First, I believe the most succinct crystallization of the proper role of government can be found in the Wiccan Rede: "An' ye harm none, do what ye will." I'm a Christian by philosophy, upbringing, and culture, yet I've never seen my political beliefs stated better.
Also, don't get me wrong: If this were the 1960s, I would at least be aligned with the Goldwater conservatives. The modern neoconservative, however, I find as distasteful as the abuses of power and fiscal mismanagement that have also been, if not typical, then at least not atypical, of the American liberal movement in the past, most notably in the form of LBJ. Of course, this is in contrast with classic liberalism which is a completely different creature.
If you choose to pick my stances apart, I am extremely fiscally conservative. I believe the government should judiciously manage the hard-earned money every taxpayer entrusts them with, while doing their best to take as little of it as possible so as to do minimal harm to the economy.
However, it is my stance on the proper role of the military that my conservative credentials start to fall apart. I favor either a completely non-interventionist policy or a minimally-interventionist stance. The proper role of the military is to defend the United States. In some rare and very proscribed cases, such as stopping genocides such as what we see in Darfur and elsewhere around the globe, I would support the insertion of our troops, but only if there were a clear mission and if we had the resources to help. In such a case, however, I would much prefer other forms of humanitarian aid.
As for the government's intrusion into people's personal lives, frankly, I think Las Vegas is too conservative by half, and I even think The Netherlands could use a bit more liberalization in the classical sense, though at least they are almost there. What consenting adults do with their own bodies, as long as they harm no other, should not be subject to the government's intervention. However, I do support using intoxication as an aggravating circumstance in the consideration of other crimes, such as Lindsay Lohan's recent stunt. In her case, the possession and consumption of various substances should not be at issue directly. It's the fact that she endangered others and knew this was a risk of what she was doing. Had she done that at home and slept it off, that would have been an entirely different issue.
On immigration, as long as the immigrants are willing to assimilate to our culture and can function at some level in our society without becoming a burden, I say open the floodgates. We're all a nation of immigrants here. It's just that, for some of us, it happened so many generations ago that we've forgotten.
I'm also very irritated about this "left vs. right" thing. The terminology hasn't had any true relevance since Revolutionary France, when the terms were defined by the seating arrangements at their assemblies. In this White House, I've seen some telling elements of fascism, and this is not a term I use casually. Fascism is every bit as much anathema to a moderate conservative as socialism is to a moderate liberal.
I believe people should be kind and generous to one another, but the government has proven time and again that they are grossly inefficient at handling charity, and that, frankly, is the least of their problems.
So, if I'm not a conservative, what am I? For one, I'm an anti-federalist. The government works best that works closest to the people they serve. Therefore, I support vastly increased decentralization of government power. In the end, I love freedom, and a strong central government, as proven most recently by this administration, is anathema to such a goal. While I'm not entirely a pacifist, I'm very restrained in my support of uses of force, again almost exclusively for the purpose of self-defense. In short, I'm a minarchist, though one who's intelligent enough to know that if this is to work, an incrementalist approach is necessary, and we must clean up the messes of those who came before to avoid further damage to the country.
Finally, conservatives and liberals have hope that the government will right itself just on the brink of disaster. Based on the evidence, I believe the time for such action is now to rein in the spending and reform and/or eliminate programs, and I believe it's not going to begin to happen until it's already too late. Whenever someone calls me a conservative, I think at times they grossly overestimate my optimism. At my best, I'm a pragmatist, and at worst, I'm very much a pessimist.
Enjoy the music.