The defining conservative platform for this American Century.
Secure Blessings of Liberty
Liberty is guaranteed not by government restrictions on citizens, but rather by restraints placed on government interference with citizens' free exercise of rights and responsibilities. Casting a view around the landscape of debate and conflict in the United States, one commonality readily apparent is that this definition of liberty is not often understood or defended, even by those who claim it as their banner. As one example, the American Civil Liberties Union incorrectly calls censorship not those efforts of government bodies or agencies to restrict availability of materials but instead the actions of citizens to protect their children from exposure to harmful age-inappropriate pornography. We New Federalists urge, as the first defense of liberty, a return to this plain sense of the meaning of the concept: that liberty is the ability of citizens to freely act and freely exercise their choices within the limited constraints imposed by clear, constitutionally authorized laws applied equally to citizens. We further urge citizens to reclaim the responsibilities that should be theirs, but have irresponsibly been wrested from them by our current levels of overweening government.
We believe that the proposals advanced in this Platform will assist citizens in restoring their lost and rapidly eroding rights and liberties, by offering specific actions that citizens may support for ensuring that government restrain itself. But the only secure liberty is the one that citizens secure for themselves through their free exercise of self-government in actions and decisions.
Integrity and Honorable Service in Leadership
Perhaps the most greatly needed government action for securing citizens' liberties is restoration of the highest ethical standards in leaders. Too often these days, elected and appointed officials of government view themselves as rulers or caretakers of the public, rather than as citizens equal to all other citizens, but whose proper role is serving the public through restrained representative actions. Officers of government all must swear oaths prior to entering office to support the Constitution. The first guarantee of returning integrity and honorable service to government is demanding that these oaths of office be taken as seriously binding on all officers of government. As described elsewhere in this Platform, we New Federalists favor removal from office for any government official in violation of these oaths to the Constitution, and we propose specific measures to review officials' records in office and any complaints of oath violations lodged against serving government officeholders.
But this is surely not enough to make certain that those putatively serving to represent the citizens do not then turn to serving their selfish interests, at the expense of the citizens and their liberties. We favor legislation prohibiting any past officer of government from subsequently representing any foreign government or other foreign interest, either public or private, with the aim of affecting America public opinion or public policy regarding foreign relations, diplomacy, or trade. Similarly, we encourage legislation containing specific restrictions on lobbying of government by former officials for extended periods subsequent to their service to the country.
Another pressing need concerning integrity in government, to secure citizens their liberties, is ensuring that all government documents and records contain accurate, honest, faithful information. In particular, all records related to government revenue and spending must adhere to honest budgeting and reliable accounting methods. Similarly, we favor legislation determining the rules of proceedings for both chambers of Congress to require that the Congressional Record present a completely accurate record of proceedings as they actually transpired, with no provisions that remarks be revised or extended, and allowing insertion into the Record of only those materials used as exhibits or references during floor speeches and debates.
Moreover, we New Federalists support a return to the model of citizen-legislators, instead of the professional class of lifetime politicians who know no other trade or business. To serve this objective, in defense of citizens' liberties, we propose that all congressional pensions be eliminated, and that federal pay for Members of Congress be replaced by per diem allowances for only those days on which Congress is in session. (We also support similar changes in state legislators' pay and benefits as well.)
As discussed more extensively elsewhere in this Platform, election reforms are also essential for restoring citizens' confidence that they have been guaranteed representative republican elections, which form the bedrock for securing the blessings of liberty.
Even more than this, though, the officers of government must return to a view that embraces accountability to the citizens whose liberties they are entrusted with guaranteeing. As discussed in multiple contexts throughout this Platform, evasion of accountability to the citizens has become the watchword of government careening purposely out of control. Two concrete lines of approach to restoring accountability in government involve withdrawing from entangling alliances that supplant representation of citizens with representation of foreign entities, and returning to an emphasis on government that serves to ensure citizens' liberties.
Withdrawal from Entangling Alliances
We New Federalists favor withdrawing from international institutions with overweening goals in direct conflict with citizens' liberties, which purport to serve some kind of hazy global or international interests. For instance, the United States should withdraw immediately from any institution that proposes any form of taxation on U.S. citizens, or that proposes any restrictions on freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. Recent actions and inactions of the United Nations are especially troubling in this regard, as the UN Security Council has attempted to delay or subvert the constitutionally specified duty of providing for the common defense against terrorist attacks on U.S. citizens. If the UN cannot, or will not, be reformed toward a more modest set of goals that return control of the representatives to their respective populaces, we favor the U.S. taking steps to curtail its participation in the UN.
Ensuring Citizens' Rights and Freedoms
The basic requirement, in turning the emphasis of government toward a reassertion of appropriate defense of citizens' rights, is for officers of government to view their role not as having first claim on citizens' resources, but rather as seeing any intrusions on citizens as a last resort -- and only for those limited functions attendant to exercise of explicitly assigned constitutional powers of government.
Major efforts of government are needed to restore individual citizens' rights and freedoms in several areas. However, some of the most pressing topics of urgent concern involve privacy of information and asset forfeiture laws in conflict with the 4th Amendment's guarantee of "the right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures...." Another set of subjects requiring quick responses of government involves property rights, regulatory takings and other matters relevant to the 5th Amendment's guarantee that "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." And, in regard to the federal system of justice, citizen freedoms are at risk through current court practices at odds with the 5th Amendment's guarantee that "nor shall any person be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb."
Furthermore, in general all levels of government should be admonished by the 9th Amendment's statement on the limitations of government concerning the defining of citizens' rights: "The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."
As noted above, the final security for individual citizens to enjoy the blessings of liberty arises from their own adamant assertions and free exercise of those freedoms that are rightly theirs. Because our current government seems ever ready to overstep the clear bounds set for it by the Constitution, the citizens must strengthen those other institutions of civil society that compete with the state as centers of influence and power. In particular, citizens should urge that government at all levels undertake actions that support rather than undermine natural families, and that encourage private, voluntary organizations to ameliorate problems in neighborhoods and communities.
Alexis de Tocqueville was perhaps the earliest commentator on America to recognize the efficacy in the United States of free exercise within voluntary institutions. He correctly identified these acts of freedom as the source of America's goodness. This truth still endures, even as various incursions of government have damaged the capabilities of voluntary institutions to respond to the needs of citizens.
Free Exercise of Faith
Apart from the right to life, no other right is more inherently intertwined with our national experiment in ordered liberties than the right of free exercise of religious faith. A citizen's view of the world, human nature, and right conduct as applied to matters of appropriate concern to government, all derive from religious beliefs and principles. And while beliefs and principles cannot be forced or constrained by actions of government, the free exercise of acts of self-government can be improperly limited by government. Citizens must therefore be ever vigilant in asserting their rights to act on their faith in the public square, whenever and wherever any act of government threatens to impinge on the freedom of religion or of religious institutions and organizations. In particular, citizens must demand that government not intrude beyond its proper sphere in redefining moral questions, and that faith-based groups fight all forms of government interference with religious expression, when acting on commands of faith in public arenas.
The most fundamental unit of society, based in our human nature, is the natural family consisting of the voluntary union of one man and one woman in a lifelong marriage covenant, for the purpose of commitment to each other and to their children. The relationships between marriage partners and between parents and children form the foundation upon which all other social forms and associations rest. Citizens bear the ultimate responsibility for creating strong and durable bonds in their marriages and family life, but the government bears a concomitant responsibility to support rather than discourage the formation of those natural familial bonds. For instance, institutions of government have no legitimate power to redefine marriage as anything beyond the natural covenant of man and woman, or to redefine families as any collection of persons whatsoever.
All other voluntary associations derive from the practices and lessons that come from family life. As the Constitution's 1st Amendment makes plain, these free associations are guaranteed, as Congress is prohibited from "abridging ... the right of the people peaceably to assemble."
Free Exchanges of Ideas and Commerce
The healthy exchange of ideas through debate and discourse enlivens our representative republic, strengthening citizens' understanding of each other as equal participants in our common existence as a nation. The free exchange of ideas also stimulates the levels of creativity, invention, and entrepreneurship necessary for promoting the progress of science and the success of useful arts. Free exchanges in commerce and contracts between citizens are guaranteed as a consequence of the Constitution's Article I, Sections 9 and 10, which provide that no preferences be given among states of the Republic, that states lay no duties or imposts on exports or imports between states, and that states make no laws "impairing the obligation of contracts."
These areas of free exchange form the currency of liberty, in the decisions citizens freely reach to secure their material and political prosperity, as yet further blessings of liberty secured to our nation by adherence to the federalist principles of our nation's Founding Documents.