The Conservative Search for Order

The terms liberal and conservative (nearly always paired in that descending order) are now so confused as to be almost entirely useless.  Originally, liberal was used to denote the ideology that aimed at the liberation of human individuals from the restraints of Church establishments, aristocratic and monarchical privileges, and legal restrictions on business and international trade.  Radical leftists, Marx and his followers in particular, took the additional step of advocating revolutionary means to achieve their utopian ends: a communist society, created and enforced by terror, in which individuals would enjoy a fullness of life that transcended the individual himself.  Some of Marx’s followers eventually rejected the revolutionary path and advocated a gradualist and ameliorist approach that allowed them to participate in the political process.  They became known as socialists or social democrats.

Conservatives in the 19th century, to one degree or another, were opposed to some or most of the liberal aspirations and completely rejected red revolution.  Unlike the liberals, however, conservatives were never able to agree on a broad set of fundamental principles.  By the end of World War II, liberal was coming to mean, albeit only in the United States, what socialist and social democrat had meant, and conservative was...

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