First, I would like to premise by saying that the way we think is the result of thousands of years of debate, trial and error. We, as American conservatives, have still got a long hard fight ahead of us. The debates are far from over. And I’m sure the trials and errors are just beginning.
That justice is founded on the understanding that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” and that all just rights obtain their just character from this equal creation and endowment;
That as the arbitrary use of force is a departure from this principle, an internally-ordered right to liberty is an essential component of justice;
That when individuals unite to form a government, they do not surrender their rights, but instead grant their government the qualified permission to ascertain and keep the just boundaries of their liberty, which are to be defined by law, by their elected representatives, and in accordance with their constitution;
That in every government rests a sacred and immutable duty to secure and respect the rights of the governed, to guarantee equality before the law, and to preserve the rule of law….
That the right of individual liberty is naturally and internally ordered, as arbitrary coercion is a destroyer of liberty, not an expression of it;
That an individual has liberty if he is left undisturbed in the use of his God-given free will, but restrained from intruding on the equal liberty and genuine rights of others;
That beyond its proper role as a guardian of our rights, and regardless of its laudable objectives or humanitarian purposes, little of the work of government justifies its characteristic use of threats, commands, and forceful intrusions — and their use, when unjustified, is injustice;
That only criminals should ever be treated as such;
That tributes to the name of Liberty are empty platitudes unless others are left free to act, and also to refuse to act, even in ways that we find unpleasant, irresponsible, or immoral without being subject to threatened or actual force;
That, nevertheless, the success of a free society depends on the virtues willingly practiced by its people, and on their choices, as individuals, to assume control of their lives and to use their freedom responsibly;
That a person’s spiritual and moral development cannot be effectively or justly directed by governments, and that virtue cannot survive without liberty any more than liberty can flourish without virtue….
That the rule of law is superior to the “rule of men,” as it allows the decisive will of the governed, manifested as a constitutional provision, to guard against future leaders’ lack of wisdom, prudence, and justice;
That the preservation of liberty depends on the effective restraint and regulation of government power, and that the effectiveness of these controls depends on the determination and effort of the governed to understand and honor them;
That the ingenious design of the United States Constitution is well-suited to this purpose, limiting the powers of the federal government, separating those powers between its three branches, prescribing the procedures through which those powers are to be used and prescribing the most dangerous abuses;
That to preserve it in this crucial role, the Constitution must be acknowledged in practice, as it is universally in word, as the “supreme law of the land,” binding on the federal branches and the several states alike;
That the Constitution must be interpreted honestly and applied faithfully; that a legitimate constitutional interpretation is the plausible product of a sincere attempt, beginning with and emphasizing the constitutional text, to determine its original meaning;
That upon entering into association to form a government, the governed take a valuable right to constitutional government, and that to ignore the Constitution for the sake of convenience violates and squanders this right;
That mankind has yet to discover all of the ways by which constitutions can be used to restrain, shape, and improve government, and Americans should explore, carefully consider, and cautiously implement options that would strengthen the Constitution in its useful purpose….
That all human life is sacred, and that intrusion on the right to life is the most complete, absolute, and irreversible form of coercion conceivable, denying another human being even the modicum of freedom to be left to continue to exist;
That as all humans possess a right to life, the task of defining “personhood” must be confronted, not indefinitely deferred for its perceived difficulty;
That in considering the status of the unborn, the danger lies not in the possibility that we will be unduly generous in recognizing their humanity — the humanity of members of our species, separated by mere months from universal recognition and the protection of law — but in the possibility that we will be too stingy; that personhood, which indisputably begins well before birth, should be recognized from conception….
That the institution of private property must be preserved and honored, as it complements our natural liberty and independence, while its alternatives would make us needlessly dependent on the will of others;
That for the futile, contrary interests of each person in the commons of the Earth, property rights substitute — through the division and organization of those interests — widespread opportunity to possess, instead, a meaningful right: ownership of the soil under one’s own feet, on which one’s house stands, and which the owner can rightfully use and enjoy as he chooses;
That the power of eminent domain should never be used to take private property other than for public use, and it should be eschewed for any purpose that is not genuinely necessary to allow governments to serve their just and appropriate functions;
That property rights are invaluable as the foundation of a free market economy, which is itself a prerequisite to the meaningful realization of the general right to liberty….
That the free market is simultaneously an expression of liberty, a necessary condition to the effective use of liberty, and the best economic system to nourish vigorous economic growth and meet the material needs of human beings — and, as a result, the free market has no tolerable substitute;
That governments must maintain economic freedom through low tax rates, free trade, preservation of the freedom of contract, stable monetary policy, balanced budgets, fiscal restraint, honest budgeting, respect for the investment of private property, and by avoiding unnecessary and unnecessarily burdensome regulation;
That the survival of economic freedom depends on the prevalence of the understanding that the free market not only is the best economic system, but also why it is the best, how it works, when it is its least effective, and why the fallacies invoked against it are fallacious;
That in an excessively regulated economy, deregulation is necessary surgery, but the success of free-market reformers’ surgical separation of government and the market depends on their thorough understanding of the anatomy of the economy;
That this right to pursue material security, independence, and happiness deserves special care, but no person is owed the involuntary assistance of others in this pursuit, or in place of it….
That conservatives must not only oppose racism, which is a corruption of society and a grave threat to justice, but must also take an active interest in solving and eliminating this problem;
That the solution begins with a resolute promotion of justice and equality before the law — both in word and in fact — and with each of us, as individuals, guarding the rights of others as we would guard our own;
That unity, though not artificial uniformity, is a means as much as a goal in America’s pursuit of racial reconciliation, and that the purposeful division of peers over immaterial inheritable differences is an affront to individuality and a threat to unity….
That conservation policy should be shaped by the same familiar principles and purposes that should guide all government action, based on sound science and harmonized with individual liberty, private property rights, the rule of law, and the critical needs of our economy;
That private ownership of resources, which tends to unite control over them with the consequences of mismanaging them, is preferable to common ownership and management and is the ideal model for policies to protect resources that cannot be privately owned….
That when government grows beyond its appropriate bounds, it foments a malignancy more dangerous than its separate elements;
That “as government expands, liberty contracts”;
That centralized funding centralizes power;
That regardless of its professed humanitarian motives, the powers of government are founded in force, and even the best governments pose a substantial threat to the very rights that they are instituted to protect;
That government programs, once established, tend to remain, regardless of whether they remain effective and regardless of the harm they come to inflict;
That the myriad of small but unjustified government expenditures cannot be separately defended by pointing out the relative insignificance of each of them alone, as the dollar is no less valuable when it is counted in pennies;
That no government the size, density, and complexity of the United States federal government can be made so transparent that the governed can effectively monitor and control it;
That governments are not subject to the perfecting forces of supply and demand, and that a democratic constitution, though essential, is inadequate to wrest adequacy from government;
That regardless of what is promised of it, the use of expanded government authority will be shaped by politics and corruption;
That government reform, private competition, and individual freedom often succeed where increased government spending and power fail;
That as there is no end to the promised benefits of government intrusion, there is no enterprise or personal sphere of freedom that is not ultimately at risk of being bled of its value or driven from existence;
That the government cannot control an economy without controlling people, and that in controlling people, “it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose”;
That freedom and its benefits are most endangered when Americans are severally bribed into selling not only their own freedom, but also that of their neighbors;
That when it relieves families and voluntary associations of their traditional responsibilities by supplanting them in their invaluable role, a government can extinguish blessings that no government can replace;
That government must be both meaningfully restrained by law and assertively supervised by the governed….
That among the compelling grounds for low tax rates are the known and demonstrated economic benefits, the unconstitutionality of certain expenditures that taxes fund, and the sense that people who live responsibly, save, and work hard should keep as much as possible of their reward for doing so;
That taxes are, however, also an issue of justice, as taxes are obligatory and collected under the threat of harsh penalties, and these taxes ought not to be levied to fund government expenditures that cannot justify such threats;
That while some government functions deserve the support of all Americans, primarily in the provision of security and the securing of justice, to fund other legitimate, constitutional governmental functions, taxes should be designed to charge the willful beneficiaries of a government expenditure in proportion to the benefits that they receive from it;
That when the injustice of other expenditures cannot be resolved by eliminating the offending expenditures, their funding should be restricted to sources of revenue that are not compulsory in the traditional sense, and that do not leverage taxpayers’ rights without their individual prior consent in order to compel them to pay;
That these alternative sources will not be considered and developed until politicians and the public recognize that it is possible for an otherwise desirable expenditure to violate the Constitution and the natural rights of taxpayers;
That by constitutional amendment, Americans can and should impose permanent controls requiring that only certain appropriate, lawful expenditures may ever be funded by traditional, compulsory taxation….
That prudent policymaking requires an impartial examination of the relevant facts, due consideration and a healthy skepticism of the claims of our allies and opponents alike, the rejection of ideologies and their blinding effects, and an inclination to test, examine, and prove our own conclusions and beliefs;
That the formulation of policy should accommodate our inability to predict and affect the behavior of other people as well as we predict and control the behavior of things;
That we may not fully appreciate the consequences of our actions, and that “Sudden and slashing reforms are as perilous as sudden and slashing surgery;”
That few decisions would be less prudent or conservative than to abandon our fortunate American heritage as represented by our Constitution and the traditions of liberty….
That we must defend America’s just interests, preserving security and freedom for ourselves and our posterity;
That to this end, no source of strength — including hearty diplomacy, strategic soundness, the will and preparedness to use military force, and all other just and constitutional resources — may be wisely neglected;
That we court catastrophe when we overestimate our military strength, imprudently misspend it, or neglect to sustain and reinforce it;
That, as the federal government ought to be effective in its duty to preserve liberty, justice, and security for the American people — and recalling also America’s role as a beacon of liberty and justice for the world — care and caution must be used in determining whether a use of military force is necessary and wise;
That our ability to deter threats rests on our strength militarily, our possession of the intelligence, skill, and resources to wield that strength effectively, and our adversaries’ certainty that America will answer aggression decisively; and
That the uniting goal of all of the foregoing must be to keep the United States of America, at once, secure, just, prosperous, and free.
From From A Guide On Conservatism
“`A Time for Choosing.” Many of the
points he raised in that speech I hold dear and use to guide my
judgment while serving the citizens of my District and the state of
In that speech President Reagan spoke of several principles
Republicans, indeed all Americans, continue to hold dear. The first
principle is personal freedom. Ronald Reagan quoted James Madison when
he stated that the Framers of the Constitution, “base[d] all our
experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.” He was
correct: Each person should be able to live with the freedom that the
Constitution guarantees. Ronald Reagan spent every day in office seeing
to it that this principle was advanced and defended.
The second principle that President Reagan advocated was that the
government is beholden to the people. Not the reverse. He stated:
“This idea that the government was beholden to the people, that it had
no other source of power is still the newest, most unique idea in all
the long history of man’s relation to man.
“This is the issue of this nation: whether we believe in our
capacity for self-government or whether we abandon the American
During the speech, he also asked: “Are you willing to spend time
studying the issues, making yourself aware, and then conveying that
information to family and friends?” He continued: “Will you resist
the temptation to get a government handout for your community? Realize
that the doctor’s fight against socialized medicine is your fight. We
can’t socialize the doctors without socializing the patients. Recognize
that government invasion of public power is essentially an assault upon
your business. If some of you fear taking a stand because you are
afraid of reprisals from customers, clients or even government,
recognize that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he’ll eat you
last.” Truer words have never been spoken, Mr. Speaker. In fact, these
words ring true today.
Mr. Reagan extended his vision to a third principle–the economy and
the tax code. His belief in lower taxes and private enterprise was
based upon the idea that each individual best knows how to spend their
money and manage their store.
Like the Founding Fathers, President
Reagan believed that government control of any enterprise leads to
control of the people who run them. How correct he was when he stated:
“The Founding Fathers knew a government can’t control the economy
without controlling the people. And they knew when a government sets
out to do that, it must use force and coercion to achieve that purpose.
So we have come to a time for choosing. Public servants say, always
with the best of intentions, “What greater service we could render if
only we had a little more money and a little more power.” But the
truth is that outside of its legitimate function, government does
nothing as well or as economically as the private sector.”
President Reagan led by those principles. His faith in the
individual, belief in free enterprise, and unending conviction in
providing freedom of choice in everyday decisions helped to restore the
“great, confident roar of American progress, growth and optimism.”
The “choice” was right then. It is right today. Yet, we must continue
to fight for these principles today.
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