Conservatism is a political philosophy, not a religion. Conservatism does not offer a blueprint for building a better world. Rather, it offers a consistent and above all a realistic vision on what constitutes a good life, on society and government, and the relations between them.
The Edmund Burke Foundation regards the following principles – adopted by the Centre for European Renewal – as guidelines in its mission to strengthen the Western tradition in Europe:
Liberty and Responsibility
Liberty is vital to human flourishing. But liberty is not license: personal responsibility is its precondition, which requires the development in each person of the virtues of prudence, justice, fortitude, temperance, faith, hope, and charity.
The family is the foundation of society. Families grow from the union of man and woman in marriage, who support each other and welcome the hopeful task of raising their children to become mature adults, able in their turn to embrace the vocation of parenthood. The family as a social institution must always be upheld.
Free Markets and Civil Society
The free play of supply and demand constitutes the most productive economic system, and the one most compatible with liberty and responsibility. But human beings are more than producers and consumers, and so the logic of market relations does not exhaust the common good. It likewise depends upon a vital civil society.
Limited Government and the Rule of Law
A state that seeks to provide all things for its people will drain initiative from its citizens and undermine the legitimate authority of other social institutions. Good government is strong but limited, and subject to the rule of law. It must be secured by constitutional provisions such as the separation of powers and accountability of the government to the people.
Living generations are not the masters of the resources of the earth, to do with them as they please. They must be stewards of the riches, both natural and cultural, both material and spiritual, they inherit at birth.
To become civilized, humane, and free, we must ascend the ladder of liberal education, which acquaints us with “the best that has been thought and said.” By making the great works of the Western tradition our own, we are able to discriminate between what can be done and what ought to be done, and so to offer wise leadership in service to one another. A true liberal education enlarges the mind by orienting the soul towards the good, the true, and the beautiful.