Modern American Conservatism is a doctrine stressing individual freedom, free markets, and limited government. This includes the importance of human rationality, individual property rights, natural rights, the protection of civil liberties, individual freedom from restraint, equality under the law, constitutional limitation of government, free markets, and a gold standard to place fiscal constraints on government as exemplified in the writings of John Locke, Adam Smith, David Hume, David Ricardo, Voltaire, Montesquieu and others.
The "normative core" of modern American conservatism is appreciation for virtues and values promoting life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness along with the idea that laissez-faire economics will bring about a spontaneous order or invisible hand that benefits the society. It does not oppose a social contract by which the state provides some basic public services with what constitutes public services being seen as very limited.
Modern American conservatism promotes strong national defense and necessary regulation to prevent the citiziens/states from doing violence to each other, but otherwise wants federal government to be limited to its constitutionally mandated responsibilities and it objects to most socialist concepts and a federal welfare state.