“In every state, not wholly barbarous, a philosophy, good or bad, there must be. However slightingly it may be the fashion to talk of speculation and theory, as opposed (sillily and nonsensically opposed) to practice, it would not be difficult to prove, that such as is the existing spirit of speculation, during any given period, such will be the spirit and tone of the religion, legislation, and morals, nay, even of the fine arts, the manners, and the fashions.”
- Coleridge, Essays on His Own Times.
As Coleridge observed, every age is the subject of a prevailing philosophy. There are many elements to this public culture: the content of everyday conversation, the discourse of the daily media, the sermons from pulpits and other places, the subject matter of political debate, and the lessons of teachers and scholars, to name just a few.
The prevailing philosophy is not static. Like a stream, it flows in a series of eddies, washing this way and that. It runs up against objects that can divert it in differing directions. It can be shaped, over time, in one direction or another. And it is subject to competing claims and interpretations.
At its heart is the wellbeing of society. It defines how we live together: What is permitted and what is forbidden; what is right and what is wrong; what is lawful and what is unlawful; what is supported and what is rejected.
Ideas are important. They shape the public culture. They inform political discussions. They shape the role of government. They define the relationships between individuals, families, and the institutions of civil society. They underpin policies and programs. In short, they inform us about how we should live together.
There are certain ideas that we believe are important:
- That the dignity of the individual is the foundation of all other relationships;
- That the political and economic freedom of the individual is central to societal wellbeing, and that personal responsibility underpins such freedom;
- That the convental relationships of love, loyalty, friendship and trust exist outside the political sphere but are essential to the health of society;
- That social order and shared values underpin a healthy society;
- That government should be limited, without forgetting that the protection of the poor and the `weak are pivotal political challenges;
- That functional families are crucial for the raising of children and the stability of society;
- That society is a partnership across generations;
- That we belong to a nation, not a series of segregated groups; and
- That our western, liberal democracy best enhances individual freedom and human dignity and is worth defending.
Our purpose therefore is to examine the principles that underpin policy and to discuss proposals and program directions.