Conservatism has always contended that representative self-government must be grounded in the moral self-control of its citizens, that liberty should be ordered to prevent it from descending into license, and that liberty should only be constrained in order to ensure the public good. Conservatism finds its ontological foundation in the concepts of a personal Creator, human equality under him, the nobility of man, and the reality of human imperfectability.
Conservatism also argues that the formation of human character begins in the home and that moral actors (persons) are responsible for the choices they make. Man is more than a vessel into which arbitrary influences are poured with inevitable concoctive results. In his "Prospectus for a Critique of Conservative Reason," Mark Riebling argues that "A conservative explains behavior spiritually, and personalizes responsibility ... A liberal, by contrast, explains behavior mechanically, and externalizes responsibility ... Thus, in the typical policy debate, a liberal makes excuses for the human agent, and a conservative places blame. The spark of the liberal argument -- He didn't have the same opportunities you did -- meets the conservative conceptual firewall: Lots of people start poor, but still find ways to make it."
Man is more than a material being. Modern secular liberalism argues that man's spiritual dimension is irrelevant, if not non-existent, since, ontologically, he can be re-formed externally through social and economic policy enacted and enforced by the state. "The march of God in the world," Hegel argues, "that is what the state is." From Karl Marx through Kim Jong-Un, the theoretical and political totalitarians of the world have said (a secular), "Amen."
This philosophical framework naturally leads to a certain vision of government. Conservatism maintains that government must be modest in scope, ordered but not repressive, and established in personal liberty. It must be true to its founding principles yet responsive to the needs of the moment. It must also be grounded in a shared understanding of the nature of the state and the nature of man and, in America, in a shared understanding of its governing Constitution.