Liberals Are Optimists and Conservatives Are Pessimists

In the clash of competing ideas and notions about what is good, beautiful, and true, liberals and conservatives tend to take different approaches concerning the ability of man to make the world a better place.  Typically, liberals tend to have a far more optimistic view as to what they can accomplish, while conservatives tend to have more of a glass-half-empty attitude concerning public policy. To understand this incongruence in values, we have to explore the roots of liberalism and conservatism, specifically the tête-à-tête between Rousseau, the original liberal, and Edmund Burke, the first conservative. The fundamental premise of liberalism is the natural goodness of man, corrupted by society.  Rousseau believed that human beings were born benevolent, and evil in the world emanates from society.  As Rousseau wrote to Beaumont, archbishop of Paris (1762): "The fundamental principle of all morality ... is that man is a being...(Read Full Article)
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