‘The Universal Hunger for Liberty’

by Ramesh Ponnuru

David Brooks, Michael Novak, and Charles Krauthammer all write, with varying degrees of elaboration, that it exists. If what they mean is that this desire is not wholly absent from any population in any time or place, then I agree. But if they mean, as Novak does, a desire “deeply implanted in every single human being by the Creator,” then I can’t agree.

As I’ve noted before, I think Charles Kesler is on the mark in this discussion of former President Bush’s comments about the topic:

It is one thing to affirm, as the American Founders did, that there is in the human soul a love of liberty. It is another thing entirely to assert that this love is the main or, more precisely, the naturally predominant inclination in human nature, that it is “a power that cannot be resisted.” In fact, it is often resisted and quite frequently bested. . . . The president downplays the contests within human nature: conflicts between reason and passion, and within reason and passion, that the human soul’s very freedom makes inescapable. True enough, “people everywhere prefer freedom to slavery,” that is, to their own slavery, but many people everywhere and at all times have been quite happy to enjoy their freedom and all the benefits of someone else’s slavery.

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