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desberg's avatar

What is a political liberal?

Asked by desberg (169points) September 1st, 2007
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2 Answers

segdeha's avatar

According to WordNet, a liberal favors political reform and “progress” (whatever that is) and the protection of civil liberties whereas a conservative is resistant to change and prefers to avoid excess. In the United States, where things are typically portrayed by the media as binary as possible, it breaks down by issue something like this:

* Pro choice (in favor of legalized abortion)
* Pro environment
* Pro affirmative action
* Pro gay marriage
* Pro gun control
* Taxes are necessary for the government to provide services people want without accumulating massive debt

* Pro life (against legalized abortion)
* Pro industry, growth, jobs
* Anti affirmative action
* Pro marriage-is-between-a-man-and-a-woman (anti gay marriage)
* Pro gun ownership
* Lower taxes whenever politically possible, with the dual aims of getting re-elected and starving government, except that you can’t cut programs or you might not get re-elected, so just go into massive debt because voters don’t really understand numbers that big and would rather have their cake and eat it, too (what happened to avoiding excess, as in excess debt?)

OK, so I editorialized a bit on that last one…. My point is that liberal and conservative is usually portrayed by the media as two sides of a particular policy issue rather than a philosophy of governance. In real life, the issues I listed above are not so cut-and-dried and people’s opinions fall somewhere on a continuum.

Jonsonite's avatar

You can further brake down the liberal/conservative dichotomy along two axes: Social/Political/Cultural vs. Economic/fiscal. Someone who is socially and economically liberal (favoring individual choice on drugs and abortion but being in favor of more government regulation of industry, for instance) is called a liberal. Somebody who’s socially and economically conservative (eg. wanting family values reflected in law but favoring free enterprise) is called a conservative. Individuals who are socially liberal and economically conservative are called libertarians, and people who are socially conservative and economically liberal are called authoritarians, statists or occasionally populist.

Google “World’s Smallest Political Quiz” for a little ten question quiz to peg yourself somewhere on the two axes. It was created by a bunch of libertarians but is commonly considered to be a pretty good measure.

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