I loved this blog post today from the Heritage Foundation. It’s a good reminder that even though we’re conservatives and want to strengthen the individual, the family that God created and established is the building block of our society. ~ Will Estrada
October 27, 2011
No Man is an Island: Why Individualism Can’t Sustain Freedom
Is individualism adequate to sustain liberty and rein in government? This issue surfaced during the Republican primary debate last week in Las Vegas.
“This country has always put people in groups” and treated them accordingly, said Representative Ron Paul (R–TX). America needs to move away from this kind of “group mentality,” he says, toward a more individualistic perspective: “We need to see everybody as an individual. And to me, seeing everybody as an individual means their liberties are protected as individuals.”
While not disagreeing with the fact that government should protect the rights of individuals, former Senator Rick Santorum (R–PA) took issue with Paul’s implication that “the country is founded on the individual.” Santorum argued, “The basic building block of a society is not an individual. It’s the family.”
It’s true that many rights belong to citizens as individuals. People don’t have the right to life and liberty, for example, only if they belong to some privileged group. Rather, God has endowed these rights to every single person as a unique individual with value and dignity.
But to leave the impression that rights-bearing individuals are islands unto themselves would be a mistake. That notion isn’t true to who we are as people, and it can actually lead to bigger government.
Everyone exists in some form of relationship to others. In fact, we become who we are—we develop our own unique habits and views—in the context of these relationships. We need to think of ourselves and others not merely as self-standing individuals but as persons in community.
And the most basic form of community is the family. Families and other community institutions are essential to human well-being. It’s in these local forms of association that we learn not only to respect rights but also to exercise responsibilities to others.
If we seek to restore limited government, it’s important not to overlook the fact that much of our flourishing lies in the kinds of relationships fostered in civil society.
We should protect the rights of every single citizen—every “individual,” if you will. To achieve this goal, though, we have to see and treat the “rights-bearer” for what he or she truly is: a social being, a member of various communities and forms of association. That means taking families and faith communities more seriously when it comes to policy decisions.
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Community Offers a Helping Hand
More than one in four U.S. adults volunteers. Marriage and religious practice can have a positive effect on an individual’s likelihood of volunteering. Find out how marriage, family, and religion help maintain civil society at FamilyFacts.org.
Click here for the full chart
Reinventing the Family: Good Intentions Are Not Enough
Blog post by Collette Caprara
Veterans’ Groups Win Right to Religious Freedom
Blog post by Sarah Torre
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