PDA

View Full Version : Liberalism & Conservatism : different meaning in Europe and North America



Mitsuo
03-03-07, 06:39
What is the difference between liberalism and conservatism in Europe to liberalism and conservatism in the USA?

I don't know.

But overall, we share the same views. Other than the fact that I consider myself a conservative.

Maciamo
03-03-07, 12:03
What is the difference between liberalism and conservatism in Europe to liberalism and conservatism in the USA?
I don't know.
But overall, we share the same views. Other than the fact that I consider myself a conservative.
I think that all the major parties in the USA can be considered as economically liberal. There aren't really any socialists or communists. In Belgium, France, Italy or Spain, for instance, the clivage between the left (anti-liberal, anti-globalisation, socialist, communist) and right (liberal, reformist or conservative) is very clear.

Conservatives are usually (not always) economically liberal, but socially conservative. In Belgium that is the Christian Democratic party. In the UK, it is the Conservative Party. In the USA it is especially the neo-cons of Bush. Conservative are almost always religious and close to traditions. True liberals (both economically and socially) are reformists (toward more freedom) both for the economy and social issues.

Socialists are usually economically anti-liberal, but can be quite liberal on social issues. Communists are usually anti-liberal on all the line. As for the Extreme Right, they can be anything. For example, France's Front National (Le Pen) is quite anti-liberal both economically (anti-EU, anti-globalisation) and socially (value traditions), but can also be quite liberal on some points. The Belgian Vlaams Belang is quite liberal on all the line, especially economically. The Nazi, like the Communists, were the paradigm of anti-liberalism (everything had to be controlled by the state, complete restriction of economic and social freedoms).

So, in my eyes, the modern Communists (e.g. in France or Italy) are the closest to the Nazi, followed by the Socialists and Conservatives (after all Nazi stand for "National Socialist", taking the anti-liberal stance of each party). The only true opposite to Nazism are the Liberals. The extreme version of liberalism are the Libertarians - but I don't think that extremes are good, even in the right direction.

Here are a few examples of true Liberals (whatever their party name or image is) :

- Britain's Liberal Democratic Party (+ Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, who are Labour just in name)
- Belgium's MR, VLD, and (despite its anti-immigration stance) Vlaams Belang.
- The Democrats in the US (maybe not all of them, but at least people like Clinton, Gore, Kerry, Kennedy).
- France's Francois Bayrou or Nicolas Sarkozy (parties are too confused to identify one of them as liberal)

Mitsuo
04-03-07, 04:08
Socialists are usually economically anti-liberal, but can be quite liberal on social issues. Communists are usually anti-liberal on all the line. As for the Extreme Right, they can be anything. For example, France's Front National (Le Pen) is quite anti-liberal both economically (anti-EU, anti-globalisation) and socially (value traditions), but can also be quite liberal on some points. The Belgian Vlaams Belang is quite liberal on all the line, especially economically. The Nazi, like the Communists, were the paradigm of anti-liberalism (everything had to be controlled by the state, complete restriction of economic and social freedoms).

So the statement above was an example of what conservatism is in europe, right?

Not saying anything is incorrect, but I'm just trying to make it more clear.
Because here in the states, the Conservatives try to limit the role of the government, whereas the Liberals like government intervention. (Social Programs, welfare etc.)

The most socialistic people in the states are considered liberal and, like you said, the most religious people and traditional people are considered conservative.
I would have to say here in the states the conservatives are more for social and individual freedoms.

Of course there are your share of Conservative-Democrats and Liberal-Republicans.

Kind of like Thomas Jefferson, a liberal, who believed in strong government (Liberal) but also believed in strong personal and individual freedoms (Conservative). Which would make him a Conservative-Democrat and Rudolph Guliani who is for Gay rights and abortion but considers himself a republican. Which would make him a Liberal-Republican. I believe, you are conservative or liberal within certain environments.

Maciamo
04-03-07, 12:42
So the statement above was an example of what conservatism is in europe, right?

Not saying anything is incorrect, but I'm just trying to make it more clear.

I believe we have discussed the difference of meaning of "liberal" in Europe and in the USA, but I cannot find the thread anymore (I remember that Satori participated in it, so it was a while ago).

In short, North Americans (Canadians too ;-) ) have changed the original meaning of "liberal" to mean "socialist" or "leftist". In you look at the history of Liberalism (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberalism) and the meaning it has in Europe and used to have in the USA before WWII, you will see that it only means what I explained above :

- Economic liberalism means free trade and open markets.
- Social liberalism means emphasizing individual rights and liberties (e.g. allowing abortion, gay rights).

In Europe, liberalism is the opposite of socialism. In the USA the term "socialist" is often confused with "communist", and this since the Cold War. The US government propaganda was so strong against anything "red" that it became impossible to call a party "socialist", so they used the word "liberal" instead. This is why we have so many communication problems now. Bush is economically ultra-liberal, but socially conservative. Such people are called "conservative" in Europe, not "Liberal".



Because here in the states, the Conservatives try to limit the role of the government, whereas the Liberals like government intervention. (Social Programs, welfare etc.)

Government-wise, liberals prefer lower taxes and less state intervention. This is one os the most basic principle of economic liberalism. Both the Republicans and the Democrats in the US are more liberal in this regard than most liberal/rightist parties in Europe.

Socialism is again the exact opposite. Socialsim wants the state to control the economy, to subsidise ailing industries, to nationalise the energy and transports, to overtax the rich to redistribute to the poor and the unemployed, tho have free (or very cheap) education and health care for everyone, etc. This is typical of the economy of most European countries, the UK included, because socialism has been very strong in Europe after WWII, although it is now declining.

The extreme version of socialims is communism. The main difference is that communism wants to control everything, nationalise all industries (not just the energy and transports), stop trading with non-communist countries, stifle individual liberties, etc.



The most socialistic people in the states are considered liberal and, like you said, the most religious people and traditional people are considered conservative.

I know. That's the Cold War heritage of being afraid to call a socialist a socialist. Maybe this problem arose from the fact that in the US the two main parties are diametrically opposite :

- The Democrats are socially liberal but economically slightly socialist (much like European Liberals, i.e. the Right)

- The Republicans are socially conservative (= anti-liberal), but economically ultra-liberal.

In Europe, both the left and right agree that a minimum of socialism (e.g. free education and healthcare, social security) is necessary, and both sides appear as socially liberal compared to the American Conservatives. The most socially conservative Europeans are only midly conservative by American standards, because overall American culture is much more conservative and much more religious.


I would have to say here in the states the conservatives are more for social and individual freedoms.

I disagree. The American Conservatives are against a lot of social and individual freedoms. They are anti-abortion, anti-prostitution, tough on soft drugs, set a high legal age to drink alcohol, oppose gay rights, oppose stem-cell research, etc. The ultra-conservatives (the neo-cons of Bush) even pushed for more restrictions of individual freedoms with the Patriot Act.

The term "liberal" relates to liberties. Where are the social and indivdual liberties in the above ?


Kind of like Thomas Jefferson, a liberal, who believed in strong government (Liberal) but also believed in strong personal and individual freedoms (Conservative).

Jefferson was a liberal in the true sense of the term, both economically and socially. He was not a conservative.


Which would make him a Conservative-Democrat and Rudolph Guliani who is for Gay rights and abortion but considers himself a republican.

This is just for political reason, because he knew that he stood more chances of being elected as a Republican. It's the same as with Tony Blair and Gordon Brown who call themselves "socialist" (Labour Party), but are in fact true liberals, economically and socially.

Maciamo
28-04-07, 11:50
During the French presidential race, we have seen that the extreme-left (communist, anti-globalisation, anti-EU, hunting & fishing parties) are all anti-liberal.

Segolene Royale, who runs for the Socialist Party (i.e. the left), has been criticised a lot for not being liberal enough compared to the right's candidate, Nicolas Sarkozy.

Left-wingers, be them socialists, communists or else, are seen as the most conservative - those that do not want things to change, those that feel nostalgia for the pre-globalisation days, for the traditions of France, and want to keep high-taxes for high social security rather than reform this system that discourages companies to stay in France (too high taxes).

Sarkozy was the only major right wing candidate, except for the extreme-rightists Le Pen (National Front), and he was criticised by some left-wingers for "hunting on the National Front's grounds". Yet, he was the most economically and socially liberal of all 12 candidates. Sarkozy is also the only true reformist (= anti-conservative).

Le Pen is known for being socially and economically conservative (anti-abortion, anti-EU), like left-wing extremists at the other end of the spectrum.

This shows that the meaning of the word "liberal" has been inverted in the USA, where the right is considered to be the least liberal and most conservative, while the left and extreme left are seen as the most liberal.

Silverbackman
29-04-07, 08:42
Maciamo is almost entirely right here.

The term "liberalism" in America has been warped to mean freedom in social issues (ie abortion rights, gay rights, and drug rights) and strong government intervention on economic issues (more anti-free market, pro-regulation, ect.). Conservatives are the usually considered the opposite of this.

True liberals in the United States are the libertarians. Therefore European Liberalism = American Libertarianism (though some believe libertarianism is more radical).

However I disagree with Tony Blair being true liberals. Tony Blair is NOT a liberal on social issues. He afterall banned one of the least harmless drugs (soft or not) in the world: psilocybin mushrooms. He has also passed many laws similar to the Patriot Act after the London bombings, though not as bad as Bush.

Bush isn't quite economically liberal either......he is a big government spender. No president in history, conservative or liberal, has ever spended as much as Bush has.

Maciamo
30-04-07, 13:02
True liberals in the United States are the libertarians. Therefore European Liberalism = American Libertarianism (though some believe libertarianism is more radical).
Actually, Libertarians are so extremely liberal that they would almost scrap all forms of government, and keep only the minimum vital to maintain public order. European liberals, on the contrary, favour strong governments in matters of foreign politics or safety legislations (the EU especially likes that), and strong public intervention into health care and education. European liberals are liberal when it comes to the economy (free market, lower taxes and less restricive labour laws than the socialists) and social issues (abortion, soft drugs, gay rights, etc.).

It is understood in Europe that something should not be allowed if it is a danger to consumers or society. That is why even liberals have pushed for tough tobacco regulations in public places and restaurants, that thousands of dangerous chemicals have been banned EU-wide, and that gun control is so much stricter than in the USA.



However I disagree with Tony Blair being true liberals. Tony Blair is NOT a liberal on social issues. He afterall banned one of the least harmless drugs (soft or not) in the world: psilocybin mushrooms.

Blair is very liberal when it comes to the economy (as are British parties in general), but being "officially" a leftist (Labour Party), he is forcely less socially liberal than if he had been on the right (e.g. Liberal Democrat Party).

Barros Serrano
14-07-09, 15:07
Many libertarians in the USA claim that they are the true conservatives...

This confusion of terms is great. In the 1960's, "liberal" was a bad word among the left, it meant fake Democrats who were essentially sell-outs.

Now that there is no left...

To me all these terms cause confusion. Perhaps we should just call it left vs right, harkening back to the origin of those terms, in the days before the French Revolution. The right supports l'ancien régime, which today means corporate power, the rule of money. The left wants the people protected from capitalist excess.

This is complicated by entities such as the USSR who come along pronouncing themselves of the left, of the people, yet completely restrict individual rights. As did the Nazis...

So is left or right supportive of individual freedom? The right doesn't want government telling anyone what to do. The left doesn't want corporate power to infringe on personal liberties. So which of these is actually restricting our freedom? In the USA clearly it is corporate power. The government is often our protector... though a weak one. The government says you can't discriminate by race, religion, gender, etc. Corporations say they should not be regulated as to wages, working conditions, etc. The government attempts to moderate that tendency toward worker abuse.

I don't see any Golden Party leading us to Utopia any time soon. But given the realities of our situations, it is obvious that until the USA can find a way to benefit from "free enterprise" initiative without running roughshod over the workers (not to mention the Earth), the Democratic alternative is preferable. Look what runaway "conservativism" has brought us!

Conservatives in the USA seem to think that the EU is "communist" lol, and lacking in personal freedom. When I lived in Europe I did not feel any less free. That was in pre-EU days. As I age I wonder into which dumpster they'll throw me when I need serious medical attention, but don't have the money for it... I will die blaming conservatives for all of this... and I'm right.