Ambrose Bierce may have been writing many years ago, but I think that when he defined “conservative,” he was onto something — especially the difference between liberals and conservatives.

Conservative, n: A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal who wishes to replace them with others.

And if you liked Bierce, you might this classic dissection (by a Bierce fan) of what amounts to a tiny hair of a difference between the respective Republican and Democrat positions on the Drug War:

Making a distinction between Republicans and Democrats with regard to the WOD is difficult for several reasons that are fundamental to what government is all about. I list a few:

  • The WOD allowed that time-honored tradition of governments — the seizure of private property — to be re-instated (amazingly, with citizen approval!). History tells us that in ancient times, governments satisfied their desire for accumulating wealth by simple and honest plunder and property seizure. As governments got smarter, they organized the theft, provided a stable environment for its culture and labeled it “taxation” (See Mancur Olson’s essay, “Dictatorship, Democracy, and Development”, American Political Science Review, Sept. 1993). I quote Olson (discussing the successful evolution of Chinese warlords): “The warlords had no claim to legitimacy and their thefts were distinguished from those of roving bandits only because they took the form of continuing taxation rather than occasional plunder.” (In these modern times, the plunder sometimes has even more sophisticated titles such as “surcharge” as used by the recently imposed fee on anyone who has more than one telephone line.)
  • The WOD allows the meddling in the affairs of small defenseless countries at will.
  • The WOD provides another great opportunity to collect and spend great quantities of taxpayer’s hard earned cash without any serious opposition. The reason for this is that the Drug problem is very close to being a natural disaster — which governments love as they can spend freely without complaints.
  • He then lists a few “small but helpful differences”:

    The Democrats, as well as the Republicans, support the WOD, if for no other reason, because to do otherwise would result in the loss of votes. However, Democrats also support the concept as it allows the U.S. to act as the world policeman. Socialism is never going to work without one-world government.

    And,

    The Republicans love the WOD because it allows us to build up the military, throw a lot of people in jail that don’t come around to the prescribed religious/moral values, and is very profitable.

    Despite all my ranting (and despite my being pissed off at the right), I would be less than fair if I did not point out that in general, the left remains far worse than the right. The right wants to preserve the Constitution and believes in limited government. The left just believes in power without restraint, and unlimited government. These are major issues, and it is a huge philosophical split. So while there isn’t much of a difference between the two parties on issues such as the War on Drugs, where it comes to basic philosophies, there still is.

    OTOH, the more the GOP becomes like the Democrats on big government, the less inclined I will be to defend them.

    (And if the question were really forced upon me, I would have to admit that I do prefer old familiar, pre-1914 evils days to new unfamiliar ones….)