"Guard with jealous attention the public liberty. Suspect all who approach that jewel."~ Patrick Henry
To learn more about how liberty works, and why it is so important, check out The Constitution of Liberty, by F.A. Hayek. The Constitution of Liberty
Owes its existence to the Rule of Law
The rule of law is necessary to preserve liberty for those who use their freedom to say or do things, or promote values which another individual may not like. Using government to force a morality or other control on society is tempting when we think we know what's best for others - the rule of law provides a framework to prevent loss of individual liberty while creating our communities through local laws. It seems obvious that individual liberty should be the number one concern for every individual, but there's a lot more to it than just being free to be unique or promote an unpopular idea.
Individual Liberty Protects Community - the Foundation for the Promotion of Conservative Values
Defense of family and community values is the traditional rhetoric used to play on the heartstrings of conservatives, but this rhetoric is empty window dressing if we do not define what community is and how to defend it. Communities are simply the organization of individuals for the purpose of defending a lifestyle, a value set or a landscape. We may form communities by the area where we live or through communication and action with other individuals who share our desires. We use community to leverage our individual strengths with other individuals to create the sort of world we want to live in. Whatever the goal of the community, it derives its strength and meaning from the liberty that individuals have to associate and create those communities in the first place. It may be tempting to try and force a community where we do not live to adopt our values, but we sacrifice individual liberty in the process - the very foundation of the community. In order to exercise our right to community, we must defend our individual right to create those communities under the law. By doing so, we make stronger communities because they are voluntary - and the best way to promote the value of community rules is to show why individuals will voluntarily subscribe to it. If the conservative value of community under the law is sound and beneficial, it will survive the test of promotion rather than requiring force to implement it.
Why Individual Liberty Matters (yucky title)
While forming communities is one of the great benefits of liberty, the greatest benefit is honoring and encouraging the efforts of individuals to create the world they, and us, want to live in. Defending the right of an individual to promote a value you do not agree with is hard - that's why the principle is necessary. If I want to enjoy my own liberty, I have to defend it for others, because that is why and how this principle works. Thinking we "know what's best for others" is the usual excuse for sacrificing liberty - but this only opens the door for another individual to decide they know what's best for you and use government to force you into it.
While we may cooperate to mutually beneficial ends, it is individuals acting in their own best interests which further those ends. The great conservatives we honor - Margaret Thatcher, Mohandas Ghandi, Albert Nock - were simply individuals exercising their liberty to promote their values. Communities are tools we use to leverage and support ideas, but heroes are always individuals. To preserve community from encroachment by others we must defend and promote the liberty of each individual to "be the change they want to see in the world." When responsibility for our environment and culture is transferred to the state or other controlling entity, we lose our incentive to take individual action in government and society.
. . . The Alphaville Decoder . . .
It's All Related
Individual Liberty is the right we use to defend ourselves from overreaching government or other individuals. We use the rule of law to defend that right. We enjoy our liberty in a number of ways - by limiting government and by using the fruits of our labor to create community through free enterprise. All of this wonderful freedom needs defending by the community - I can stand on a corner and proclaim my freedom all day long, but if others do not stand with me it is meaningless. Still, in the end, no matter how much we associate, it is always individuals acting in their own best interests who do it.
. . . The Alphaville Decoder . . .