Excerpt: Ordered Liberty

On the Ideals of a Ordered Liberty:
Thus, a society's values and expectations about what is right or just influence the citizen's moral choices in economic, social and political arenas at any moment. If society honors the principles of rational individualism, the citizen's choices will be influenced by ideals of individual liberty, self-reliance, personal responsibility, voluntary cooperation, moral realism, and respect for the rights and sovereignty of others. If, on the other hand, society honors the liberal agenda's principles of coercive collectivism, then the citizen's choices will be influenced by ideals of entitlement, welfare dependency, state regulation, moral relativism, and the socialization of major categories of human action.

Competent human beings understand that they must respect facts and think logically about people and things. They understand that actions have consequences, that certain actions make their lives better or worse, and that certain rules must govern the behaviors of persons in order to allow for individual freedoms and the preservation of social order.

The ideal of personal autonomy, as evidenced in the capacity to act independently through responsible self-direction, and the ideal of social cooperation, as evidenced in the ability to work with others in pursuit of shared goals for mutual benefit, are threshold developmental achievements in the child's growth to competence. In a society committed to individual liberty, individual responsibility and individual assumption of risk, and in the interest of minimizing actions that encroach on the persons and property of others, social order requires that children be raised with at least minimal capacities for self-direction and collaborative effort. Expectations that the mature citizen will take care of himself and not coerce others into that duty are consistent with a principle basic to freedom: that in a free society, no one is born into the world with a legally enforceable obligation to take care of persons other than his own children, especially persons whom he has never met. Citizenship in a free society should not entail a legal duty of care to strangers: that is, a statutory mandate that you adopt one or more persons deemed deserving by government officials.

Thus the goals of psychotherapy and the goals of child rearing share the western ideal of individuated man: the autonomous, self-directed and freely choosing but ethical and moral individual, an agent both sovereign and social, who cooperates with others by mutual consent, not by coercion, in a society ruled by law. Here, in language more behavioral than philosophical, is the psycho-biologically based ideal of individualism. The critical question to be asked, then, is whether and to what extent the arrangements for living in a given society are consistent with that ideal. More particularly, we ask whether and to what extent the liberal agenda is consistent with that ideal.

To qualify as a validating environment for the citizen who has achieved adult competence, a society must establish a basic set of rules that permit freedom; it must establish the infrastructure of moral values and legal protections that allow economic, social and political processes to be conducted by mutual agreement.

The competent individual remains the primary economic, social and political unit of the free society, the competent family continues to be the primary socializing and civilizing institution, and the competent society itself provides the overarching structure of ordered liberty.