Magazine September 20, 2010, Issue

The Souls of Free Men

(Loren Elliott/Reuters)
Diana Schaub reviews The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life, by Kenneth Minogue (Encounter, 384 pp., $25.95)

“And this is freedom!” cried the serf; “At last
I tread free soil, the free air blows on me;”
And, wild to learn the sweets of liberty,
With eager hope his bosom bounded fast.
But not for naught had the long years amassed
Habit of slavery; among the free
He still was servile, and, disheartened, he
Crept back to the old bondage of the past.

In this poem by Lucy White Jennison, the servile state is a state of mind. Bodily freedom — free soil and free air — doesn’t by itself produce a free spirit, which turns out to be not as free-and-easy as it sounds. Maybe

Diana Schaub is a professor of political science at Loyola University Maryland and a member of the Hoover Institution’s Jill and Boyd Smith Task Force on the Virtues of a Free Society.

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