Conservatives generally favor not only the private ownership of personal property but also of the means of production. Some refer to such a system as capitalism, though they are using Marxist terminology when they do so. Generally speaking, they believe that property justly acquired belongs to the owner by right. If they subscribe to the natural law-nature rights philosophy—not all conservatives do—, they believed that private property is a natural right. Conservatives usually do not subscribe to the current doctrine of “human rights” because it is a phrase contrived to leave property rights out of the definition of rights. Conservatives favor freedom of enterprise, though they differ among themselves as to the extent to which it should prevail. They generally tend to oppose both government intervention in enterprise by regulation and control or government engaging in economic undertakings. They tend to favor a free market, oppose the exclusion of foreigners from the American market or the granting of monopolies by government. They differ considerably over the desirability of “antitrust” legislation, but it has bee in effect for so long that it rarely comes up as an issue.
As a rule, conservatives are constitutionalists. That is, they believe in limited government. They hold that government is a dangerous instrument, and that it is necessary to take measures to contain and restrict it. The American approach to that has been by having written constitutions. These written constitutions are a contract between the governors and the governed. Generally, conservatives favor a government of laws and not of men, and that the law for the United States government is the United States Constitution. Conservatives do not accept out of hand the notion that the Constitution is what the courts say it is, since it is a written document. They differ somewhat over the extent to which they would accept the view that a written constitution can properly be changed by judicial construction. Traditionalists, who may be in the Catholic or English tradition, would tend to attach greater significance to court precedents than do conservatives in the Protestant tradition. The latter tend to view a written constitution as fixed until it is amended by the regular and prescribed process.
Conservatives tend to be individualists. If the sole issue were the individual versus the collective, as in collectivism, they would be almost invariably individualists. They accept the primacy of the individual, his first ness and vastness, though most believe that in regard to the rights of the individual these are bounded by the necessities of living in society and of cooperation with others.
Conservatives tend to have the greatest respect and attachment for those organizations and institutions nearest at hand to the individual: the family, the church, the local community, the neighborhood school, the local government, as well as customs, traditions, and ways of doing things rooted in locales and regions. Not all conservatives, or those who have some affinity for conservatism, will subscribe to this hierarchy of values. Libertarians and rationalists (those who propose to be governed by reason alone) generally do not.
As a rule, conservatives are not revolutionists, do not favor radical and disruptive change, are not utopians, tend to believe, with Jefferson, that abuses are to be tolerated as long as they are bearable, are not relativists, and tend to believe that in the midst of change there are things that endure or are eternal. They tend to focus upon the fixities, the unchanging, the underlying order, in contrast to thoroughgoing evolutionists. They are more favorably disposed toward order, tradition, and authority, to the nature of things, than are Liberals and the like.
Clarence B. Carson, A Basic History of the United States, Volume 5: The Welfare State 1929-1985, pg.287-289