So, what is liberty? One definition sounds good—at first glance: Liberty is every individual’s right to live and act according to his conscience. Unfortunately, this definition doesn’t work very well if my conscience tells me that I must destroy or subdue everyone who doesn’t believe as I do. How can a country survive if it allows total freedom of diversity in thought and action framed by excessive “tolerance”?
Liberty must have boundaries, protected by a shared understanding of morality, character, and faith—all of which shape and frame the conscience, leading to a sense of responsibility for oneself and the community. Liberty depends on individuals who govern themselves and appreciate the balance between their own needs and the fundamental rights of others.
But when individuals cannot or will not control their own behaviors, government must necessarily step in to bring about order. And the more government steps in, the less freedom individuals retain. The less freedom individuals have, the less prosperous and flourishing that culture becomes.
Os Guinness’ eloquently talks about the “Golden Triangle of Freedom.”
"In short, sustainable freedom depends on the character of the rulers and the ruled alike, and on the vital trust between them—both of which are far more than a matter of law. The Constitution, which is the foundational law of the land, should be supported and sustained by the faith, character and virtue of the entire citizenry, which comprises its moral constitution, or habits of the heart. Together with the Constitution, these habits of the heart are the real, complete and essential bulwark of American liberty. A republic grounded only in a consensus forged of calculation and competing self-interests can never last” (https://www.rzim.org/read/just-thinking-magazine/the-golden-triangle-of-freedom).
These words offer both encouragement and a warning: We can preserve our precious liberty by developing within ourselves and teaching to our children the necessary faith, character, and virtue to form a “moral constitution, or habits of the heart,” OR we can lose our freedom by indulging in the passions and chaos of competing self-interests. A good legislator will respect individual liberty along with the foundations which make it possible.