10. “Freedom works.” A frequent refrain of Hayek, but what does it mean? Weapons also “work,” though not necessarily for good. Freedom cannot be evaluated apart from the ends that it serves. John Winthrop, in a passage Tocqueville called “this beautiful definition of freedom,” once said:
There is a liberty of corrupt nature, which is effected by men andbeasts, to do what they list; and this liberty is inconsistent withauthority, impatient of all restraint; by this liberty, [we are all inferior]; ’tis the grand enemy of truth and peace … But there is a civil, a moral, a federal liberty, which is the proper end and object of authority; it is a liberty for that only which is just and good; for this liberty you are to stand with the hazard of your very lives.
Stand the first Tea Partiers did when their true liberty was threatened, and stand we must if it is to be preserved.
Nathan Schlueter is a visiting fellow in the James Madison Program at Princeton University. He is associate professor of philosophy at Hillsdale College. This piece is adapted from a book manuscript, co-authored with Nikolai Wenzel, on the Foundations of the Libertarian-Conservative Debate. This article has been republished from Public Discourse.