A socialist and a conservative are two different people influenced by diverse philosophies. As two distinctive philosophies, socialism and conservatism tend to propagate unique things.
What is a Socialist?
A socialist is a person nurtured by the philosophy of socialism and adheres to all its principles. Socialism is defined as a “political and economic theory of social organization which advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole” [Source].
Socialists believe in a fierce clash between the workers and the capitalist system. Marxist view such friction between the working force and the capitalists will not last long since the workers will eventually rebel against capitalists and take over the system. When this happens, Marxists believe that society will progress to a socialist state where everyone is treated equally, and there are no social classes.
A socialist community also pins all hopes on a state or government which has authority to control means of production and distribution rights. The government is chosen through democratic processes and is tasked to look after the masses. Everyone is mandated to contribute to the economy. People get returns based on what they would have contributed.
What is a Conservative?
A conservative is a person who conforms to traditional ways instead of modern things. Conservatism entails “an aesthetic, cultural, social, and political philosophy, which seeks to promote and preserve traditional social institutions” [Source].
Michael Oakeshott explains being conservative by saying it is “to prefer the familiar to the unknown, to prefer the tried to the untried, fact to mystery, the actual to the possible, the limited to the unbounded, the near to the distant, the sufficient to the superabundant, the convenient to the perfect, present laughter to utopian bliss.”
Principles of conservatism include having a limited government, the rule of law, individual freedom, peace through strength, fiscal responsibility, free markets, and human dignity [Source].
Difference between Socialist and Conservative
Socialists argue for society to be controlled by a big government and “total dependence by individuals on the whims of non-elected so-called elites” [Source], but conservatives “seek to keep the government caged within the Constitution but lets the individual find his level within the law.”
Socialists follow socialism which is the “idea that the means of production belong to the people, is generally opposed to the hierarchy (yet always depends on the hierarchy to function in any meaningful way), generally a system wherein power is derived from the collective, places a lot of value on group-based justice.”
And conservatives adhere to conservatism which is the “idea that there is such a thing as an objective authority, believes in some hierarchy, believes in law and order but also believes that the law should be just law designed to protect people’s freedom and safety, places value on individualism and individual justice, has a strong respect for the concept of private property” [Source].
A conservative is about freedom, justice, and authority, but socialists are more focused on equality in society and the authority of central planners, which usually belong to an established state. When it comes to a hierarchy structure, conservatives believe that such a hierarchy will be created naturally through human activities, while socialists are against any form of hierarchy but accept an established government’s higher status.
Another major difference is that socialists value the collective community over individual growth, and conservatives prioritize personal success over society.
It is noted that “a conservative in a socialist country would want to preserve the socialist system, and someone who wants to bring capitalism to a socialist country would be radical.” Conservatism maintains the status quo and is against rapid change.
Others argue that socialism is concerned with economies such as the distribution of wealth, ownership of property and means of production, public good, and services, while conservatism is mainly centered on social attitudes. According to a conservative, an ideal society existed in the past, so they are skeptical of modern changes that appear alien to humanity. Because of this, they are blamed for being regressive and stopping society from progressing into the future, which is why conservatism is the opposite of progressivism.