Conservative political parties vary widely from country to country in the goals they wish to achieve. Both conservative and liberal parties tend to favor private ownership of property, in opposition to communist, socialist and green parties, which favor communal ownership or laws requiring social responsibility on the part of property owners. Where conservatives and liberals differ is primarily on social issues. Conservatives tend to reject behavior that does not conform to some social norm. Modern conservative parties often define themselves by their opposition to liberal or labor parties. The United States usage of the term conservative is unique to that country.
According to Alan Ware, Belgium, Denmark, Iceland, Finland, France, Greece, Iceland, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK retained viable conservative parties into the 1980s. Ware said that Australia, Germany, Israel, Italy, Japan, Malta, New Zealand, Spain and the US had no conservative parties, although they had either Christian Democrats or liberals as major right-wing parties. Canada, Ireland, and Portugal had right-wing political parties that defied categorization: the Progressive Conservative Party of Canada; Fianna Fil, Fine Gael, and Progressive Democrats in Ireland; and the Social Democratic Party of Portugal. Since then, the Swiss People's Party has moved to the extreme right and is no longer considered to be conservative.
Klaus von Beyme, who developed the method of party categorization, found that no modern Eastern European parties could be considered conservative, although the communist and communist-successor parties had strong similarities.
In Italy, which was united by liberals and radicals (risorgimento), liberals not conservatives emerged as the party of the Right. In the Netherlands, conservatives merged into a new Christian democratic party in 1980. In Austria, Germany, Portugal and Spain, conservatism was transformed into and incorporated into fascism or the far right. In 1940, all Japanese parties were merged into a single fascist party. Following the war, Japanese conservatives briefly returned to politics but were largely purged from public office.
Louis Hartz explained the absence of conservatism in Australia or the United States as a result of their settlement as radical or liberal fragments of Great Britain. Although he said English Canada had a negligible conservative influence, subsequent writers claimed that loyalists opposed to the American Revolution brought a Tory ideology into Canada. Hartz explained conservatism in Quebec and Latin America as a result of their settlement as feudal societies. The American conservative writer Russell Kirk provided the opinion that conservatism had been brought to the US and interpreted the American revolution as a "conservative revolution".
Conservative elites have long dominated Latin American nations. Mostly this has been achieved through control of and support for civil institutions, the church and the armed forces, rather than through party politics. Typically the church was exempt from taxes and its employees immune from civil prosecution. Where national conservative parties were weak or non-existent, conservatives were more likely to rely on military dictatorship as a preferred form of government. However, in some nations where the elites were able to mobilize popular support for conservative parties, longer periods of political stability were achieved. Chile, Colombia and Venezuela are examples of nations that developed strong conservative parties. Argentina, Brazil, El Salvador and Peru are examples of nations where this did not occur. The Conservative Party of Venezuela disappeared following the Federal Wars of 18581863. Chile's conservative party, the National Party disbanded in 1973 following a military coup and did not re-emerge as a political force following the subsequent return to democracy.