(July 19) Modern political conservatism is fond of occasional statements of comprehensive principles, letting the world know there is something deeper at work than mere political jockeying. An eloquent new entry in that field came July 12 with the publication of something aptly called “ Freedom Conservatism .”

Explicitly paying homage to the tradition of the venerated Sharon Statement , promulgated by about 100 young people at the Buckley family estate in Connecticut in 1960, the Freedom Conservatism statement (which I, too, have signed) makes clear that what we would “conserve” is not some immutable natural order but, instead, the ideals of ordered liberty on which the United States was founded. Neither reactionary nor stultified, conservatism (correctly understood) allows for free men with free choice, working through free markets and freely formed cultural institutions, to build communities without heavy-handed government compulsion.

Free conservatives may be nationalists and may be traditionalists, but it is the system guaranteeing freedom, not the nationalism or traditionalism, which is primary and essential. Likewise, conservatism may at times embrace populist elements (as former President Ronald Reagan’s conservatism surely did), but it is not and cannot be defined by a populist instinct.

For that reason, the very first principle in the new statement is liberty, with this elegant explanation: “Among Americans’ most fundamental rights is the right to be free from the restrictions of arbitrary force: a right that, in turn, derives from the inseparability of free will from what it means to be human. Liberty is indivisible, and political freedom cannot long exist without economic freedom.” Much of that language comes directly from the 1960s Sharon Statement, by the way, establishing a continuity of purpose and belief.

“The free enterprise system is the foundation of prosperity,” it says. “We commit to reducing the cost of living through competitive markets, greater individual choice, and free trade with free people, while upholding the rule of law, freedom of contract, and freedom of association.”… [The full column is at this link.]



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