Last week, at the Sutherland Institute annual dinner, our special guest was Professor Robbie George from Princeton. Professor George is described by The New York Times as “this country’s most influential conservative Christian thinker.” His resume is so long that it took Utah Valley University President Matt Holland a full five minutes to go through it – President Holland being one of Professor George’s students.
To put it simply, Robbie George is on the front lines in defending marriage and family as a scholar, intellectual and lawyer. His National Organization for Marriage has been the foremost activist group in passing Proposition 8 in California and defending marriage laws throughout the nation.
In his remarks at the Sutherland annual dinner, Professor George addressed what he calls the “Five Pillars of a Decent and Dynamic Society.”
Any healthy society, any decent society, will rest upon three pillars. The first is respect for the human person—the individual human being and his dignity. Where this pillar is in place, the formal and informal institutions of society, and the beliefs and practices of the people, will be such that every member of the human family…is treated as a person—that is, as a subject bearing profound, inherent, and equal worth and dignity….
The second pillar of any decent society is the institution of the family. It is indispensable. The family, based on the marital commitment of husband and wife, is the original and best ministry of health, education, and welfare. Although no family is perfect, no institution matches the healthy family in its capacity to transmit to each new generation the understandings and traits of character — the values and virtues — upon which the success of every other institution of society, from law and government to educational institutions and business firms, vitally depends….
The third pillar of any decent society is a fair and effective system of law and government. This is necessary because none of us is perfectly virtuous all the time, and some people will be deterred from wrongdoing only by the threat of punishment. More importantly, contemporary philosophers of law tell us the law coordinates human behavior for the sake of achieving common goals — the common good — especially in dealing with the complexities of modern life. Even if all of us were perfectly virtuous all of the time, we would still need a system of laws…to accomplish many of our common ends….
Interestingly, Professor George made a point of connecting family issues and business issues – linking family and free markets. He said,
Some will counsel that commercial businesses and business people “have no horse in this race.” They will say that these are moral, cultural, and religious disputes about which business people and people concerned with economic freedom need not concern themselves. The reality is that the ideological movements that today seek, for example, to redefine marriage and abolish its normativity for romantic relations and the rearing of children are the same movements that seek to undermine the market-based economic system and replace it with statist control of vast areas of economic life.
He concluded by saying,
I would warn that limited government — considered as an ideal as vital to business as to the family — cannot be maintained where the marriage culture collapses and families fail to form or easily dissolve.
That message – that family is the fundamental unit of society – is vital in the cause of freedom.
For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.