In the pantheon of political positions, one of the most commonly misunderstood political stances is conservatism. At its core, this political philosophy simply focuses on the promotion of traditional social institutions. The reason for its placement as one of the most misunderstood philosophies is because of the variety of positions it encompasses. Historically, conservatism has long related to right-wing policies and politics. However, there is no single set of principles held within conservatism because it is based on what is considered traditional at any one particular place at any one particular time. What might be a core tenet of conservatism today could vary wildly from the core tenets of conservatism from half a century ago.
There are also a variety of specific forms conservatism can take. Liberal conservatism, for example, believes that people should be free to economically prosper without interference from the government. Fiscal conservatism focuses on a more pragmatic approach to government spending and the accumulation of government debt. National conservatism is largely a European concept, focusing on the national interests of one's own country and emphasizing the importance of ethnic and/or cultural identity. Cultural conservatism focus beyond the nation's boundaries, looking to unite people of a common cultural heritage even if they are geographically distinct from one another. Social conservatism differs slightly in that it believes the government needs to take an active role in reinforcing traditional behaviors and values. The role the government plays in the lives of its people can vary wildly within the realm of conservatism, further muddying the waters when it comes to understanding this complex political philosophy.