Ben Lewis

February 18, 2020

Scruton on the Basis for Government

From "Governing Rightly," found in a collection of Scruton's essays titled Confessions of a Heretic:

People become free individuals by learning to take responsibility for their actions. And they do this through relating to others, subject to subject. The free individuals to whom the Founders appealed were free only because they had grown through the bonds of society, to the point of taking full responsibility for their actions and granting to each other the rights and privileges that established a kind of moral equality between them.
In other words, in our tradition, government and freedom have a single source, which is the human disposition to hold each other to account for what we do. No free society can come into being without the exercise of this disposition, and the freedom that Americans rightly cherish in their heritage is simply the other side of the American habit of recognising the accountability towards others. Americans, faced with a local emergency, combine with their neighbours to address it, while Europeans sit around helplessly until the servants of the state arrive. That is the kind of thing we have in mind, when we describe America as the 'land of the free.' We don't mean a land without government; we mean a land with this kind of government - the kind that springs up spontaneously between responsible individuals.

About the author

Ben is a contributing editor for Bastion Magazine. In addition to Bastion, his articles have appeared at a variety of online outlets, including the Tenth Amendment Center and The Patriot Post. He and his family live in the last refuge for traditional manners, the American Midwest.

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