Front Page Titles (by Subject) Freedom and Virtue - Literature of Liberty, October/December 1979, vol. 2, No. 4
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Freedom and Virtue - Leonard P. Liggio, Literature of Liberty, October/December 1979, vol. 2, No. 4 
Literature of Liberty: A Review of Contemporary Liberal Thought was published first by the Cato Institute (1978-1979) and later by the Institute for Humane Studies (1980-1982) under the editorial direction of Leonard P. Liggio.
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Freedom and Virtue
“Freedom and Virtue.” Reason Papers #5(Winter 1979):1–12
At the turn of the century, the need for governmental coercive intervention in society had been advocated on grounds of economic necessity, even of science. Increasingly, since then, a different argument has supported such intervention: namely the view that morality itself requires that government act to right the wrongs of society.
Generally, however, it is ancient political theory which stresses the role of government in the promotion of moral virtue, whereas modern political philosophers such as Spinoza, Rousseau, Mill, and (in different senses) Hegel and Marx have argued that the state's purpose is to promote liberty or freedom. Den Uyl accepts that a moral perspective on political life is appropriate and asks whether the basic notions of government as tied either to promoting virtue or to promoting freedom, are mutually exclusive alternatives?”
Den Uyl defends the view that, ultimately, the promotion of virtue is impossible without the maintenance of freedom. The freedom Den Uyl has in mind—the freedom defined by Spinoza, Locke, and Mill—is not freedom from such burdens as poverty, disease, and ignorance. Den Uyl claims that “freedom conceived in terms of the relief of burdens cannot be a primary sense of freedom” because the “mere aspirations to relieve certain burdens implies nothing about the context in which those burdens are to be relieved.” Secondly, this relief-of-burdens sense of freedom already presupposes a concern with virtue, with the right versus wrong ways we can go about relieving them. Thus this sense of freedom is secondary. The freedom at issue is concerned with whether “each person may live his life as he chooses as long as he does not infringe on the rights of others by the initiation of physical force.”
But this form of freedom cannot literally be promoted; it either is a condition of society or it isn't. If it is, it may be maintained; if not, it might be desired. Whereas morally virtuous conduct, which is a positive thing, is open to being furthered, promoted, it appears that the ancient view of the point of politics makes more sense: A government should promote virtue.
But Den Uyl proceeds to examine this idea from the point of view of the nature of morality itself. It is true that the “promotion of virtue is of fundamental importance, because persons stand in need of standards to guide their actions.” But “moral consideration cannot be given to a person's deeds unless that person was responsible for doing those deeds.” The deprivation of the freedom at issue—i.e., if others initiate force against a person—then, renders morality itself impossible. As Den Uyl puts it, “if a man did not do an act or was coerced to do it, moral worthiness or unworthiness cannot be attributed to him.” He also shows that “those who coerce (or advocate coercion of) another do not deserve moral credit for their actions no matter how beneficial the end they seek.” The ancient conception of government, then, necessarily presupposes the significance of freedom and no conflict exists between freedom and moral virtue.