About the Project

Lincoln3

Freedom’s Truth: Justice and Responsibility

Liberty and the American Idea is a writing project that includes this blog, a forthcoming book, and the development of additional resources to come. The blog also appears on a parallel Facebook page, where 2700 readers are now following.

The project explores the close interrelatedness of freedom and responsibility in American history and culture, and addresses the immense challenges currently confronting the American people.  It is a response to a decades-long deterioration of social and economic conditions in the United States, to the growing antipathy, divisiveness, and loss of civility among Americans, and to the loss of integrity and self-reliance in the American character.

Without partisan posturing or polemic, the book offers a pragmatic approach to healing and reconstruction that transcends political divisions and proposes a path forward to inspire and engage every citizen.

With insights into how personal independence and empowerment can be realized despite the obstacles we face, and how our ability to live and work with our neighbors depends on our own self-confidence and discipline, it proposes a direct path to long-term stability and honorable prosperity.

After briefly outlining the complexity of the challenges before us, the first half of the book offers wide-ranging consideration of the historical perceptions and ways of thinking that will influence any effort to strengthen the foundations for an American future we can respect and believe in.

A strategic approach is then presented in the second half of the book which responds to the growing disorder we can expect from multiple oncoming crises.  Americans are encouraged to rise above our differences to the extent necessary to ensure safety and access to essential needs in our local communities.

Rational attention to resolving local problems and meeting shared needs will lead to functional person-to-person relationships which allow us to engage with honest integrity.  Only in this way can we gradually come to understand and influence one another as fellow-citizens should.

This strategy is outlined briefly in the introduction to the book, (linked at the top of this page), and developed fully in the book.  The project will include practical resources for strong, well-organized American communities.

Until the book is published, most blog posts will be adapted from or related to the manuscript.  At the top of this page, several full chapters are made available in draft, in addition to the  Introduction and a tentative Table of Contents.  Thoughtful responses from readers, and dialog among readers, will be welcomed and greatly appreciated.  Rules of engagement are posted at the bottom of the homepage.

 

Recent Posts

Liberty and the Foundations of Order

The United States Constitution is a legal document.  It is carefully crafted in structure and intentionality.  But it is far more than a simple contract.  It embodies a vision and a trust.  It was prepared for us by men who cared deeply about the future and about Americans as a people.

The Constitution comes to us as the gift of an inheritance.  The freedom it promises is anchored in a legislative order, the protections it provides, and the power to seek constructive change.

These are among the essential elements of a civil order that provides Americans with stability and a rational space to forge the future.

I have shared my observations with you concerning the impediments we face if we are to make this gift effective.

The Founders made conscious assumptions about the character of the American people.  Their contract with us was an act of faith, an expression of the belief that Americans could be entrusted with the future.

This is made clear in the Constitution itself.

In past posts I have shared the words of several of the Founders, which are quoted by Charles Murray in his book, “Coming Apart”.  I will repeat two of them here:

Patrick Henry was insistent: “No free government, or the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people but by a firm adherence to justice, moderation, temperance, frugality, and virtue.”

And, George Washington in his farewell address: “Virtue or morality is a necessary spring of popular government.”

“Everyone involved in the creation of the United States,” writes Charles Murray, “knew that its success depended on virtue in its citizenry–not gentility, but virtue…. In their various ways the founders recognized that if a society is to remain free, self-government refers first of all to individual citizens governing their own behavior.”

The Founders had good reason to think in this way.  A high degree of moral responsibility was necessary, Charles Murray continues, “because of the nearly unbridled freedom that the American Constitution allowed the citizens of the new nation.

“Americans were subject to criminal law… and to tort law, which regulated civil disputes.  But otherwise, Americans faced few legal restrictions on their freedom of action and no legal obligations to their neighbors except to refrain from harming them.

“The guides to their behavior at any more subtle level had to come from within.”

Virtues are the substance of good character.  But they are not instilled in us by nature.

Character is not formed in a vacuum.  We learn what matters in life by engaging directly and meaningfully with family and community—people who need to depend on us.

Personal values can either mature or be degraded through interpersonal relationships.  It is here that we experience the necessity for trust—for truthfulness, dependability, responsibility.

Without such virtues, life quickly becomes intolerable, and security is beyond reach.

How can we trust and respect others, you will ask, if they do not trust and respect us?  Well, breaking down barriers will take time and patience, discipline and determination.

This begins with ourselves, and so also does our own self-respect.

We may not agree with the beliefs or behaviors of other people, but without truthfulness and a readiness to engage honestly and respectfully, we are lost.

Engaging with differences is not easy, especially in an age of extreme distrust.  We must counter destructiveness with integrity and moral responsibility, yet always with emotional restraint.

True liberty rests firmly on human dignity and respect for others.  Where these are not found, depravity flourishes and the mischief-maker is free to roam.

Tom

Note to readers: Please assist me with your comments; I value your feedback!  You may watch for the next post on or about February 2.

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