Since “liberal” and “conservative” are defined differently, let’s define them for this discussion.
Liberals believe in government action to achieve equal opportunity and equality for all. It is the duty of the government to alleviate social ills and to protect civil liberties and individual and human rights. Believe the role of the government should be to guarantee that no one is in need. Liberal policies generally emphasize the need for the government to solve problems. The government itself defines social ills, civil liberties and human rights and those definitions are not based on traditional Judeo-Christian Torah-based guidance.
Conservatives believe in personal responsibility, limited government, free markets, individual liberty, traditional Judeo-Christian values and a strong national defense. Believe the role of government should be to provide people the freedom necessary to pursue their own goals. Conservative policies generally emphasize empowerment of the individual and his/her communities to establish their own spiritual and social order – this idea was a driving force of the Jewish Exodus from Pharaoh’s Egypt.
The Jewish nation was born after the Jewish Exodus from Pharaoh’s Egypt when Moses and Joshua brought the Twelve Tribes into the Promised Land. Moses and Joshua didn’t try to organize a central (federal) government in charge of providing equal opportunity and equality for all Twelve Tribes. All Twelve Tribes were responsible for managing their own life individually without higher “federal” authority intertwining in their internal affairs. Moses and Joshua safeguarded only the spiritual foundation of the Jewish nation, based on the recently received Torah from God on Mount Sinai, within yet clearly undefined borders of the new nation. About ten percent of tribal wealth was collected for maintaining “spiritual foundation” – the rest of the wealth was managed by each tribe locally to create economic wealth for a tribe. The wealth was used for providing Torah-based justice.
Clearly the Jewish nation was born as conservative rejecting the role of a strong central (federal) government in providing “equal opportunity and equality for all”. This rejection was in the line with the Ten Commandments: Thou Shalt Have No Gods Before Me and Thou Shalt Not Covet.Those two commandments guarded the Jewish nation from creating a powerful central (federal) government that in essence would be a human government-god, and from craving for a part of wealth of a neighboring tribe or family and creating a powerful government for wealth redistribution.
However, in the course of Jewish history all that began to change, and the change was forced by the life in exile. The Jews in exile began to support the power of a central government and to willingly pay “federal” taxes. It is described for example by Dr. Meir Tamari at http://www.torah.org/learning/business-ethics/shemos.html :
“Din HaMelekh- The Law of the king. Halakhically it was decided that everything that Samuel told the people when they asked for a king, the king has the right to do. There (1 Samuel, chapter 8:11-17) the text concerns itself primarily with taxation, either of goods, land and money, or of labor. Harav A.Y. Kook (Mishpat Cohen, section148 ) and Harav Ovadiah Yosef (Yachve Daat, part 5, section 63 ) have ruled that the parliamentary bodies in Israel inherit this right of the king. By virtue of the ruling of Shmuel (Sanhedrin 20a ), this was paralleled by the concept of dina demalkhuta dina so that non-Jewish kings had a similar right.“By and large, it is recognized that since the authorities, both Jewish and non-Jewish, have social obligations and are required to provide infrastructure, defense and other services decided upon by the authorities, they also have the right to tax the citizens in order to fund these obligations. The moral basis for this right to tax, flows from two sources:
Hilkhot Shecheinim- The Law of Neighbours. The citizens of a town are considered to have the same rights as the common rights of neighbors. Thereby, they may force each other to pay for the public costs. (Baba Bathrah, chapter1, mishnah 5; Rama , Choshen Mishpat, section176, subsection 25). hulkhan Arukh.”
The most important in this piece is the following: “Halakhically it was decided that everything that Samuel told the people when they asked for a king, the king has the right to do.” It was the beginning of shifting power from “we the people under God” as proclaimed by the Torah to “we the people under King” (the King being a human god) as was in the pagan tradition.
This power shift was justified in the exile where local kings’ protection was a must for Jewish survival in the ocean of local pogroms. The Jews paid a tax demanded by local kings (protection money) and local kings protected the flow of Jewish money to them by protecting Jewish communities. It has not worked everywhere and not always but nevertheless it worked. In the exile, the Jews had no other option but to exchange the freedom for the life – to depend on the king-government thus to be “liberal” in its classical definition.
These days most of the Jews live in two countries – the USA and Israel – where the power was shifted back from “we the people under King-god” to “we the people under God” thus providing the opportunity to regain a Torah-inspired conservative mind-set. But that has not happened yet – the Jewish majority in both countries is still liberal strengthening the all-mighty government and its taxation system, and asking the government to take care of almost everything. Why?
Here is my own opinion on why.
It is much easier to be a Jewish liberal and supporting the government of a country you live in. You support the government and the government protects you. You are not responsible for all hardships – the government is responsible.
As a liberal, you become a servant of the government and you strengthen an existing government-imposed system whatever it is. As a liberal, you are not fulfilling your Jewish mission of the Chosen – the mission that directs you to support and strengthen not whatever it is but what the Torah guides you in creating a better world for everybody.
It is much harder to be a Jewish conservative since as a conservative you are supposed not to strengthen the power of the government but to make it weaker to provide more freedom to “we the people under God” as was during the times when the Jewish nation was born. It is much harder to be a conservative since you are personally responsible for all hardships – not the government.
We have to get back to the Torah guidance on the mission of the Chosen and become more conservative – hopefully with the help of rabbis.