It seems to me that liberals and conservatives are not all that different. They agree, in principle, on many core issues. But they seem to disagree on how those principles should play out in practical life.
What I mean is that among the issues that tend to define someone as liberal or conservative—such as perceptions about greed, the role of government, individual freedom and responsibility, and helping the poor—they seem to agree. Yet, at a glance, they only appear to differ in degree, not substantive, when it comes to these core issues.
- Each agrees that greed is wrong. But liberals define greed as the desire to make large profits. Conservatives define greed as the desire to find security in wealth. In other words, you don't have to be rich to be greedy.
- They both agree that the role of government should be limited. However, they differ on the amount and kind of limits government should occupy. For instance, liberals believe that government should not take all of a person's income, but as much as possible to achieve equality (in wealth) and justice (for the poor). Conservatives believe that government has no right to confiscate a person's income at all—except whatever needs to be given for the government to able to enforce the law.
- They would both agree that individual freedoms should be protected. The problem is that freedom brings responsibilities. Liberals define those freedoms as being able to do whatever one feels is right, and not being told otherwise. However, they also believe we have a responsibility to respect the freedoms and rights of other people. Conservatives believe that freedom is the right to not be controlled by government fiat, our a minority of people. Yet they want government to curtail any encroachments upon individual freedoms by those who do not respect that.
- Both groups see helping the poor as a social good. The problem is that liberals define helping the poor as a government mandate of redistributing wealth. Conservatives see it as an extension of individual freedom and responsibility. In other words, some people are free to fail or succeed financially. However, those who do well are to offer help to those who do not do well as an act of freewill kindness, not a government responsibility.
Each group answers that central question differently. As a whole, liberals say that human decision-making is not dependent on some mystical or ancient reality called Truth outside ourselves, but on practical outcomes. "Whatever works is right." Solving immediate concerns is more important than the possible impact of antiquated beliefs or historical lessons.
On the other hand, most conservatives disagree with this approach. They think, "Whatever works may not always be right." They favor the idea that there are proven values and truths that have existed for a very long time that will have an impact on our decisions whether we believe in them or not. Therefore, they must be preserved (or conserved) as foundational when making any decisions.
This fundamental difference is what causes conflict. Not the issues themselves.