Virtue Nugget

Most of my online time today (well, yesterday at this point) was spent brushing up on Lincoln stuff. Lots of it. It so happens that Lincoln is my whole touchstone for what I am today in the libertarian sense. It was essentially discovery of the Lincoln myth in 1990 or so that got things rolling for me. Everything followed from there. Without that, I’d be watching Fox News every day, preening after talking-head liars like Kristol, Hannity, and O’Reilly, generally making myself fit the inner automaton regurgitating memorex that typifies just about everyone else who stoops to that.

More on all that, later: once I get all my bits & pieces in a row. In the meantime, I came across an interesting Murray Rothbard essay (there’s a brief mention on Lincoln), Frank S. Meyer: The Fusionist as Libertarian Manqué. It’s an excellent read from the perspective of sorting out some of the distinctions between certain types of libertarians. (Note: when I write "libertarian," or even "Libertarian," I am never, ever writing about the great contradiction: "The Libertarian Party.") Section II covers Frank Meyer’s position on freedom and if you read nothing else, read section II (it’s short). Here’s an excerpt:

…To be moral, an act must be free.

Frank Meyer put it eloquently in his In Defense of Freedom:

. . . freedom can exist at no lesser price than the danger of damnation; and if freedom is indeed the essence of man’s being, that which distinguishes him from the beasts, he must be free to choose his worst as well as his best end. Unless he can choose his worst, he cannot choose his best.

And again:

For moral and spiritual perfection can only be pursued by finite men through a series of choices, in which every moment is a new beginning; and freedom which makes those choices possible is itself a condition without which the moral and spiritual ends would be meaningless. If this were not so, if such ends could be achieved without the continuing exercise of freedom, then moral and spiritual perfection could be taught by rote and enforced by discipline – and every man of good will would be a saint. Freedom is therefore an integral aspect of the highest end.

Freedom, in short, is a necessary but not sufficient condition for the achievement of virtue. With Lord Acton, we may say that freedom is the highest political end; in that subset of ethical principle that deals with the legitimacy of the use of violence between men, the libertarian – as well as the fusionist Meyer – position holds that violence must be strictly limited to defending the freedom of individuals, their rights to person and property, against violent interference by others.

Good stuff. It pays to keep reminding yourself: "…if freedom is indeed the essence of man’s being…he must be free to choose his worst
as well as his best end. Unless he can choose his worst, he cannot
choose his best." I don’t know about you, but I think that’s just a brilliant insight into the essence of freedom. Seems so obvious — like it’s always been there — once you read the words.

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