Interesting exchange in the comments to this post. TDK challenges me to come up with a positive vision for conservatism, but Northnorthwest beats me to it - I'm sure everyone's seen it already, but just in case, here it is again:
How about a regime of liberty protected by laws (and limited when the 'libertine' tendency causes discernible and concrete harm: not mere upset or offence.) Everything which is not specifically banned by Act of Parliament or ancient Common Law to be permitted.Hey, it works for me! I'd quibble with one or two things (coming soon...) but it does nicely make the point that there really is such a thing as conservative ideology after all.
The laws to be decided by freely-elected national institutions such as a British Parliament free of overseas management and overseas legislation of all sorts. The laws are to be enforced by judges steeped in the history of the English Common Law [and its Scottish equivalents] and statute law, and capable of discerning the difference between their own opinions and the actual practise of the laws of the land.
The lower house is to be moderated by an upper house which is largely free of electoral cycle pressures, and which amends, warns, and delays the Commons' bills in order to prevent panic-legislation and extremist populism [such as the Obama Democrats are likely to rush through in the 2 years before then next round of Congressional elections.] There should be with set procedures for national emergencies to circumvent some peacetime procedures and laws, but these to be temporary and regularly need to be renewed by the consent of Parliament - say every three months.
The widest possible variety and extent of private property ownership and property rights should be reinstituted, including and especially the ownership by parents of their share in a national education budget, and by all workers of their National Insurance payments, to be directed into health insurance and private pension planning in addition to what their employers might provide.
Compulsory worker's pension savings [ tax advantaged ]of 10% per annum, with tax advantages for more up to the limit of savings a person can make from earnings. This is intended to prevent the need/political demand 40 years on from adulthood for the taxpayers to 'do something' when libertines want to retire and can't quite find the cash...
All taxation to be on income [of all sorts including capital gains] at a single rate, with a generous lower limit. Death duties to be abolished.
Also a wise government would limit any financial help for parents at the third child to end the baby-breeding welfare underclass in a generation.
Subsistence benefits for the able should end after 3 months and workfare be provided at identical rates.
Disability/incapacity benefits to be awarded only on diagnosis of specified, definable illnesses, with treatment programmes mandatory with the intention of curing them and returning the patients to the workforce. Threats of suicide made by 'depressed' individuals in this case to be met with an appointment at the nearest hospice to be offered lethal drugs.
Abolish all moral and quality-of-life quangos and Ministries and return all government functions to a small and apolitical Civil Service - which you might return to once the Local Education Authorities hand over the last publicly-owned schools to the voucher - financed private school foundations.
Drugs, poverty, intoxication, insult or poor upbringing to be banned as mitigation for all crimes. Prisons should be run with the intention to incarcerate, to punish, and to reform only a distant third, but to be preceded by a steeply-graded non-custodial sentencing for first and second non-lethal offences, such as mandatory curfews and name-and-shaming in the criminals' neighbourhood for the first, and the pillory and possibly corporal punishment for second offences. Third strike and you're in: no exceptions.
Self-preservation to be upheld as the supreme legal right, with protection of others and property close seconds.
Dismantle the security apparatus and censorship laws of the 9/11 era, and fund properly staffed and numerous counter-spy services and employ overseas intelligence and subversion against terror-sponsoring regimes.
There; once that's done, freedom might actually mean something, as most folk would have enough cash and enough spare time to make decent lives for themselves and their families, with a reasonable chance that a large portion of their lives won't be stolen or spoiled by unlicensed criminals, tax men or regulators alike.
God save the Queen.