I talk to open-minded college students all the time who don’t know what new conservatives believe. I have to believe others outside of college don’t know, either.
New School Conservatism hasn’t told a new generation and the others what we positively believe in, with a heart.
And don’t worry; this article is not only about abstract first principles, but real-world practices.
Maybe a clear and succinct list of our beliefs will clarify matters. Many of these beliefs look like Old School Conservatism, which I respect, but the new version has an important different emphasis. It’s time to reintroduce things.
For New Conservatism, it’s all about caring for people. Don’t believe it?
Check it out.
1. The moral law guides and helps people.
God made the world, including us, a certain way, so human nature needs to cooperate with it for the benefit of society. It can be discovered by reason and logic, as we observe nature, the flow of God-directed history, and inner sense of God’s existence and the law he has put in our hearts.
Breaking the moral law, the individual will decline and by extension so will a whole society.
Following the moral law keeps an individual and by extension a whole society happy and safe.
2. We believe in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness because people can create their own individual happiness.
Here are the three values laid out in a formula. The arrow means “leads to”:
Those three values are universally and timelessly good. They are not merely the America’s inventions. She only discovered them, as the Declaration of Independence says: these truths are self-evident and come from the Creator.
The government does not create utopia for the individual. Rather, government is formed to ensure that the values of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness are possible—have the best chance to be actualized.
The government shouldn’t be intrusive in your life; when it does, it limits your liberty, and then you can’t pursue your own happiness, as you stay within the moral law.
3. Private property should be free and dignified for people in their labor and own inventions.
John Locke said a century before Jefferson: life, liberty and property.
One of the tenets of communism, found in Marx’s Communist Manifesto, is the abolition of property. Weaker forms of socialism, like current American liberalism, intend for the state to grow intrusive also, which shrinks individual freedom.
It is good for people when they can keep the fruits of their labor and not have it confiscated by a powerful state, either by a law that takes over an industry or private property or by high taxes.
4. The First Amendment and free speech give people room to breathe free.
Political correctness is a product of the Left. Campuses are rife with it; if you say something patriotic, for example, it is considered hate speech. The American flag is considered oppressive. If you still favor traditional marriage, you’re an outcast and “hater.”
However, the purpose of free speech is clear enough:
* Prevent government abuse
* Protect human liberty
* Protect individuals to think and decide for themselves on issues
No, new conservatives do not believe in physical threats to politicians or school children or yelling “fire!” in a crowded theatre.
However, if we can’t hit the perfect balance between government-restricted speech and absolute free speech along a continuum, it’s best to be on the side of free speech.
Censored Speech —————————-X———– Absolute Free Speech
You can nudge the X however far you dare towards the right side.
5. The First Amendment and religious freedom benefit people and their heart-felt convictions.
In God we trust, but you don’t need to believe in God to hold to New Conservatism. All you have to believe in is religious freedom.
And yes, new conservatives believe in allowing Muslims or members of any religion to put up a building where they can worship as they please—peacefully, without preaching violence.
Further, it does not benefit a nation to attack people’s religious liberty with oppressive laws. Does the Left need to attack people of faith and churches that follow their beliefs? A current example is same-sex marriage. Many religious business owners still don’t like it, but are now being harassed in courts.
New conservatives say live and let live in religion as it intersects with society.
6. The Second Amendment allows private gun ownership for self-defense in the home.
The Second Amendment, in its original context, allows a person to own a gun so he can join a militia and for self-defense in his home. But self-defense is short-circuited when the government stores the guns in an armory, for example, and distributes them when it says so.
Thus, in District of Columbia v. Heller (see the above link) the Supreme Court didn’t have to invent the law as the Court does for other issues; the Justices rightly concluded that private gun ownership was constitutionally protected.
7. The right kind of equality gives people the opportunity to succeed as they work hard.
The “right kind” of equality?
Imagine I tell students that everyone at the end of the semester will get C’s. A and B students grew up privileged and game the system. D and F students are underprivileged. To equalize the outcome at the end of the semester, they shall all get the same grade. How fair is that?
The best way is to give each student an equal chance at the beginning of the semester to succeed with hard work. It is true that some students are a little behind. That only means they have to work harder and get some help. At the end of the semester, they will get the grade they earn.
So, the right kind of equality takes place in the law and before God, not in the government guaranteeing outcomes and redistributing money in a gigantic welfare state.
8. Limited, smaller government gives people the room to live in freedom.
Wherever socialism or another version of heavy-handed government control has settled in a nation, its economy slows down.
Obama said in one of his early speeches, “You don’t need big government!” But then his administration has increased the government’s regulatory costs for businesses a lot more than Clinton and Bush did, combined.
Right now Uncle Sam is obese. At the time this piece is posted, the national debt is $17 trillion, which is unprecedented. That’s why government programs need to be fixed.
But new conservatives aren’t libertarians. We don’t want Sam to look emaciated, as if he just came out of the Andersonville Prison Camp. We want him muscular.
Mainly we believe Sam just needs to stand out of our way, but carry a gun to protect us from enemies foreign and domestic; enforce business laws and contracts to ensure fair play; and help the genuinely needy with a safety net for a limited time.
There is an inverse relationship between the growth of government and individual liberty.
Smaller, limited government is a moral good, because the people’s liberty is a virtue.
9. We believe in the temporary safety net and certain programs for people who really need it.
The safety net must not become a hammock, but we don’t believe in tossing people to the ground. They are simply too attached to the government programs begun by the Progressives and FDR and LBJ and liberal Nixon and now growing by leaps and bounds under Obama.
New Conservatism reassures people that Social Security and Medicare, for example, will not be eliminated, just reformed and fixed, so it will actually be there for them in the future.
New conservatives just want to make those programs solvent and sustainable.
Most importantly, there are better options for people who do not want to depend on government. Let’s explore those options.
10. Democracy over judicial activism is essential, so people can decide what is right.
We believe the Court needs more humility and caution. It is time to honor the original meaning of the Constitution, not bend it in whichever shape the modern zeitgeist says. The Court should not make laws at all, and certainly none based on a controversial reading and politicized interpretation of a deconstructed Constitution cut loose from its history.
If today’s postmodern Court doesn’t like the Constitution’s silence on a given issue like abortion or same-sex marriage, the Court should hand the issue back to the legislative branch; then people can vote for a representative who believes as they do. Or the federal legislators and states can amend it.
For New Conservatism, it’s all about people power, not the power of a small, robed elite inside an impersonal big government, behaving like neo-monarchs.
Let’s wrap this up.
As the old saying goes, “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.”
New, philosophical, political conservatism works best for people. We therefore believe our principles are the best demonstration of compassion.
New Conservatism tells people, Vote for yourself and your own success.
For us, that’s justice.
Liberalism says, ultimately, “Vote for us, and we’ll get you attached to big government in some way. Then we can keep your vote. We got you!”
For them, that’s justice.
So, there’s no shame if you conclude: “I’m a new conservative because I care for people and the best kind of justice and equality and freedom.”
Please read Part 2 of What new conservatives believe.
Updated Sept. 14, 2015
I altered the bold font principles.
Nov. 8, 2015
I added a link under no. 10 and made minor grammar adjustment.