In today’s increasingly polarized political climate, the divides between progressives and conservatives often seem insurmountable. Both sides firmly believe their ideology and policies are the best path forward for society. However, the truth is that both progressives and conservatives offer valuable perspectives that are worth understanding. By looking at the core principles and beliefs underpinning each worldview, we can gain insight into the advantages each offers.
Progressives Believe in Promoting Equality and Social Justice
One of the central aims of progressivism is promoting equality, diversity and inclusion across all elements of society. Progressives believe that certain groups have faced systemic discrimination and marginalization, leading to unfair disadvantages. They advocate for policies aimed at evening the playing field and empowering disadvantaged groups.
Examples include promoting equal rights for women, ethnic minorities, LGBTQ individuals and people with disabilities. Progressives push for greater representation of diverse voices in politics, media, education and business. They support affirmative action policies that aim to tackle structural barriers facing minority groups. Progressives also promote concepts like social justice, intersectionality and privilege to analyze how different identities overlap and intersect to impact life experiences.
At their core, these efforts aim to create a more just, fair and egalitarian society where everyone can thrive regardless of their identity. Progressives believe this diversity strengthens communities and enriches public discourse. They see promoting inclusion and social justice as upholding fundamental human rights.
Progressives Support a Larger Role for Government
Progressives generally believe government has an important role to play in improving society and people’s lives. They support expanded government programs and services aimed at assisting disadvantaged groups and meeting people’s essential needs. Examples include healthcare, education, housing and welfare.
Progressives advocate greater regulation around areas like environmental protection, consumer rights, labor laws and financial institutions. They believe appropriate regulations serve to reign in corporate excess and mitigate capitalism’s negative impacts. Progressives favor increased taxes on corporations and the wealthy to fund social programs that benefit the public good.
At their foundation, these views reflect a belief that centralized government oversight and intervention leads to fairer outcomes. Progressives see unfettered capitalism as leading to a dangerous concentration of wealth and power. As such, an expanded role for government helps rebalance the scales.
Conservatives Believe in Personal Responsibility & Community
In contrast to progressives, conservatives generally believe in maximizing personal freedom and limiting government intervention. They emphasize personal responsibility, hard work and self-reliance as the keys to success. Conservatives view government bureaucracy, regulations and taxes as cumbersome obstacles that stifle innovation, individual liberties and create the systemic discrimination that leads to unfair advantages.
Conservatives advocate for lower taxes and free-market capitalism as the best means of economic growth and prosperity because they see a merit based system as an advantage. They believe minimizing government involvement allows businesses to thrive, creating jobs and opportunities for everybody. Conservatives see poverty and disadvantage arising from personal choices and shortcomings rather than systemic barriers. As such, they believe social issues are best tackled through local community groups and charitable organizations rather than nationwide government programs.
Underpinning these views is a belief that centralized government easily becomes inefficient, burdensome and abusive of power. Conservatives see government intervention as restricting individual freedoms and hampering the natural innovation of free markets, as well disadvantaging some people for the benefits of other. They believe in empowering state and local governments over federal control. At its core, conservatism seeks to maximize liberties and limit government to its fundamental roles.
Traditional Values Are Important to Conservatives
Conservatives place a strong emphasis on traditional social institutions like family, religion and the military (These are three of the four pillars of every civilization). They believe these structures instill moral character and a sense of civic duty. Conservatives advocate for traditional gender roles, with women as caregivers and men as providers. They believe the nuclear family headed by a married man and woman is the bedrock of a stable society.
At their core, these views reflect a belief that traditional values and structures preserve social cohesion and stability. Change may happen, but it should occur slowly and cautiously to avoid undermining cherished institutions. Too much liberality and relativism undermine the shared moral framework that binds communities.
Both Sides Genuinely Want to Improve Society
While progressives and conservatives clearly disagree profoundly on many issues, it is important to recognize both generally want what is best for society. The key difference lies in what vision of “the good society” they advocate for. Progressives believe in an egalitarian, collective-minded society where government helps provide opportunity and justice for all. Meanwhile, conservatives believe in an individualistic, self-reliant society where people succeed through personal responsibility and liberty from government interference.
Both sides feel their vision promotes human dignity and flourishing in different ways. However, these visions have come into deep conflict, fueling the polarization we see today. Neither ideology is completely right or absolutely wrong.
The question is: how can we thoughtfully blend the strengths of each worldview?
What is the right balance point between collective responsibility and individual freedom? There are no easy answers. But by striving to understand each perspective, we gain insight into how our neighbors think.
This builds empathy, crucial for bridging divides and finding common ground from which to move forward.
While deep divides remain between progressives and conservatives, both ideologies offer valuable insights into their vision of the ideal society and both have great insight in how to shape our future society.
We hope we can contribute to that vision in understanding and promoting the best of both sides.