The critical nature of virtue, both public and private, for the preservation of freedom is fundamental for conservatives and those who venerate the founders and read their writings. I would like to ask the inverse question: Is it Freedom that is essential for attaining Virtue?
Without the ability to choose and freely pursue one’s interest, can one really have the virtue, the goodness, the morality that will accomplish great things? Without freedom can human individuals, families, and communities really become what they were meant to become (the Aristotelian definition of virtue)? I argue that it is likely freedom that precedes virtue and that only in free situations can virtue have its full expression.
As a society becomes more controlling of the thoughts, intents, and actions of its members, the virtue correspondingly decreases as force warps the hearts and minds of individuals.
When we turn to legal arguments (which are by definition arguments of force) to justify, rationalize and promote questionable actions, we remove the freedom to use moral decision-making. We take away the necessity for ethical accountability and moral rectitude in our actions. Virtue lessens.
Only as we embrace freedom and eschew force and fear can society be a virtuous one. Our society will be as virtuous as we are free. Although our societies may be moving in a direction away from freedom, we still have the choice to be free in our minds, hearts, and actions and we must promote freedom for those around us (especially in our families and local communities) by eliminating our desire to control, dominate, or force situations.
We are only as free as we allow others to be. Let us increase our freedom and that of others, and thereby increase the virtue and power of individuals and society.