One of the greatest American virtues is not just a willingness to stand on one’s own two feet, but a moral imperative to do so. Not everyone is a Randian hero, and people do need help from time to time, which is why strong families, vibrant churches, and a myriad of other charitable organizations even today still exist. Only in cases where one was incapable of providing for themselves, such as with children, the infirm, or handicapped, did government, preferably at the most local level step in with aid and assistance.
But when those pillars of family and faith, along with the attendant charity made possible thereby, then the third “f” becomes also untenable: Freedom. In times when society decays, people search not for liberty, but for safety; once found, people are unwilling to give up a seemingly “sure thing”, no matter how horrible it may be compared to what they could get in a free and virtuous society, because they have to absolute assurance given that they will not die starving and diseased in the middle of the street.
In other words, the idea of a vibrant society where private individuals take care of themselves and are capable of taking care of others (and in turn be taken care of in times of need), is an alien concept unmoored from a reality that has long since adopted a government-promised modicum of security in the face of what to them is a strange and frightening unknown.
It is rare that a society, by whatever strange confluence of events and personages throughout its history, can hold both liberty and virtue at the same time: The liberty to do as one chooses, yet the virtue to choose correctly. Such a society can only evolve naturally, and is ever only one generation away form perishing. Such a superlative society can not be created by intelligent designers ex nihilo in vacuo, particularly when the designers are demonstratedly unintelligent. Above all else, elements in society either contribute to the perpetuation of the society, or act in its detriment. Usually, this results in something stable, with a modicum of security necessary for the perpetuation of society; alternately, freedom usually eats itself and society sunders itself, ripe for replacement. We have such a rare society; we are losing such a precious thing.
We are entering that phase that Western Europe entered the better part of a century ago: The perpetual childhood of the citizenry, where they are taken care of without apparent need to ever fear the consequences of their own independent lives. Two current topics show us the danger.
The first, unsurprisingly, is the increasingly emboldened cry by some that we give up the liberty afforded all free persons in a free society: The right to personal arms, a right going back to the age of the medieval Saxons whose freemen could wield the Saex (the literal long knife), and even before that. Ah, the cry that if we only gave up our weapons that people would either not harm each other en mass, or that the government would always protect us being only minutes away when seconds count.
The 2nd Amendment is about more than just guns or militias, it is an embodiment of the wider and far more fundamental right to be responsible for one’s life, for keeping it safe, and keeping others safe. Moreover, it is more than just the established fact that guns are used all the time to protect people more than they are used in massacres. It is about personal liberty and personal responsibility. For what risk there may be, for what insecurity may at rare times rear its ugly head, the liberty of self, when constrained by civic and moral virtue, will provide far more security than an indifferent bureaucracy or government elite ever could.
Another example is one of healthcare. Even in America, people are increasingly willing to hand over absolute power to the government in order to not have to worry about not being denied necessary medical help, or not being to afford what help is proffered. As noted, family, friends, and charities could readily step in for those cases when a person can not provide for themselves, even those otherwise capable who face the disastrously unexpected. That so many who have become accustomed to poor and rationed care such that they fear the possibility of more because the meager table scraps won’t be tossed from the table.
Here, too, we see a surrender of the liberty of self leading not to more security but less. The lack of adequate care becomes enshrined in law with medical care rationed, if not outright denied, or when that alleged security of life saving treatment is twisted into an inhuman execution.
It is not so much that those who trade in their liberty for a bit of temporary security deserve neither, it is that they will end up with neither. On the other hand, Liberty as shone through the lens of Virtue, will provide the true Security that the surrender of Liberty of Self can not and never will achieve.