Conservatism in the United States is a political and social philosophy characterized by respect for American traditions , republicanism , limited government , support for Christian values ,  moral universalism ,  pro- business , opposition to trade unions , strong national defense , free trade ,  protectionism ,  anti-communism ,   rugged individualism ,  advocacy of American exceptionalism ,  and a defense of tradition  and Western culture from the perceived threats posed by communism , socialism , and moral relativism. As with all major American political parties, liberty is a core value. American conservatives generally consider individual liberty —within the bounds of American values—as the fundamental trait of democracy; this perspective contrasts with that of modern liberals , who generally place a greater value on equality and social justice and emphasize the need for state intervention to achieve these goals. Apart from some right-libertarians , they tend to favor strong action in areas they believe to be within government's legitimate jurisdiction, particularly national defense and law enforcement. Social conservatives , many of them religious, often oppose abortion , civil unions , and same-sex marriage i. They often favor Christian prayer in public schools and government funding for private Christian schools. Like most American political ideologies, conservatism originates from republicanism , which rejected aristocratic and monarchical government and upheld the principles of the United States Declaration of Independence "that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness" and the United States Constitution which established a federal republic under the rule of law. Conservative philosophy is also derived in part from the classical liberal tradition of the 18th and 19th centuries, which advocated for laissez-faire economics i. While historians such as Patrick Allitt and political theorists such as Russell Kirk assert that conservative principles have played a major role in American politics and culture since , they also argue that an organized conservative movement with beliefs that differ from those of other American political parties did not emerge in the United States until the s. The history of American conservatism has been marked by tensions and competing ideologies. Fiscal conservatives and libertarians favor small government , laissez-faire economy, low income and corporate taxes, limited regulation, and free enterprise. Social conservatives see traditional social values as threatened by secularism ; they tend to support prayer in public schools , oppose abortion , and object to both same-sex marriage and civil unions for same-sex couples. Neoconservatives want to expand what they see as American ideals throughout the world. Most, especially libertarians, support gun ownership rights, citing the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. The conservative movement of the s attempted to bring together these divergent strands, stressing the need for unity to prevent the spread of "godless communism. In the first issue of National Review , William F. Buckley Jr. Among our convictions: It is the job of centralized government in peacetime to protect its citizens' lives, liberty and property. All other activities of government tend to diminish freedom and hamper progress. The growth of government the dominant social feature of this century must be fought relentlessly. In this great social conflict of the era, we are, without reservations, on the libertarian side. The profound crisis of our era is, in essence, the conflict between the Social Engineers, who seek to adjust mankind to scientific utopias, and the disciples of Truth, who defend the organic moral order. We believe that truth is neither arrived at nor illuminated by monitoring election results, binding though these are for other purposes, but by other means, including a study of human experience. On this point we are, without reservations, on the conservative side. According to Peter Viereck , American conservatism is distinctive because it was not tied to a monarchy, landed aristocracy, established church, or military elite. They are committed, says Seymour Martin Lipset , to the belief in America's "superiority against the cold reactionary monarchical and more rigidly status-bound system of European society. In terms of governmental economic policies, American conservatives have been heavily influenced by the classical liberal or libertarian tradition as expressed by Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman and a major source of influence has been the Chicago school of economics. They have been strongly opposed to Keynesian economics. Traditional Burkean conservatives tend to be anti-ideological, and some would even say anti-philosophical,  promoting, as Russell Kirk explained, a steady flow of "prescription and prejudice". Kirk's use of the word "prejudice" here is not intended to carry its contemporary pejorative connotation: a conservative himself, he believed that the inherited wisdom of the ages may be a better guide than apparently rational individual judgment. There are two overlapping subgroups of social conservatives—the traditional and the religious. Traditional conservatives strongly support traditional codes of conduct, especially those they feel are threatened by social change and modernization. For example, traditional conservatives may oppose the use of female soldiers in combat.
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