William Hague says that "faith in people" lies at the heart of the Conservative manifesto to be launched later today.
He told Today presenter John Humphrys that people should be able to take a greater role in the governing of the country.
"This is a nation of incredibly resourceful, ingenious people," he said. "And they are sat on all the time with rules and bureaucracy."
Mr Hague said the major theme of the manifesto was to allow people "to take part much more in the governing of their own country and their own areas".
He went on: "Governments cannot and do not know how to run everything to best advantage in every town, village and city in the country.
"Having faith in people may seem a revolutionary idea in British politics, but it's the idea that's central to the Conservative manifesto today."
But the shadow foreign secretary denied that plans to allow parents to set up schools was an abdication of the government's responsibility, saying most parents wanted a good school in the state system.
"These are schools that the taxpayer pays for, but they don't have to be run by the state. Have some faith in what people can achieve if you free them up to achieve it."
And he rejected the assertion that the party's plans involved raising the level of VAT, adding that "most of the tax rises are already in the system".