A community can be free only to the extent that it remains committed to being free and defending their freedom.
When they choose prosperity, security, or even peace over freedom (i.e. when they renounce Patrick Henry’s declamation), they have inevitably forfeited the right to be free.
But commitment to freedom has more to do with education than with economics and the military. The extent of a people’s liberty is the extent to which its people have been trained in the arts of freedom.
The arts of freedom are what used to be called “the liberal arts” before the term was watered down to an anemic notion of some vague and watery “general education.”
The liberal arts – the arts of freedom – come in two basic categories: first, the verbal arts that enable one to express himself honestly, simply, and appropriately and to judge the accuracy, viability, and propriety of another person’s expression.
Second, the arts of harmony that enable one to perceive the form of things – both physical and intellectual.
The only communities in the history of human civilization that attained to any degree of freedom are those that trained their citizens in those arts or disciplines.
The first group used to be called grammar, logic, and rhetoric, but when we use those terms today I’m not sure we associate them to anything that would adequately correspond to the disciplines they referred to when they were rightly understood. So we have a work of recovery ahead of us.
The second group of disciplines goes by the names arithmetic, geometry, harmonics, and astronomy, but the same thing has happened. The first two haven’t completely escaped their origins, but they are commonly taught now in a manner that would stun the ancients with dismay and disbelief. Harmonics is taught aslant in classes like algebra, but in ways that place production over perception, so it fails there too. Astronomy is a different entity today than what we need if we want to be free.
I don’t know if a democracy can remain free, as history doesn’t provide any examples of it happening. However, if ever one does, it will be because the democracy honored the verbal disciplines and the rational disciplines so highly that they built their whole civilization on the functional mastery of these arts.
That dream of recovery is what motivated us to call a conference to contemplate liberty. I hope you’ll be there.