Document Type


Publication Date



Modern democracy is not conducive to freedom, but America has a long tradition of freedom that is attached to rich local participation in politics. Because American rights and freedoms did not emerge out of nature or natural rights but through long experience from local, particularized, political freedom, the key to maintaining our freedom is civic engagement rightly understood. Civic engagement rightly understood requires that citizens accept the need for neighbors, in both political systems and voluntary associations, in order to become self-reliant. Individualism--which is what happens when citizens are separated from the various associations that roots their lives in particular communal attachments (like extended family, churches, civic organizations, guilds)--saps our freedom by isolating each person and making him dependent on the state. Civic engagement rightly understood aims at communal self-reliance while individualism aims at universal dependence on the state.