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About

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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The Twelve Points Compendium

2011

          We, the conservatives of the United States of America, in order to guide and strengthen the conservative movement, to create a standard to which we can hold ourselves and our fellow conservatives, and to allow ourselves to better serve our country and the world, state and affirm these essential principles:

I.


Concerning EQUALITY AND JUSTICE:

That justice is founded on the understanding that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights,” and that all just rights obtain their just character from this equal creation and endowment;

That as the arbitrary use of force is a departure from this principle, an internally-ordered right to liberty is an essential component of justice;

That the most essential purpose of government is to secure and preserve justice, and this liberty-infused understanding of justice must be an immutable concern in the creation and execution of government policies;

That our natural rights are unalienable, and neither the wishes of the majority nor grand promises of national or societal greatness can ever revoke or suspend these rights, but instead, by running contrary to them, can only violate them;

That when individuals unite to form a government, they do not surrender their rights, but instead grant their government the qualified permission to ascertain and keep the just boundaries of their liberty, which are to be defined by law, by their elected representatives, and in accordance with their constitution;

That though popular approval can make injustice legal, or even obligatory, it cannot make it just;

That “consent of the governed” is a standard to which we hold our government, not an inevitable effect of the democratic-republican form, not a rule of inverted justice by which the majority is entitled to anything it might demand, or a statement of fact that every person pledges -- by voting for an official, or by voting against an official, or by declining to vote at all -- to obey the officials in every matter, simply because their power and will is predicated on the majority’s alleged right to rule;

That the governments of the United States must take as sacred their duties -- as distributed between them by the Constitution -- to keep Americans secure in their lives, liberty, and property, to guarantee equality before the law, to preserve the rule of law, and to ensure that those who threaten this security are not rewarded at the expense of the innocent;

That freedom is an integral part of justice....


II.


Concerning INDIVIDUAL LIBERTY:

That individual liberty is a basic and essential right;

That individual liberty is naturally and internally ordered, as arbitrary coercion is a destroyer of liberty, not an expression of it;

That beyond its proper role as a guardian of our rights, and regardless of its laudable objectives or humanitarian purposes, little of the work of government justifies its characteristic use of threats, commands, and forceful intrusions – and their use, when unjustified, is injustice;

That only criminals should ever be treated as such;

That in our imperfectible world, we will not remain free if an imperfection or an unmet need, without more, is thought to justify the sacrifice of a portion of our liberty;

That our right to liberty will be thoroughly violated if any attractive objective, without more, are thought to justify governments in forcing or forbidding Americans to act as ordered;

That protecting individuals from knowingly and willingly exposing themselves to danger is not an appropriate justification for government at any level to marshal the force of law;

That taxes, when used to finance programs and expenditures that do not justify the penalties used in tax collection, violate the essential right to liberty;

That every dollar spent by government has been or will be taken from an American;

That we, as conservatives, must commit ourselves at once to developing an effective but politically feasible plan to overcome -- in our lifetimes -- the sense that a spending item needs nothing more than an admirable goal to justify the taxes that pay for it;

That this cannot be accomplished until we turn our collective imagination to the task of finding sources of revenue that are not compulsory in the traditional sense, leveraging the rights of taxpayers, without their individual, prior consent and agreement, to pressure them to pay for expenditures that are desirable but irrelevant to the governmental responsibility to secure justice;

That “corporate welfare” is no more appropriate or conservative than any other practice that rewards people or entities with money that they did not earn, by charging taxpayers who have done nothing wrong;

That tributes to the name of Liberty are empty platitudes unless others are left free to act and refuse to act even in ways that we find unpleasant, irresponsible, or immoral -- provided that they have not threatened the legitimate rights of others -- without suffering forceful retribution or other threats to their own legitimate rights;

That, nevertheless, the success of a free society depends on the virtues willingly practiced by its people, and on their choices, as individuals, to assume control of their lives and to use their freedom responsibly;

That a person's spiritual and moral development cannot be effectively or justly directed by governments, and that virtue cannot survive without liberty any more than liberty can flourish without virtue.... 

III.


Concerning THE UNITED STATES CONSTITUTION and THE RULE OF LAW:

That the rule of law is superior to the “rule of men,” as it allows the decisive will of the governed, manifested as a constitutional provision, to guard against future leaders’ lack of wisdom, prudence, and justice;

That the preservation of liberty depends on the effective restraint and regulation of government power, and that the effectiveness of these controls depends on the determination and effort of the governed to understand and honor them;

That the ingenious design of the United States Constitution is well-suited to this purpose, limiting the powers of the federal government, separating those powers between its three branches, prescribing the procedures through which those powers are to be used, and proscribing the most dangerous abuses;

That the United States Constitution is the greatest legal obstacle for those who would use government to violate our rights;

That the Constitution serves its role in various, indispensable ways, including:

  • The division of governmental power, first between the federal and state governments, and again between the three federal branches,
  • The independence of the federal branches and the limited power that each has over the others,
  • A structure forcing factions to battle each other for control of the federal government, thus making each faction a check on the influence of the others,
  • The limitation of the federal powers to those stated in the Constitution,
  • The preservation of the unstated rights of the people and the reservation of all non-delegated powers to the people and the states,
  • The explicit recognition, distributed between the original constitutional text and its amendments, of rights that are indispensable not only for their intrinsic value but also because they protect and encourage checks, both internal and external, on the power of government,
  • Rules of construction,
  • Prescription of mandatory procedures,
  • Proscription of several of the most dangerous abuses,
  • Notifying Americans of a number of their rights in a single, concise document, and
  • Imploring certain agents of government to vindicate those rights;

That of these protective provisions, each is binding law and must be applied, unwaveringly, to restrain government and defend individual liberty;

That to preserve it in this crucial role, the Constitution must be acknowledged in practice, as it is universally in word, as the “supreme law of the land,” binding on the federal branches and the several states alike;

That the Constitution must be interpreted honestly and applied faithfully; that a legitimate constitutional interpretation is the plausible product of a sincere attempt, beginning with and emphasizing the constitutional text, to determine its original meaning -- what it was that those who drafted and voted for it actually decided to make into the paramount law of the United States, and that then met the extraordinary level of approval that was necessary for it to be ratified;

That governments are bound by law, and constitutional deviations and violations are illegal and dangerous whether they are perpetrated by the federal government, in any of the three branches, or by the states;

That every American deserves the protections of due process, the Writ of Habeas Corpus, the protection of the probable cause and warrant requirement for searches and seizures, and all other safeguards proper -- and no less than those that are required by the U.S. Constitution, or other valid rules of law -- to ensure that every American has a fair and complete opportunity to defeat claims of his guilt, beginning from a presumption of innocence;

That behind the Constitution are additionally certain undeniable and long-established safeguards in the rules of the Common Law and Equity, and if they were not honored, injustice would surely follow;

That the guarantees of our laws provide no shelter from arbitrary power so long as any person can be placed outside their protection without due process and so long as the benefits of their protection can be indefinitely delayed;

That the legislative power of America's federal government is vested in its Congress alone, and there it remains, even when Congress is tolerant or impotent in the face of usurpation by the other branches;

That a power in Congress to decide the specific content of our laws is not a power to abrogate their basic principles or to deviate from natural law;

That no law can be executed that has not first been enacted;

That while some laws that exist should be repealed, those that are consistent with the Constitution and not patently unjust should be enforced, as it is harmful to the integrity and objectives of American legislation to vainly publish rules and threaten punishment;

That the United States Constitution, the Supreme Law of the Land, does not and should not authorize or permit the imposition of service requirements of any kind on the people of the United States, or on other people, other than as a criminal sentence for those who have been duly convicted;

That the Constitution should be strengthened, as it has been in the past, by amendments extending legal rights to those who have been unduly denied them, and so that each part of the Constitution can more effectively serve its intended purpose in restraining arbitrary governmental power;

That mankind has yet to discover all of the ways by which constitutions can be used to restrain, shape, and improve government, and Americans should explore, carefully consider, and cautiously implement options that would strengthen the Constitution in its useful purpose;

That upon entering into association to form a government, the governed take a valuable right to constitutional government, and that to ignore the Constitution for the sake of convenience or chimerical gains violates and squanders this right, and undermines the power of the Constitution to guard Americans from the many forms of injustice....


IV.


Concerning LIFE:

That all human life is sacred, that life is the right on which all others depend, and that intrusion on the right to life is the most complete, absolute, and irreversible form of coercion conceivable, denying another human being even the modicum of freedom to be left to continue to exist;

That the Right to Life must be vigorously defended from both intentional and reckless violations;

That care and respect for human life must be encouraged even beyond the the obligations created by the Right to Life, and that we, as individuals, have a moral duty to enthusiastically but voluntarily assist those most vulnerable, in the manner that most encourages their future independence;

That the denial of the right to life is not justified by the failure of a human being to have yet been born, or by the artificial boundary of "viability," and the question of the extent of the reach of this right should not be obscured by irrelevant quarreling over when a state government might possess a mere interest in protecting it;

That as all humans possess a right to life, the task of defining “personhood” must be confronted, not indefinitely deferred for its perceived difficulty;

That those who are “pro-life” and those who are genuinely “pro-choice,” if they find no other middle ground, ought to at least agree that governments should not assist in the destruction of what is, at the very least, very nearly human life;

That in considering the status of the unborn, the danger lies not in the possibility that we will be unduly generous in recognizing their humanity -- the humanity of members of our species, separated by mere months from universal recognition and the protection of law -- but in the possibility that we will be too stingy; that personhood, which indisputably begins well before birth, should be recognized from conception....


V.


Concerning PRIVATE PROPERTY RIGHTS:

That the institution of private property must be preserved and honored, as it complements our natural liberty and independence, while its alternatives would make us needlessly dependent on the will of others;

That for the futile, contrary interests of each person in the commons of the Earth, property rights substitute -- through the division and organization of those interests -- widespread opportunity to possess, instead, a meaningful right: ownership of the soil under one's own feet, on which one's house stands, and which the owner can rightfully use and enjoy as he chooses; whereby we respect and defend also the natural, rightful interest that a person might obtain in land or materials by investing his labor in them;

That it is the security and reliability of property rights, once established, that allows these rights to foster their inestimable social and material benefits:

  • By teaching responsibility, and giving individuals incentives to behave responsibly,
  • By providing the material basis for elevating the potential uses of one's freedom,
  • By allowing individuals to retain the fruits of their labor,
  • By encouraging individuals to set root in a community, thereby encouraging the beneficial development of those communities, and
  • By allowing individuals to arrange for their own future material security;

That the power of eminent domain should never be used to take private property other than for public use, and it should be eschewed for any purpose that is not genuinely necessary to allow governments to serve their just and appropriate functions;

That the right of a person to keep the fruits of his labor is no less than his right to keep home, his business, or his land;

That property rights are invaluable as the foundation of a free market economy, which is itself a prerequisite to meaningful realization of the general right to liberty....


VI.


Concerning THE FREE MARKET and ECONOMIC PROSPERITY:

That the free market is simultaneously an expression of liberty, a necessary condition to the effective use of liberty, and the best economic system to nourish vigorous economic growth and meet the material needs of human beings -- and, as a result, the free market has no tolerable substitute;

That governments should maintain economic freedom through low tax rates, free trade, preservation of the freedom of contract, stable monetary policy, balanced budgets, fiscal restraint, honest budgeting, respect for the investment of private property, and by avoiding unnecessary and unnecessarily burdensome regulation;

That the survival of economic freedom depends on the prevalence of the understanding that the free market not only is the best economic system, but also why it is the best, how it works, when it is its least effective, and why the fallacies invoked against it are fallacious;

That in an excessively regulated economy, deregulation is necessary surgery, but the success of free-market reformers' surgical separation of government and the market depends on their thorough understanding of the anatomy of the economy;

That we live in a world of relative scarcity, and that while a healthy economy continually expands the frontiers of wealth and causes this scarcity to recede, even the best economic system cannot eliminate unmet needs altogether;

That the rightful liberty to pursue material security, independence, and happiness deserves special care, but no person is owed the involuntary assistance of others in this pursuit, or in place of it;

That economic freedom, including the pursuit of happiness in that condition, is a right, subject only to the type of conditions and restrictions that apply to all rightful freedom...

VII.


Concerning INDIVIDUALITY AND UNITY:

That conservatives must not only oppose racism, which is a corruption of society and a deadly threat to justice, but must also take an active interest in solving and eliminating this problem;

That the solution begins with a resolute promotion of justice and equality before the law -- both in word and in fact -- and with each of us, as individuals, guarding the rights of others just as we would guard our own;

That unity, though not artificial uniformity, is a means as much as a goal in America's pursuit of racial reconciliation, and that the purposeful division of peers over immaterial inheritable differences is an affront to individuality and a threat to unity;

That it is in the interest of every American that no distinct class of inhabitants of the United States be maintained that, denied equality before the law, is compelled to submit to arbitrary authority;

That cultural traits and traditions do not flow from ancestry or run with race, but should be freely adopted by people who find them valuable, regardless of how those traits and traditions were introduced to them....

VIII.


Concerning CONSERVATION:

That conservation policy should be shaped by the same familiar principles and purposes that should guide all government action, based on sound science and harmonized with individual liberty, private property rights, the rule of law, and the critical needs of our economy;

That private ownership of resources, which tends to unite control over them with the consequences of mismanaging them, is preferable to common ownership and management and is the ideal model for policies to protect resources that cannot be privately owned;

That conservation for these purposes, and based on sound science, is complementary to our understanding of justice and property rights, and will enhance our quality of life;

That measures enacted without regard for their effect on property rights, the economy, and liberty will eventually harm all three....

IX.


Concerning the RESTRAINT AND REVERSAL OF GOVERNMENT GROWTH:

That when government grows beyond its appropriate bounds, it foments a malignancy more dangerous than its separate elements;

That “as government expands, liberty contracts”;

That centralized funding centralizes power;

That centralized power diminishes responsiveness and accountability;

That government is not competent to do all things;

That the government cannot control an economy without controlling people;

That in controlling people, "it must use force and coercion to achieve its purpose”;

That government tends to grow, whenever that growth is not actively resisted;

That regardless of its professed humanitarian motives, the powers of government are founded in force, and even the best governments pose a substantial threat to the very rights that they are instituted to protect;

That government programs, once established, tend to remain, regardless of whether they remain effective and regardless of the harm they come to inflict;

That even ineffective and obsolete government programs are vigorously defended by their administrators and beneficiaries, giving a long life to the waste and injustice of distended government;

That the myriad of small but unjustified government expenditures cannot be separately defended by pointing out the relative insignificance of each of them alone, as the dollar is no less valuable when it is counted in pennies;

That no government the size, density, and complexity of the United States federal government can be made so transparent that the governed can effectively monitor and control it;

That governments are not subject to the perfecting forces of supply and demand, and that a democratic constitution, though essential, is inadequate to wrest adequacy from government;

That government reform, private competition, and individual freedom often succeed where increased government spending and power fail;

That regardless of what is promised of it, the use of expanded government authority will be shaped by politics and corruption;

That as there is no end to the promised benefits of government intrusion, there is no enterprise or personal sphere of freedom that is not ultimately at risk of being bled of its value or driven from existence;

That freedom and its benefits are most endangered when Americans are severally bribed into selling not only their own freedom, but also that of their neighbors;

That when it relieves families and voluntary associations of their traditional responsibilities by supplanting them in their invaluable role, a government can extinguish blessings that no government can replace;

That as Americans' ability to control their government -- as it is our right and duty to do -- is dependent on their ability to observe and communicate information on the conduct of government, the freedoms of speech and of the press deserve special care and protection, and the legislative and executive branches should not abandon these freedoms to be protected by the judiciary alone, but should use their own powers to enshrine and shield right and justice and those who have chosen to exercise them;

That even when they are intended to protect genuine and indispensable national security secrets, any restrictions on these rights must be met with the greatest skepticism and caution;

That no American should tolerate restrictions on the ability of individuals to monitor and investigate their own government through ordinary and otherwise lawful means;

That Congress and the executive branch alike should be made to take every reasonable and feasible measure to make their actions and processes known to the people who they serve;

That a clear distinction must be maintained between military and civil power, and that the administration of civil justice inside the borders of the United States is neither an appropriate nor lawful arena for the use of the military or law enforcement units of a martial character;

That to the extent that government controls are imposed on the market, extraordinary vigilance and stringent ethical standards are needed to prevent such controls from being used to forcefully burden or exclude certain economic actors for the benefit of others, all under the pretext of genuine necessity and public need;

That beyond its legitimate functions, governments do little as well as the private sector, and that among the reasons for this governmental ineffectiveness are the absence of private enterprises' absolute need to satisfy their customers, governments' relative immunity to the driving effects of competition, and the low probability that a governmental department that fails in its role will ever be replaced or meaningfully reformed;

That freedom depends on the effective restraint of government, limiting its power and preventing the accumulation of that power in a single authority;

That these restraints can include the restricting of the subject matter over which government possesses any control, prohibition of specific abuses of that control, and rules of law limiting the means and controlling the processes of government;

That we, as American citizens, must require our government to honor the constraints that already exist;

That government must be both meaningfully restrained by law and assertively supervised by the governed....

X.


Concerning JUSTICE IN TAXATION:

That among the compelling grounds for low tax rates are the known and demonstrated economic benefits, the unconstitutionality of certain expenditures that taxes fund, and the sense that people who live responsibly, save, and work hard should keep as much as possible of their reward for doing so;

That taxes are, however, also an issue of justice, as taxes are obligatory and collected under the threat of harsh penalties, and these taxes ought not to be levied to fund government expenditures that cannot justify such threats;

That while some government functions deserve the support of all Americans, primarily in the provision of security and the securing of justice, to fund other legitimate, constitutional governmental functions, taxes should be designed to charge the willful beneficiaries of a government expenditure in proportion to the benefits that they receive from it;

That when the injustice of other expenditures cannot be resolved by eliminating the offending expenditures, their funding should be restricted to sources of revenue that are not compulsory in the traditional sense, and that do not leverage taxpayers' rights without their individual prior consent in order to compel them to pay;

That once required to do so, governments could justly and ethically raise substantial revenue using game theory and simple contractual lures, finding ways to offer Americans a package of benefits to which they were not already entitled but would willingly pay to obtain, or to eliminate the “free rider” problem that threatens the likely effectiveness of reliance on voluntary contributions to provide for expenditures not justifying involuntary taxes, or a limited reliance on contributions by states (which could experiment, as they respectively wish, with liberty-consistent new methods for raising revenue), aside from the obvious expedient of “user fees,” where applicable;

That these alternative sources will not be considered and developed until politicians and the public recognize that it is possible for an otherwise desirable expenditure to violate the Constitution and the natural rights of taxpayers;

That by constitutional amendment, Americans can and should impose permanent controls requiring that only certain appropriate, lawful expenditures may ever be funded by traditional, compulsory taxation....

XI.


Concerning CONTEMPLATION AND PRUDENCE:

That in the formulation and execution of all policies, we must employ the conservative principle of prudence with intellectual vigor and a wide-minded perceptiveness, appreciating both the possibility of our own errors and also the possibility that inaction, at times, is an imprudent course of action as well;

That prudent policymaking requires an impartial examination of the relevant facts, due consideration and a healthy skepticism of the claims of our allies and opponents alike, the rejection of ideologies and their blinding effects, and an inclination to test, examine, and prove our own conclusions and beliefs;

That it is essential for policy programs to be shaped by an understanding of the present facts and the way the world really works, a realization that the consequences of policies cannot be effectively predicted outside of that framework, and accommodation of the fact that we cannot predict the behavior of people as well as we can predict the behavior of things;

That prudent policy-making requires that we avoid the blinding effect of zealous passions for ideologies;

That we may not fully appreciate the consequences of our actions, and that “Sudden and slashing reforms are as perilous as sudden and slashing surgery;”

That few decisions would be less conservative than to abandon the American heritage as represented by our Constitution and the traditions of liberty....


XII.


Concerning WISDOM AND STRENGTH, for SECURITY, FREEDOM, AND PEACE:

That we must defend America's just interests, preserving security and freedom for ourselves and our posterity;

That to this end, no source of strength -- including hearty diplomacy, strategic soundness, the will and preparedness to use military force, and all other just and constitutional resources -- may be wisely neglected;

That we court catastrophe when we overestimate our military strength, imprudently misspend it, or neglect to sustain and reinforce it;

That, as the federal government ought to be effective in its duty to preserve liberty, justice, and security for the American people -- and recalling also America's role as a beacon of liberty and justice for the world -- care and caution must be used in determining whether a use of military force is necessary and wise, and also the manner in which it is to be used;

That our ability to deter threats depends largely on our strength militarily, our possession of the intelligence, skill, and resources to wield that strength effectively, and our adversaries' certainty that America will answer aggression decisively; and

That the uniting goal of all of the foregoing must be to keep the United States of America, at once, secure, just, prosperous, and free.

Completed in Cicero, an outgrowth of the City of Indianapolis, on the First of May, Anno Domini 2010 and in the Year of American Sovereignty and Independence the 235th.