As a libertarian, I would like to add that while yes personal liberty is the priority, there are two important points to that. First, personal liberty means personal liberty for all. Your freedom does not get to walk on someone else's, you have to understand that everyone is afforded the same liberty under the Constitution and they are allowed, and entitled to choose and decide for themselves.
Secondly, most "pure" or "true" libertarians will tell you tell that personal accountability is the price of liberty and freedom. You are held completely accountable for your choices and there will be no government waiting to bail you out. Each and every one of us has the ability to make good decisions, and we all certainly make bad ones at times, I certainly have. However, the consequence and responsibility for those poor choices falls entirely on you.
To have a true free society as laid out in the Constitution, to have true liberty means that you do have power. When the government goes rogue (maybe a extreme, but I don't have a better term off the top of my head), when they no longer serve the best interests of the people, the people must take their freedom back. Freedom is never easy, and it is never free.But if people want a government to hold their hand and they want a Keynesian economic system keeping hem deeper and deeper in debt, then personal liberty is one more sacrifice they have to make. Either you fight to keep your freedom or you fight to take it back, there is no room for complacency.
The original Conservatives were European royalists. The original Liberals stood for property rights for all, not just for those who commanded armies. I think I have read the word Liberal used that way in the South American press, talking about topics we would label Conservative under the label Economic Liberalism.
There is a Libertarian Party to define that word.
I think modern American Conservatives tend to be Authoritarians rather than Conservatives. I have tried that on a couple of them and heard back, "Authority, damn straight." Thing is, they are closer to their royalist roots now than are my Atheist Conservative friends, who tend to think about stuff.
Let's see...diet control, internet content control, unconstitutional expenditure of the treasury, political correctness (see First Amendment control), control of which businesses can expand and how (see Boeing, Carolina or Gibson guitars), gun control violating the Second Amendment, proposed black lists of successful and profit making Americans (Zbignew Brzezinski, you know, Mika's daddy), forced health care provisions costing trillions we do not have slowly implemented in a bill unread and not understood, government mandated mortgage policies for the "poor" which destroyed the economy...
Which side is authoritarian again? Go ahead, keep watching MSNBC.
And here we are 7 months later with Obama wielding a 'kill list' and the NDAA with an indefinite detention clause for American citizens. Yea, I'm so glad the liberals got it right.
Get the blinders off, they are all one in the same.
Both liberals and conservatives are authoritarian, our government is authoritarian period now. Get out of this mindset of blaming one or the other of the major parties, they're both to blame and neither will get us anywhere but deeper in a hole of debt, debt of both currency and of freedom.
Who knows any more? The definitions of the words have been twisted so often by different groups intent on furthering their own agendas, that calling anyone any of them tells you almost nothing. I can't think of one single thing that "all" liberals agree on, or that "all" conservatives agree on. And libertarians are even harder to define.
So what each of these terms means is up to each person to decide for themselves. If you want exact definitions, stick to mathematics.
I mostly agree with Edward's definition of conservtive, but would add that they often defer to tradition vs. original thought. And would amend his defintion of libertarianism (which I mostly am) to being one who wants to live as free as possible as long as it doesn't harm others (don't fart in elevators, or burn tires close to people's houses, or dump sewage in streams..). And a liberal is a ninny weakling who usually wants to take from the strongger and/or better prepared/beter planned person to give to the weaker/less responsible. I am glad this group is here, but I am not Conservative. But I am more Conservative-leaning than liberal-leaning.
I must add: I am a low-level, undereducated, unskilled worker...surrounded by liberal-minded employees and often liberal bosses. Hard work and planning is taken advantage of in these types of jobs. I am often told to work more as a team player (when I comment on not wanting to do everything by myself).
My bosses and co-workers are lazy and won't admit that if there is no I in TEAM, then I (!@#$!!) don't have to do it all by myself self while others take phone/smoke breaks and chat all of the time! The whole work force seems to have turned socialist.
I fear you and I will often clash here. Unless you mean time-tested, proven ideas (traditional) versus new, unproven and potentially unsound ideas (original thought).
There is nothing unoriginal about defending the US Constitution. In fact, it seems to require more original time, thought and effort than ever.
Theist conservatives of the past often accepted Theocentric Humanist (divine right of kings) governance. They now emerge as anti-constitutional evangelicals who seek some sort of Christian Republic in America.
Non-theist conservatives and libertarians are two apples from same orchard. The Anthropocentric Humanist view that humans are best suited to run their own affairs freely. This model offers free will and social contract with the least governmental compulsion.
Liberals are Messianic Humanists of a wide spectrum from forced human nature revolutionaries like Marx and Lenin to faux human moralists who insist we should feel good about being compelled, against our human nature, to redistribute wealth through social demand. In short, if you can't voluntarily change your nature, the government will make sure you do.