“Liberty cannot be established without morality, nor morality without faith.” – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America
Liberty without morality is, in my opinion, chaos. (When I say morality I mean: “a doctrine or system of moral conduct”).¹ I realize this is not a premise that some people can easily accept – if they accept it at all. Nonetheless, this post is dedicated to highlighting the indispensable connection between liberty and morality and why a free society will necessarily collapse under libertinism.
After diving into the trenches of the liberty movement myself, I quickly realized that many individuals view the fight for personal liberty as a way to acquire free moral license to do what the current authorities claim should not (consume narcotics, engage in deviant sexual behaviour, etc), as opposed to participating in creating a system by which diverse people groups may freely and peacefully pursue their vision of the Good. In other words, many people have joined the liberty movement to deconstruct a system of morality rather than increase and defend fundamental human freedoms at home and abroad.
Of course one may argue that a libertine lifestyle falls within the realm of a person’s right to pursue their vision of the Good, to which I simply say that a society full of libertines would quickly find itself entirely debased and in anarchy. Why is it that I am so certain that liberty – and moreover, civilized society as a whole – is unsustainable in a libertine system? Because a person, or group of people, that is characterized by self-indulgence and a lack of restraint is necessarily going to begin infringing on the rights and property of their neighbors. The only way to keep a libertine society in order is through an overbearing and fundamentally legalistic regime with a justice system that has brutal repercussions for misdeeds – none of which is liberal. Otherwise, what exactly holds a libertine back from murder, rape, and pillage?
Even the Non-Aggression Principle (NAP) is dependent on the goodwill of your neighbor (morality), especially in the absence of a governing authority. It is simply a utopian delusion to think that a bunch of libertines would be indefinitely kept in check by a system dependent on something as flimsy as: “I won’t do ‘x’ to you if you don’t do ‘x’ to me, but if you do ‘x’ to me I will do ‘y’ to you.” Such a system inevitably results in the rise of strongmen who use natural endowment or positions of power to violate the rights of other individuals and groups, relieve them of their possessions, and deny them justice. All of which spells the opposite of a liberal society.
Thus, de Tocqueville is quite correct when he asserts that “liberty cannot be established without morality.” But I take his assertion one step further by arguing that civilized society as a whole cannot be established without morality. Without the general consensus that murder, theft, and rape are inherently wrong, and that restraint is necessary when the consequence of its absence is the violation of the rights or property of your neighbor, there is no foundation for society. Therefore, not only is libertinism harmful to the preservation of liberty, it is the very antithesis of it. After all, to pursue a lifestyle absent of morality, or a perverted form of it, is to undermine the very foundation of liberty itself.
So what is one of the best things a person can do in the fight for liberty? Acquire some morals and hold on tight to them, encouraging others to do the same.
1. Definition from: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/morality.
What is defined as “moral” is, of course, debatable; however, this post assumes that an objective system of morality is attainable and can be revealed through both reason and divine illumination.