Constitutional Liberty

Rick Santorum has a concept of freedom that is closer to the Founding Fathers’ definition than anyone else running for president. It’s also a concept that is in line with Biblical presuppositions. In his book It Takes a Family, he lays it out clearly [I urge you to read this rather lengthy quote carefully]:

The freedom talked about at our Constitutional Convention did not mean the village elders’ self-centered, No-Fault Freedom. It wasn’t a freedom that celebrated the individual above society. It wasn’t a freedom that gave men and women blanket permission to check in and out of society whenever they wanted. It wasn’t the freedom to be as selfish as I want to be. It wasn’t even the freedom to be left alone, with no obligations to the people we know and to the people we don’t yet know. The Constitutional Convention’s freedom, America’s traditional freedom—or the better word, as I defined it earlier, liberty—was a selfless freedom, freedom for the sake of something greater or higher than the self. For our founders, this liberty was defined and defended in the context of our Judeo-Christian understanding of humanity. Often, in fact, American liberty meant the freedom to attend to one’s duties—duties to God, to family, and to neighbors.

Santorum then explains that he’s not negating rights that belong to individuals, just that these rights were never intended solely for one’s individual welfare, but the general welfare, or the common good. His greatest concern is that the No-Fault Freedom of what he calls “the village elders” will become dominant, if it hasn’t already:

The multiculturalist village elders deny there is such a thing as “common,” and the relativist elders deny there is such a thing as an absolute “good.” As a result, families trying to live and to raise children as decent citizens suffer. When, in the name of “freedom,” public virtue is sunk so low that families must swim against a toxic tide to raise children to be decent and public-spirited adults, something has gone terribly wrong with our understanding of freedom.

Society, he argues, is not just “an unconnected group of individuals, each pursuing his own idiosyncratic vision of his self-centered good.” That perspective is “an image of society as a pile of sand, each grain unconnected to all the others.” Jesus said something about a house built on sand—it will sink and fracture.

If only voters would look past outward displays of bombast and petty arguments and focus instead on substance. If they did, they would appreciate Santorum a lot more.