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Culture

Liberalism vs. Conservatism: Which Is Actually More Compassionate?

By Lauren Chen·· 7 min read
Liberalism vs. Conservatism

Well, that depends. What feels compassionate on the surface might not yield compassionate results.

“Those Uncaring Conservatives”

Of all the things that people associate with the modern conservative movement, compassion usually isn’t one of them. And in fact, if you’ve ever espoused conservative views toward economics, immigration, or healthcare, there’s a good chance you’ll have been called cold or heartless. As a conservative myself, the “uncaring conservative” is a stereotype that’s always bothered me. I want everyone to have a happy and successful life, and I believe that conservative policies are the most likely to make that happen for the largest number of people. I’m not a conservative because I don’t care about people; I’m a conservative because I do care about people.

I’m not a conservative because I don’t care about people; I’m a conservative because I do care about people.

But still, compared to the liberal, big-government approach that seeks to provide for everyone, the conservative push for self-reliance can indeed seem uncompassionate. After all, if conservatives really cared about people, wouldn’t they want the state to take care of those who can’t take care of themselves?

The Promise of Hypothetical Utopias

The idea that “It’s not the government’s job to take care of people” is one that many conservatives, myself included, have mentioned when in conversation with a more liberal friend or family member. And while, yes, I do believe that it isn’t the moral or practical role of government to take care of its citizens the way family members take care of each other, the more I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve realized this statement reinforces the (incorrect) idea that liberalism is simply the more empathetic ideology. This statement implies that it is entirely possible for the government to take care of us, but that conservatives simply don’t want it to.

In reality, though, history shows us that when full-scale Socialism is implemented with the goal of providing for every citizen from cradle to grave, hunger, and poverty, not prosperity, abound. Not only do conservatives not think it’s the government’s job to take care of us, but we also realize that the government just isn’t capable of taking care of us, even if we thought they should.

History shows us that when full-scale Socialism is implemented with the goal of providing for every citizen from cradle to grave, hunger and poverty, not prosperity, abound.

When speaking of policy or ideology, conservatives will usually acknowledge that yes, capitalism isn’t perfect, but it is the best solution we have. The left, conversely, offers people perfection, a utopia. Of course, utopias sadly aren’t possible, as the current humanitarian plight in Venezuela shows us. But given the choice between an imperfect reality and a hypothetical utopia, it’s understandable that the more optimistic among us could become enamored with the vision of what could be possible.

The People the Left Forgets To Care About

But hypotheticals aside, in terms of actual policy, when conservatism does actually offer a compassionate solution, it’s ironically ignored. The left likes to paint itself as having the monopoly on advocacy for disenfranchised or marginalized groups, but as it turns out, they are actually quite selective about which people they show compassion toward and will happily overlook the welfare of entire groups when politically convenient.

They are actually quite selective about which people they show compassion toward and will happily overlook the welfare of entire groups when politically convenient.

Immigration

For example, immigration is one of the political conversations where the conservative approach is most often painted as being cold or uncaring. The desire to implement any sort of skill requirement or to limit the number of people admitted is portrayed as wanting to turn away the world’s poor and hungry in order to satisfy some sense of greed, xenophobia, or perhaps even outright racism.

But ask a Conservative about why they hold their views toward immigration, and they’ll paint you a very different picture. When the left advocates for amnesty on behalf of illegal immigrants, it seems not much thought is given to the legal immigrant, who waits in line, goes through the strict vetting process, extensive paperwork, and pays the substantial fees associated with the U.S. immigration process. Surely the conservative approach, which favors the rule of law, is more compassionate toward those who have struggled and sacrificed to do things the legal way.

The conservative approach, which favors the rule of law, is more compassionate toward those who have struggled and sacrificed to do things the legal way.

And what about the people who are hurt by large-scale, low-skilled immigration? Do they not deserve any empathy? Although it’s not popular to discuss the economic impact of open-border policies, the truth is that large numbers of low-skilled workers from other countries hurt the most vulnerable members of the American economy by causing more competition for their jobs and increasing housing prices.

Gun Control

Additionally, the issue of firearms is another one that, based on rhetoric from the left, seems like an open and shut case. Numerous mass shootings have only been made possible because of the widespread availability of firearms for the country, so if people actually want to limit the number of deaths by firearms, it seems obvious that strict gun control would be the answer. In the eyes of many liberals, anyone who opposes must either be complicit, or even worse, supportive of the carnage that continues every day.

In the eyes of many liberals, anyone who opposes must either be complicit or even worse, supportive of the carnage that continues every day.

Yes, of course, everyone abhors mass shootings and any violent deaths, regardless of how they’re caused. But the arguments surrounding gun control never focus much on the need for self-defense or how many innocent lives are saved by firearms each year. If you speak to a conservative, you might hear of how gun-ownership was responsible for saving their lives or the lives of a loved one, or how a firearm might be a necessary security precaution and equalizer for a woman who might otherwise not stand a chance if assaulted. The right and need to defend yourself from an attacker is as much of a heart-wrenching issue as the horrible, condemnable acts of violence against innocents that are committed with guns, but unfortunately, we don’t hear about them as much.

Furthermore, the cities with the strictest gun control laws in the country have the highest rates of gun violence. For gun control to work, in theory, we would have to physically destroy every single one of the nearly 400 million civilian-owned guns in the U.S. This is realistically impossible. Any attempt would simply drive firearms into the black market, taking them away from law-abiding citizens and putting them into the hands of criminals. Harmful drugs like Cocaine and Heroin are illegal, yet criminals still find a way to mass-distribute them in all 50 states.

The cities with the strictest gun control laws in the country have the highest rates of gun violence.

Bleeding-Heart Conservatism?

The desire to help our fellow man is an admirable one, and despite what you might hear, not a trait exclusive to the left. The number of conservatives who concede that liberal positions are more compassionate is surprising. It's one sign that we need to analyze our own positions critically.

The number of conservatives who concede that liberal positions are more compassionate is surprising.

If we believe, and the data supports, that conservative positions maximize economic growth, prosperity, and liberty, then what could be more compassionate than supporting them? The issue with more liberal policies is that sure, they may make people feel good - like they’re being charitable at the moment - but ultimately, they do little to actually help those in need, especially in the long-term. The compassionate case for conservatism exists, we simply need to become better at communicating it.

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