The Imperative to Serve
Understanding liberty as a product of a society’s evolutionary process means studying human behavior over time. In this reading, liberty emerges because humans, having lived together for ages, learn a great deal about collective life. A society recognizes rights because evidence formed over generations demonstrates what contributes to security, what people need to flourish, and what happens when some people possess disproportionate power. Said another way, liberty exists primarily because of experience, not because of abstract philosophical reasoning.
Experience is also the only way we can answer the all-important question, “What becomes of longstanding communities made up of free people?” Here, the concept of “institutions of freedom” becomes key. After generations of living together, free people develop habits, customs, rules, and entities that are only possible because of liberty, that make the most of liberty, that protect liberty, and that ameliorate the inevitable downsides of liberty. We are surrounded by such institutions, even if we seldom recognize them as such: families, towns, parishes, schools, community associations, volunteerism, faith, restraint, charity, civility, democracy, markets, courts, and much more.
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