The terms "Conservative" and "Liberal", as labels, have been mainstays of the political scene for centuries. They are both worn as badges of honor and used as curse words towards persons of the opposite bent; but what, exactly, do these words mean?
It is necessary when discussing these political social labels to be somewhat generic. Not all parts of the descriptions would fit each and every liberal or conservative.
Conservative, from the root verb "to conserve", means to resist change, to keep or maintain.
In political jargon this speaks directly to a position of those preferring the status quo, which is always the most popular stance of those who rule at the top of the financial and political strata. Much like any ruling class or ; they rarely feel inclined to voluntarily relinquish their control and positions of favour to create a more equal playing field for their fellow citizens.
They seek "old values" whether they are a positive or negative force in society; not so much because they are valued, but because they are the values that allowed them and their ancestors to reach their positions and are factors that demonstrate their success.
As an example, the Continental Congress, of the about to be declared United States of America, debated whether slaves should be covered under their Declaration of Independence. The abolitionists (those in favour of abolishing slavery) had to concede that there could be no successful rebellion without support of the Southern conservative states who would not be willing to to vote for independence if it meant losing their right to own slaves.
And so, for fifteen different presidents and about ninety years, slavery in the states continued.
Liberal, from the root verb "liberate", means to loosen or set free. To be Liberal in character implies generosity, or giving freely. More specifically, from a political perspective, it means "appropriate for a person of free birth".
The term indicates persons not limited by established, traditional, orthodox, or authoritarian attitudes, views, or dogmas; free from bigotry; open to new ideas for progress, tolerant of the ideas and behavior of others; broad-minded.
In political speak, the two viewpoints have quite different definitions for themselves and their proclaimed opponents.
Conservatives use the term "Liberal" in referring to an individual to infer that the person is weak, soft, bleeding-heart; that the person does not favour secure borders and strong defense.
Their assumption is that tolerance is a sign of weak moral character (harking back to the more archaic definition which linked "taking liberties" with licentious behaviour). They refuse to allow people to make their own moral decisions when they can be legislated because their decisions would not be controlled, another definition of conserve. They infer that liberals want to take all from the elite and distribute it to the masses which frightens those with money and/or power.
Liberals use the term "Conservative" in referring to an individual who is bent on war and strife as a method of controlling the populace, who have values too archaic to fit in modern times, who would rather spend money on missile systems than give food to the hungry.
Their assumption is that too much government control is tantamount to slavery, but that allowing the wealthy to remain wealthy is a thinly veiled class bigotry. They infer that the rich and powerful want to subjugate the masses into their servitude and be allowed to treat them as humanely or inhumanely as their values see fit.
As often happens, the truth lies somewhere between the extremes. In a free society, no one can afford to be against strong borders and security. However, that still leaves a lot of room between the views of an armed-to-the-teeth hawk and a swords-into-plowshares dove.
There are those whose wealth is based on historic wrongs. Whether that wrong is as blatantly abusive as slavery with its total refusal to grant humanity, or merely oppressive like pre-union workshops where safety and health were seen as unnecessary extravagances.
These families know who they are and how the family fortunes were gained. Of course, they're disinclined to actually try to find a way to 'give it back' other than by acting as philanthropists to assuage their sense of family guilt. One could make a case for forcing reparations to victim families if such things had been properly tracked.
It is not possible to 'return' riches on an apples for oranges basis. It is unfathomable that a community of poor families that had been trodden upon would find a new opera house aporopriate recompense, especially when it only advantages and aggrandizes the guilt ridden parties and their equals.
Other than those 'robber baron' families, most modern fortunes have been made through less reprehensible means. But, does that mean that they do not owe society for their success? If they do, shouldn't it be up to them to decide how to give back to their community if at all.
A Conservative might say they have a right to keep all they've accumulated on the basis that they managed to accumulate it. A Liberal may even say that the law cannot demand that they give up vast fortunes, even on the whim of the majority. But, what is right, and what is wrong?
The problem isn't actually what is right and what is wrong. The problem is how does society survive to make a place where both Conservatives and Liberals get enough of what they want to co-exist. On the income scale it works out to class rivalry.
It is actually quite natural and normal for the richer to get richer and the poorer to get poorer. These economic roles can be found in every "primitive" as well as "advanced" civilization. But it has a danger. Civilizations, largely portrayed now by governments, don't always survive..
The civilizations that are able to survive do so because they have effective distribution of wealth systems. Those that do not survive often fall because the ruling class removes these key systems to their own detriment.
History is replete with examples from Ancient Rome to King Louis XVI and beyond. This dilemma has been studied extensively in more minute scale on islands, in remote forest regions, and even among the Inuit. Ruling classes that continuously take and take from their constituency, without allowing for redistributing large portions of the takings, are doomed to be overthrown when the tipping point has been broached.
It works much like the balancing mechanisms of nature in a closed community. If you feed and grown too much on the available food supply, eventually you run out of enough food to feed everyone. Populations drop from hunger or violence until it falls below the ability of the area to support it.
There has not been a society on the planet that has survived when fight begins to look more acceptable than subjegation.