Without a virtuous citizenry, John Adams memorably warns us, democracy always commits suicide. Freedom, without virtue, seems bent on its own self-destruction, as we witness all too well in our country these days. But, of course, virtue cannot be taken for granted. It must be taught, inculcated, practiced, and esteemed in every generation, every family, and every human heart. This is a tall order—and a real struggle for anyone who takes it seriously—but it is this interior struggle that was passed from one generation to the next until quite recently.
Indeed, over the last several decades, we have witnessed the Supreme Court in particular use arguments from personal autonomy (or freedom misunderstood as its own end) to weaken precisely those institutions—motherhood, fatherhood, marriage, other mediating structures—that are best suited to sustain the social ecology, to shape persons to use their freedom well. America’s long tradition of self-determination has morphed over the years into a constitutionalized sort of no-holds-barred self-invention, the freedom to define myself just as I wish, free from any claims or constraints upon me.
Erika Bachiochi, Safeguarding the Conditions for an Authentic Human Ecology