and what they want

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It seems to be well established here in the U.S. that political conservatives can be separated into ‘small government conservatives’ and ‘values conservatives’. Emphasizing one does not negate the other, of course, but those categories do identify the primary motivation of people who actively participate on behalf of that side in politics.

No such distinction is generally made for political liberals. I have thought of one reason why that would be.

It is the case that conservatives are motivated by different primary concerns. All people in both groups would say that they seek the maximum liberty for all (consistent with morality), but they come to politics from different points and converge in seeking to achieve together their separate political goals.

For liberals, on the other hand, everything always starts with the value of human equality. That is what motivates liberals to get actively engaged in politics.

The point is that the two groups of conservatives start with different foci and converge, whereas liberals start at the same place then diverge in their foci. That could suggest one reason why conservatives have been more likely to be labeled as belonging to different groups within that camp — and perhaps why the liberal camp is always so fractious.

It must be noted that all political liberals and conservatives accept that both liberty and equality are necessary for a just society. For conservatives, though, equality is pretty much limited to equal claims on rights. Liberals, on the other hand, see ‘liberty for all’ as an empty slogan unless all people can enjoy a materially ‘decent’ life to be lived in liberty.

Still, some liberals are more narrowly focused on socioeconomic concerns whereas some are more focused on how people are treated in society more generally. The latter can be called ‘values liberals’.

Here is what values liberals want: for the outward differences and distinctions that exist among people to have — ideally — no effect on people’s lives. Those differences and distinctions include ‘race’ (i.e., color of skin), gender (and all issues related to it), and national origin. In a perfect world, physical incapacities could be added to the list. All of those differences and distinctions have had and still have significant effects on the lives of individuals. For values liberals, seeking to eliminate those effects is their primary purpose for being actively engaged in politics.

unaffiliated, non-ideological, unpaid, academically trained philosopher and political economist