A Beginner's Guide To Conservatism
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Politics and Activism

A Beginner's Guide To Conservatism

The basic principles you need to know.

A Beginner's Guide To Conservatism

When I first started explaining to people that conservatism isn’t grounded in beliefs such as racism, sexism, and homophobia, many people became confused. For years Democrats and liberals alike have misconstrued conservatism’s message to resemble these horrible dividing beliefs, but no one seems to be correcting them. As of late, people like Milo Yiannopoulos have bravely come out saying they are gay and conservative, to which many people have reacted thinking they are contradictory beliefs. They are wrong.

As I’ve spread this message on my talk show, and through my articles, several people have contacted me asking to learn more about conservatism and the values which bind the ideology together. Defining such a belief which has been interpreted, misinterpreted and misconstrued for decades is no easy task. I remember when I first started getting into politics, how difficult it was to understand conservatism. I’d hear people going around talking about how they hated big government, and catchy slogans such as “Big government sucks,” but I never understood why.

Very rarely will a college have a conservative political thought course, and in high school, politics was practically a taboo topic. You might hear about conservatism growing up, but if you’re like me who was raised in liberal Massachusetts, you probably won’t have the chance to hear about it. My personal brand of conservatism—which I have learned, and continue to learn from my own mentors in the movement—is a results-based pure conservatism. While this article can hardly do the ideology justice, I’ll attempt to label the core principles of conservatism. Hopefully this will peak your interest, and you’ll want to learn more, but at least it may help you understand conservatives aren’t bad people, but simply think differently.

As a note, conservatism is not Republicanism. The Republican party is based off of conservative beliefs, but is not an ideology. The Republican brand for years has been tainted by years of discrimination from particular Republican identifying individuals who espouse those beliefs, which has in turn soured conservatism to many. Refer to the Republican platform to learn about what they believe (which slightly changes every four years at the Republican convention).

Difference in approaches

Before I get into the beliefs, we must first identify the difference in approaches between liberalism and conservatism; who the focus is on. Both seek to benefit people, but who specifically? Liberals believe in supporting society as a whole. They believe that the rich must help the poor for the good of society. Because we are all actors in society, when one part of society isn’t succeeding, that hurts all of us, and when everyone is succeeding we all indirectly benefit.

Conservatives, however, believe that we must focus on empowering individuals and their families to reach their maximum potential. You may think this isn’t different than what liberals believe, but there is a big difference. For liberal ideology to work, everyone must be motivated to become wealthy. Some people, however, feel successful with a job that makes them happy, regardless of how much money they make. Liberals, however, believe that when one person makes more money than another, that creates inequality, therefore, they must pay higher percentage in taxes than someone who doesn’t make as much money.

Some people who make a lot of money are okay with paying more in taxes. Others believe that the money they make, is in part, a representation of their success in life. Immigrants who left poor countries to get better jobs in America, work hard to give their families what they never could afford. They want to be able to have the better car, and the better house. They do not want to give up what they have worked for because another person chose differently or is perhaps not working as hard as them. We can hardly gauge who is working harder than another, but the difference is that we don’t want to give up what we work for. Plumbers, for example, hardly choose a glamorous job, yet they can make more money than many professions. They might not be happy with their job, but someone has to do it, and they should be able to enjoy the fruits of their labor, just as much as someone who chose a job they were happy with doing, even if they don’t make as much money.

Liberals say that some people were born into money who didn’t work for it. They are correct. Some people inherit huge amounts of money and will never work a day in their lives. How is that fair? It's fair because that is what their parents wanted. Their parents worked so their children could benefit from their labor. They worked for their money, and they choose what they want to do with it.

Emphasis on individual and family empowerment

I don’t want you thinking that everyone that is rich is a conservative and everyone that is poor is a liberal, because that isn’t true. I’m not rich, and I’m a conservative. We already understand that conservatives want to empower individuals to achieve, but we also want to empower their families to benefit. During the days of the Great Depression, parents could hardly afford anything for their children. If you were born in those days, your dream was to make it rich and give your family a better life. Many people today don’t think that way. They don’t realize the sacrifices that our parents had to make to give us a better life than what they had.

One of my favorite examples is the story of Ronald Reagan. He was born into a very poor family. When he made his first paycheck, he gave it to his family to help them pay bills that they accumulated, partly by taking care of him. He continued to find jobs that made him more and more money until his success as an actor gave him the assets to buy them a new home and a better life. My goal in life is to do the same for my family through my work. What do I owe anyone else? What has anyone else done for me? My family has worked their entire lives to give me all that I have today. No one else has.

One thing I’ve learned in life is that there is no one I can depend on more than my family. I have amazing friends, some that I even consider family, but at the end of the day my family will be there to help me through thick and thin. The conservative approach sees families as if they were mini-societies. All of us are working to help each other succeed within our own families. Not all of us, however, have the conventional family. Neither do I. I am the son of a single parent, my dad. Not all of us have parents that take care of us. For conservatism, however, it doesn’t matter if you have two parents, one parent, or none. Conservatives believe in supporting the people who support us. By taking away what we have worked for, you are inhibiting our ability to support the people we love. Yet, our tax code today forces people who make more money to pay more so that someone who makes less money can pay less. Taxes shouldn’t redistribute income. That is why conservatives believe in a flat tax. A 10 percent flat tax across the board, is more just than a progressive tax because we worked to make more money than someone else. Whether or not we worked harder or not is irrelevant because that money is rightfully ours. Liberals believe that the rich must pay more than the poor, and even with a flat tax they still do. 10 percent of $100,000 is $10,000. 10 percent of $10,000 is $1,000. Any unequal percentage is a government attempt to redistribute income. Today the people who make the most money pay 40 percent in taxes whereas people who make the least money pay 10 percent.

When you go to the store to buy groceries, the cashier doesn’t ask you how much money you make, then price the goods higher or lower based on your income. If we are paying for the same government services, then why should one person pay more or less than another?

Not only is an unequal tax code unfair, but it discourages achievement. If I knew I would make as much money as a police officer by flipping burgers at McDonald’s, then why would I want to take such a high risk job? There is a movement today to raise the minimum wage to $15, which is the starting salary for most police officers. Knowing that the choices you make lead to different results establishes a meritocracy. The better job you do, the more your reward.

Personal responsibility

Another conservative belief, is that of personal responsibility. We believe that the choices we make in life will affect our quality of life. We should not have to pay for the mistakes of another person, nor should we necessarily benefit from their labor. As I said before, if you choose a job that makes less money than another, that is your choice and your decision shouldn’t implicate us in any way.

I’ve heard many people say that conservatives don’t believe in equal pay for women. Liberal politicians will often claim women make 77 cents for every dollar a man makes because conservatives are okay with that. This isn’t true at all, and is in fact contradictory to our beliefs. Everyone should get equal pay for equal work within the same job, but the choices people make dictate the result. Ben Shapiro made a great example of this when he reported

“Research in 2013 by Anthony Carnevale, a Georgetown University economist, shows that women flock to college majors that lead to lower-paying careers. Of the 10 lowest-paying majors—such as “drama and theater arts” and “counseling psychology”—only one, “theology and religious vocations,” is majority male. Conversely, of the 10 highest-paying majors—including “mathematics and computer science” and “petroleum engineering”—only one, “pharmacy sciences and administration,” is majority female. Eight of the remaining nine are more than 70 percent male.”

For more information, check out his article entitled “7 Facts You Need To Know To Debunk The #EqualPayDay Lie,” published in the "DailyWire."

Maximum individual liberty

Another very important belief of conservatism is the belief in maximum individual liberty. This belief is often emphasized under the popular libertarian movement, but really is no different than what conservatives believe in. As a political science major, we learn from ancient philosophers like John Locke and Thomas Hobbes, the ideas that form a democracy. To summarize what you learn in many classes in four years of being a polisci major, people give up a portion of their freedom to the government to ensure protection. As a conservative, we believe that the role of the government is to defend our liberties, and that’s it. Anything beyond that is an abuse of government power.

One area that is open to a lot of different interpretations is the legalization of marijuana. For me, if you truly believe in having the maximum freedom possible, and that we are personally responsible for ourselves, then we must legalize it. We should have the freedom to do what we want with ourselves, provided our choices do not have implications for others. I would also argue that the drinking age should be lowered to the age of 18, which we have determined through many other laws to be the age of adulthood.

I have heard liberals argue that we cannot allow people to hurt themselves, but I argue that my choices should have nothing to do with them. Some people will say that having the drinking age at 21 has lowered the amount of car accidents. Instead of treating adults like children, we should instead teach our children before age of 18 the dangers of drunk driving. You may say we must protect people from the irresponsibility of others, but people drive drunk now even with the law in place. There are many more arguments to why we should lower the drinking age to 18, but I will save that for another article. The point is that as adults of any age, we want the freedom to be responsible for our own actions.

Another argument some people make is that those who choose to smoke marijuana will have adverse health implications later in life. Because our health care system forces us to take care of people who made bad health decisions, we will then be responsible for their choices. To them I argue, let’s not have a socialized health care system (another value consistent with the idea of personal responsibility). We should NOT set up the government so that our choices will have implications for other people.

Free markets, small government and low regulation

This last tenet is typically less of a hard sell than the others. For anyone that studies economics, you will learn that there are many different schools of economic thought, complete with their own theories and statistics to back them up. Conservatives, however, believe in the classical school of economic thought. That doesn't mean we believe the same as liberals, but going back to the origins of the word, liberal originally meant the same as modern conservatism. Today conservatism is also known as classical liberalism in economics. Succinctly put, the more government regulation you have on your economy, the worse it is for businesses. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t have any regulations. There are employers that would try to abuse their employees if they didn’t have legal protection. That is the reason why we must have a baseline of regulations, but any more can sometimes be excessive and reduce the efficiency of the business.

Some liberals say they believe in socialism. Socialism, by definition means, “A political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole”—Oxforddictionaries.com. This idea contrasts with the conservative approach because of its emphasis on society control, which is why it fits with the liberal ideology.


Even with as long as this article is, I can’t add every single argument for conservatism, especially in the area of economics. I’m sure many people will poke holes in this article, and if so I encourage you to comment so that I know the articles I have to write next. I am not an expert on conservatism, but these are the beliefs that I have learned being a part of the movement, and I hope people will continue to challenge me on them in a respectful manner.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.

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