Liberty is one of the most abused terms in political discourse. It has been rendered a meaningless and subjective justification for immorality. It is time for the conservative movement to embrace Edmund Burke’s philosophy of ordered liberty.
Burke believed that liberty can only flourish when a society is virtuous and has moral order. Burke realized that liberty absent of virtue “is the greatest of all evils; for it is folly, vice, and madness, without tuition and restraint.”
Burke argued for what he called “social freedom,” which he defined as “that state of things in which liberty is secured by the equality of restraint.” He understood that people are not totally independent of one another and that their actions affect others.
The founders shared this view of liberty as well. They understood that vice chipped away at the “blessings of liberty.” The founders were also explicit that the goal of government is justice, not pure unfettered liberty. In Federalist 51, James Madison writes, “Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society.” While liberty is important, it is not the ultimate good as libertarians believe. Strangely, some conservatives have adopted this libertarian notion.
According to the New Yorker, conservative David French said, “And, by the way, the fact that a person can get a room in a library and hold a Drag Queen Story Hour and get people to come? That’s one of the blessings of liberty.” As Founding Father Patrick Henry once eloquently proclaimed: “Give me Drag Queen Story Hour or give me death!”
Sarcasm aside, Drag Queen Story Hour is an insult to liberty- not a furthering of it. George Washington was adamant in his distinction of licentiousness from liberty. While delivering his first State of the Union speech, he said “To the security of a free Constitution… by teaching the people themselves to know and to value their own rights…to discriminate the spirit of liberty from that of licentiousness, cherishing the first, avoiding the last…” The founders realized that licentiousness would be weaponized by tyrants to oppress the masses.
In the libertarian magazine Reason, Steven Greenhut claims that conservatives opposed to Drag Queen Story Hour are “abandoning liberty.” In his argument, he invokes the words of George Washington: “The preservation of the sacred fire of liberty, and the destiny of the republican model of government, are justly considered as deeply, perhaps as finally staked, on the experiment entrusted to the hands of the American people.”
Washington’s view of liberty is closer to Edmund Burke’s than the modern libertarian’s. In his Circular to the States, Washington said that “arbitrary power is most easily established on the ruins of Liberty abused to licentiousness.” The hyper-individualistic liberty espoused by libertarianism is a rejection of the founding. Conservatives should not embrace it if they want to regain the culture.
Greenhut also rebukes the “common good” in his piece. He argues, “What is the common good? It is whatever policymakers and government planners say it is.” His point about the common good is a valid one. It has the potential to be abused and arguably has been during the pandemic.
This happens when the selfish ambitions of a tyrant or a majority are masqueraded as the “common good.” The actual common good advocates for the good of the whole. It is intrinsic to the political debate. Aristotle knew that society would inevitably be oriented towards the common good. In Politics he wrote, “Every community is established with a view to some good; for mankind always act in order to obtain that which they think good.”
Neutrality is not an option in the political sphere. Humans will seek to enshrine their morality into law. If conservatives ignore this basic truth of human nature, the foundations of Western civilization will crumble. Liberty can not flourish in a society that fails to distinguish between right and wrong.
There are many ways to tyrannize a population. Creating the conditions for people to become enslaved to their carnal desires is one of them. They are not free because their free will has been hindered by vice. Tyrants know this so they push for the normalization of pornography and other manifestations of licentiousness.
If the flame of liberty is snuffed out, it will not be due to conservatives fighting Drag Queen Story Hour. It will be because they submitted to our culture of degeneracy under the guise of freedom; inadvertently paving the way for authoritarians to take advantage of a docile and decadent populace.
The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.