Fear and hope are not rational spheres. Humans do not fear rationally. We tend to fear flying in an airplane as apposed to driving. We tend to fear a terrorist attack more than eating fatty foods or smoking. Statistics rationally informs us that the latter in both examples is far more likely to kill us, no matter, we fear the former far greater. Fear also tracks with age. The older you get, the more chances you have had to get burned and the more material possession you stand to lose. It makes sense that many people become more conservative as they age; it is likely the prudent path provided they are living in a relatively stable environment. Fear has political and ethical consequences which we will discuss shortly.
Humans do not hope rationally either. The founder of the X-prize realizes this. By placing large monetary rewards for some hard to achieve technical goal, he is able to inspire an exponential amount of private and corporate investment into a host of different technologies. The odds of any one person winning the price is low, but people risk their personal fortunes, and sacrifice their person lives, and in rare cases their lives to pursue their ideas for the possibility of wining the X-prize. If the X-prize founder were to place the same amount of money into one concept, it would likely not be successful and he would certainly not generate a fraction of the innovation that comes out of the X-price. This prize uses the tremendous hope of inventors and investors to create an atmosphere that allows for failure, and therefore advancement. In this environment, having large amounts of failure is acceptable. In other arenas, where stability is a paramount concern, we tend to be more conservative.
There is a balance between stability and advancement. Advancement requires the ability to fail. If you are unwilling to try new things for fear of failure, you will not learn or create anything new. That being said, being completely unconstrained; having an extremely liberated mind, can lead you to a place of great instability and while the highs may be great, the lows maybe fatal. Therefore Liberal and Conservative thought acts like a car’s strut. A strut consists of a spring and a viscous dampener connected together. The spring can react quickly to changes in the road, absorbing bumps and keeping the car moving forward in the right direction. Viscous dampeners absorb some of the rebound energy of the spring, to prevent the car from oscillating from the rebound of the spring, providing stability to the car’s suspension system.
From a political perspective, you will often hear people talk about the country as generally being “center, right.” That is likely an accurate assessment almost anywhere in the world. From a “willingness to change” perspective, large social structures are designed for stability, so most people who like these structures tend to be reluctant to change them. It is only when these structures start to fail that “radical” movements call for drastic change to the structure of the organization; which can occur on either side of the political perspective.
Most normal political debate revolves around social issues, distribution of wealth, and foreign policy. The debates are not so much an issue of a willingness to change the structure of the organization, more on how best to deal spending and allocating the governments money to best serve the people/nation. Political affiliations tend to tack closely to the five foundations of morality, as Haidt’s studies prove (regardless of the country).