This post is a transcript of a 4-minute weekly radio commentary aired on several Utah radio stations.
There is a truism in some religious circles: Teaching doctrine changes behavior better than teaching behavior changes behavior. My business at Sutherland Institute is to teach freedom and I’ve long believed that freedom has doctrines just like a religion.
So here is my attempt to share with you some doctrines of freedom.
First, freedom has context. While everyone may have an opinion, freedom cannot mean whatever anyone needs it to mean. Freedom has a broad context that transcends even important liberty interests. Freedom can be achieved even if your individual liberty is somehow proscribed. Freedom transcends utility. Freedom’s context is that delicate balance between order and liberty.
Second, freedom requires a conscious choice to place family at the center of society. In context, family is the fundamental unit of society. It cannot be the individual, church, corporation or state and still strike an appropriate balance between order and liberty. Only the family unit provides both social stability and personal autonomy necessary for maximum freedom.
Third, because of the second point, a culture of marriage is vital to freedom. And moreover today, we need to understand the meaning of marriage. If marriage can mean anything, it means nothing. And if marriage means nothing, so does family, and then freedom means nothing. Anybody who believes in the separation of marriage and state misses the context of freedom. Marriage is an irreplaceable factor in the freedom equation. For instance, it’s why Utah argues that marriage is child-centric, not adult-centric. Its context, just like freedom, is futurity.
Fourth, freedom requires citizens to elevate civil society. The intermediate layer of society that buffers the individual from the state – faith, family, community, neighborhood, voluntary associations, etc. – must be vibrant for freedom to thrive. Without this buffer of civil society, the state not only would run roughshod over individual liberty, it would, as history has proven, become the final moral arbiter for individuals and, thus, could lead to mass human suffering.
A fifth doctrine of freedom is the healthy integration of government in our lives. Freedom requires us to see the possibility of good government – government as an extension of the values of the people. We often hear the expression, “America is great because America is good.” That is the truth. If we see government as evil or even as a necessary evil, we fail to understand why we have government in a free society. If the proper role of government is simply to enforce market contracts, we miss the big picture – we miss the true proper role of American government, the role it plays in support of human happiness. If we deny that role, we will lose our freedom.
Likewise, if we pervert that role, we will lose our freedom as well. A sixth doctrine of freedom complements the fifth point: Freedom requires limited government. When government is massive and concentrated, freedom is strained. Self-government, local government, subsidiarity and a broad sharing of powers will keep us free.
Freedom is a sacred American icon open to easy rhetorical abuses. The “what” and “how” of freedom matter. But the “why” of freedom matters most.
For Sutherland Institute, I’m Paul Mero. Thanks for listening.
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