The Difference Between Conservatives & Authoritarians


What are the differences between Conservatives and Authoritarians?

The primary difference between authoritarians and conservatives lies in their divergent views on the importance of tradition and the nature of change. Authoritarians are committed to the concentration of political power in both the personal and economic spheres of life. While conservatives can have some authoritarian leanings in reining in excesses of personal freedom, this tendency lies mostly with their desire to protect certain traditions and moralities that they see as prosocial. By contrast, authoritarians generally think of concentrated power as the source of morality, so are not as concerned with protecting traditional values. Indeed, authoritarians are the type that is most keen to use state violence to bring about their conception of the good--even if that involved rapid change that might make a conservative skeptical.

How are Conservatives and Authoritarians similar?

Overlaps between authoritarians and conservatives usually present themselves along the dimension of personal freedoms, where both types express a willingness to curtail certain kinds of behaviors using force, which they believe will result in some overall good.

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More About Conservatives

Conservatives score higher on economic freedom but lower on personal freedom. For example, conservatives generally support honest entrepreneurship and free enterprise but think that too much personal freedom breeds widespread immorality. Conservatives thus worry that excesses in personal freedom can lead to cultural or civilizational decline.

More About Authoritarians

Authoritarians generally score low on both economic freedom and personal freedom. That means authoritarians are not only hostile to free enterprise, but they also believe authorities ought to regulate people’s personal behaviors to maintain social order. Authoritarians want the state to control more aspects of economic and personal life because they think such control is more likely to bring about an ideal society.

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