatives, which means they want to restrain how much the government spends and influences private companies
No matter how many of these perspectives they hold, U.S. conservatives usually vote Republican.
U.S. religious conservatives are mostly Christian, and they tend to want Christian values to influence U.S. society. Their main issues are education and limits on sex and sexuality. For example, religious conservatives opposed gay marriage, prefer abstinence-only education, and argue that creationism should be taught in school along with/instead of evolution.
These are folks who believe the U.S. Constitution is such an amazing blueprint for government and individual rights that we should try never to change it. They oppose new types of taxes, new government programs, and laws that change what we can say, buy, or own.
Economic conservative believes in free and open markets, and in limiting government. If you’re economically conservative, you don’t think the government should try to help people: you think that people should help themselves. (You might also believe that society should solve problems through charity.) Economic conservatives also want government to leave private businesses alone, which means not making laws about what they sell and how they treat workers.
Today’s conservative is yesterday’s radical liberal
Constitutional and economic conservatism come squarely from a liberal philosophical tradition. If one of today’s constitutional or economic conservatives got in a time machine and traveled back to the 18th century, he/she/they’d be considered a radical republican liberal.
Conservative and conservationist
These words look pretty similar, and you might be wondering if conservatives are environmentally conservative — if they’re conservationist. This would be convenient as far as understanding what all the words mean. Unfortunately, usually conservatives are on opposite sides of debates from environmental conservatives.