Written by Bruce A. Little |
Thursday, November 25, 2021
Though some may argue strenuously against any connection between virtue and freedom, all of history is against them. When personal responsibility is divorced from virtue, it is deprived of its guiding principles and moral foundation. Without moral foundations, the freedom to choose will present an opportunity for the selfish one to pursue personal ambition in disregard for the freedoms of others. Where virtue is ignored, rejected, or redefined in pragmatic terms selfish pursuits of power and gain prevail, leaving little to stand between anarchy and totalitarianism.
The concept of freedom is not something that is learned; rather it is bound up in the essence of humanity itself. Although it may not always prevail in every human situation, it is the condition humanity desires from the core of its being. The sense of choice and the desire to choose flow from our being very early on in life. It is why man prefers to be free as opposed to being chained. It is why we think that restricting one’s freedom is severe punishment. This reflects the fact that freedom is not to be understood as a privilege of a few, but is the innate impulse of all humanity. One might say that freedom is a yearning of the soul as hunger and thirst are a longing of the body. One can live with less than desired, but one cannot survive on less than is needed. Freedom is to humanity as breath is to life. When freedom prevails, humanity rejoices.
Freedom, however, is not freestanding or self-sustaining. It requires moral responsibility from all who enjoy the benefits of freedom. Unless men act morally responsible in freedom, freedom will be the occasion for license which will in turn destroy freedom. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, in an interview in July 1989 with Time, captured the relationship between freedom and responsibility when he said: “During these 300 years of Western civilization, there has been a sweeping away of duties and expansion of rights. But we have two lungs. You can’t breathe with just one lung and not the other. We must avail ourselves of rights and duties in equal measure. And if this is not established by the law, if the law does not oblige us to do that, then we have to control ourselves.” That is, external law increases where personal responsibility decreases.