Skip to main content
Unpublished Paper
The Critical Difference between Republicans/Conservatives and Democrats/Liberals
  • PHILIP E GRAVES, University of Colorado at Boulder
There are, of course, a great many specific differences between the political positions of the two dominant political parties in America. After an introductory section characterizing those, section two suggests that the demarcation of critical importance between the parties relates to how they view the income distribution. Those self-identifying as Republican/Conservative tend to view the income distribution as an artifact of a host of individual work/leisure decisions with little policy relevance; those characterizing themselves as Democrat/Liberal tend to view the income distribution as a pure public good—in this view, private sector outcomes are expected to provide a non-optimally small amount of equality with the implication that public sector intervention can improve aggregate welfare. In concluding discussion, it is argued that relatively few individuals adhere to the “strong form” of this distinction, but rather individuals fall along a continuum which leaves them somewhat uncomfortable with their chosen political party. This implies that the polarization apparent in Congress and in interactions between the Executive and Legislative branches is a “party problem” not a problem with the broader American public. It is argued that the more moderate views of the policy relevance of the income distribution are partly contributing to the rapid growth in registered independents.
  • Political philosophy,
  • major political parties,
  • political polarization,
  • income distribution,
  • equality,
  • public goods
Publication Date
Citation Information
PHILIP E GRAVES. "The Critical Difference between Republicans/Conservatives and Democrats/Liberals" (2014)
Available at: