The Twelve Points are a statement of conservative principles, objectives, philosophy, and additional guiding considerations, composed by Karl Born, a young Indianapolis writer and attorney, beginning in early 2008, completed on July 2, 2009. The idea for the Twelve Points, along with several of the points, came from the "Seven Points," an older statement of conservative principles, created by a group of young conservatives at Indiana University, in 2003: Grand Old Cause. 

The purpose of the Twelve Points is to serve as a delivery mechanism for distilled, concentrated conservative thinking, offered in order to return completeness and clarity to popular conservatism, to spread knowledge of the true principles of conservatism throughout the conservative community, and to focus and promote agreement among conservatives. 

Over the past two decades, the conservative movement has lost its uniting sense of direction, which has rendered it confused, frustrated, and impotent. Certain crucial conservative principles and concepts have faded from our common memory and lost their rightful influence and, consequently, our fellow conservatives (including conservative leaders) too often can no longer be relied upon to understand them, to be committed to them, or to apply and advance them in a coherent way. No conservative should be satisfied with the results that this has produced in American public policy. 

The Twelve Points will help to solve this problem, this statement of conservative principles being an instrument by which we may frequently recur to these fundamental principles and keep points of conservative thought freshly in our minds, teach conservative thought to the newer and younger conservatives, and provide all conservatives with a means of together affirming that, yes, we still care about these conservative principles, and conservative principles still define this movement.

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A Shared Feature, Used By the Twelve Points to Advance Conservative Principles

Francis Bacon, who lived during the 16th and early 17th centuries, was not only one of the leading contributors to the development of the scientific method, but also impacted the development of the law of England.  Among the achievements of his that worked to accomplish this was his creation and publication of certain legal "maxims."  (The advantages of maxims include that they are memorable, that in few words they can have a range of applications for many cases, and that they make it perfectly clear what, generally, their ultimate intended effect is to be.)

The maxims themselves were short and simple, intended to communicate as much information as possible at once.  However, Bacon knew how other, older maxims (of which many were from Rome) had been misinterpreted: by construing them to have a more limited application than intended, or by reading so many exceptions into certain rules that they lost most of their effect, or by construing them to have a far-reaching effect, alien to the true meaning of the maxim, people could prevent unobjectionable or important rules from having the positive impact that they were meant to have.

Rather than opting instead for complex and impenetrable blocks of text, however, Bacon chose to make a list of maxims, accompanied by exposition that explained their effect, combining the clarity and memorability of the maxims with the definiteness and detail of longer documents.

Of his plan for the maxims, Bacon wrote: "Lastly, there is one point above the rest, I accompt the most materiall for making these reasons indeed profitable and instructing, which is, that they be not set down alone, like short darke Oracles, which every man will be content still to allow to bee true, but in the meane time they give little light or direction; but I have attended them, a matter not practiced, no not in the Civill law to any purpose; and for want whereof indeed, the rules are but as proverbes, and many times plaine fallacies, with a cleere and perspicuous exposition, breaking them into cases, and opening them with distinctions, & somtimes shewing the reasons above whereupon they depend, and the affinity they have with other rules."

When I read this, I found it interesting, and also relevant to the Twelve Points.  There have been many documents released containing conservative principles, this year.  (Whether any of them were begun as early as the Winter of 2007 - 2008, or formed out of a shorter document from early 2003, I do not know.)  Some of these are focused solely on specific applications of conservative principles (or alleged conservative principles): on specific policy proposals.  These have their uses, but they have no application other than in the proposing of their proposals, and they certainly have no long-term guidance to offer the conservative movement, or to conservatives who are not active in the movement.  Other documents, like the proverbs referenced by Bacon as being "like short, dark oracles," are capable of applying in nearly any case someone might want to use them.  It is impossible to disagree with them, because they can be construed to include any exception and divergent applications.  As a result, it is possible that they are useful in rallying conservatives and uniting conservatives behind "conservative" candidates in an important election year, but they cannot win over those self-described "conservatives" who have embraced hostile, patently erroneous, or counterproductive and time-wasting views or views that are contrary to the basis of our philosophy.  They also cannot help to reconcile the warring constituencies of conservatives, whose differences, as reasonable as they may be, will necessarily prevent us from uniting in actual policy until we find a way to make them compatible.  Such documents, if they produce unity among conservatives, can produce only superficial unity.

The Twelve Points were written to avoid both of these outcomes.  They are not so dedicated to specific policies that they provide no guidance of broader applicability (or that they ignore the underlying philosophy of conservatism).  They were, however, written with enough specificity and exposition that their leading points could not easily be warped through misconstruction and creation of convenient exceptions to avoid the effect of the rules.  For example, while it is easy to convince people to support "Liberty" and the "Constitution," the Twelve Points use the most pointed terms available to state, among other things, that true support for Liberty and the Constitution is not the invoking of their names, or the capitalization of their names, and that support for them is a pretense unless it requires us to think about them and understand them, to support them in practice, and to recognize that defending them sometimes involves allowing people to do things that we do not want them to do, and, sometimes, that we will even have to defend such people in their right to act in ways that we would not.  Another example of this exposition is where the Twelve Points explain, substantially, the operation of those rules and how we can recognize the valid exceptions to the rules (including to the right to liberty), discouraging people from making up their own invalid, all-purpose exceptions.  Finally, the Twelve Points attempt to explain the reasoning behind the accepted doctrines of conservatism (which have been reduced to a low-resolution form, in many cases, as they have been squeezed into sound-bites and slogans and communicated primarily in that form), placing them back on their original, solid intellectual foundation.  The larger rules and themes are stated, of course -- they are the points of the Twelve Points -- but the supporting ideas, in 165 sub-points, reinforce and insulate those main points, protecting them from the forces that have taken such a toll on popular conservatism.

It is not entirely clear to me whether this plan worked for Bacon, but it will work for the Twelve Points.