Yesterday, I joined a broad coalition of conservative leaders representing a wide spectrum of the movement including fiscal, social, cultural and national security conservatives, to sign The Mount Vernon Statement. In light of the challenges facing the country and the need for clarity, we needed to produce this defining statement of conservative beliefs, values and principles. It is the culmination of a thoughtful deliberation about our nation’s principles. I was proud to participate in that discussion, and to chair the committee that drafted the statement.
Constitutional Conservatism: A Statement for the 21st Century
We recommit ourselves to the ideas of the American Founding. Through the Constitution, the Founders created an enduring framework of limited government based on the rule of law. They sought to secure national independence, provide for economic opportunity, establish true religious liberty and maintain a flourishing society of republican self-government.
These principles define us as a country and inspire us as a people. They are responsible for a prosperous, just nation unlike any other in the world. They are our highest achievements, serving not only as powerful beacons to all who strive for freedom and seek self-government, but as warnings to tyrants and despots everywhere.
Each one of these founding ideas is presently under sustained attack. In recent decades, America’s principles have been undermined and redefined in our culture, our universities and our politics. The selfevident truths of 1776 have been supplanted by the notion that no such truths exist. The federal government today ignores the limits of the Constitution, which is increasingly dismissed as obsolete and irrelevant.
Some insist that America must change, cast off the old and put on the new. But where would this lead — forward or backward, up or down? Isn’t this idea of change an empty promise or even a dangerous deception?
The change we urgently need, a change consistent with the American ideal, is not movement away from but toward our founding principles. At this important time, we need a restatement of Constitutional conservatism grounded in the priceless principle of ordered liberty articulated in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.
The conservatism of the Declaration asserts self-evident truths based on the laws of nature and nature’s God. It defends life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It traces authority to the consent of the governed. It recognizes man’s self-interest but also his capacity for virtue.
The conservatism of the Constitution limits government’s powers but ensures that government performs its proper job effectively. It refines popular will through the filter of representation. It provides checks and balances through the several branches of government and a federal republic.
A Constitutional conservatism unites all conservatives through the natural fusion provided by American principles. It reminds economic conservatives that morality is essential to limited government, social conservatives that unlimited government is a threat to moral self-government, and national security conservatives that energetic but responsible government is the key to America’s safety and leadership role in the world.
A Constitutional conservatism based on first principles provides the framework for a consistent and meaningful policy agenda.
* It applies the principle of limited government based on the rule of law to every proposal.
* It honors the central place of individual liberty in American politics and life.
* It encourages free enterprise, the individual entrepreneur, and economic reforms grounded in market solutions.
* It supports America’s national interest in advancing freedom and opposing tyranny in the world and prudently considers what we can and should do to that end.
* It informs conservatism’s firm defense of family, neighborhood, community, and faith.
If we are to succeed in the critical political and policy battles ahead, we must be certain of our purpose.
We must begin by retaking and resolutely defending the high ground of America’s founding principles.
The Heritage Foundation was founded to uphold the very principles articulated in this document. Our mission statement reads: “To formulate and promote conservative public policies based on the principles of free enterprise, limited government, individual freedom, traditional American values and a strong national defense.” Our vision statement is “to build an America where freedom, opportunity, prosperity, and civil society flourish.” That is the same mission, the same vision embraced by the founders and articulated in the Mount Vernon Statement. We’ve been bound, voluntarily and enthusiastically, to those ideals since Heritage’s founding in 1973. I hope you share these principles, and join me in supporting this framework and signing your name here or in the form below.
By Edwin J. Feulner, President of The Heritage Foundation
- Townhall will be live-streaming all Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) Marriott Ballroom events, starting today, and throughout the conference.
- Today at 11 AM EST, Reps. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV), Scott Garrett (R-NJ) and Tom Rooney (R-FL) will participate in a live Heritage VIDEO WEB CHAT titled “The Stimulus – One Year Later.” You can view it at Heritage.org or on Facebook. Post your questions for them early on the Heritage Facebook page.
- According to The Los Angeles Times President Barack Obama’s $862 billion stimulus funded Cash for Caulkers program has only weatherized about 9,000 homes at a cost of $57,362 each.
- House Republicans are taking a page from the president’s playbook by challenging Democrats to a televised debate about job creation.
- Another leader of the Afghan Taliban, Kunduz province “shadow governor” Mullah Abdul Salam, has been captured by authorities in Pakistan working in partnership with U.S. intelligence officials.