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Wednesday, May 1, 1996

In Defense of Freedom and Related Essays

A Small but Controversial Tract

Dr. Dennis is Senior Program Officer at Liberty Fund, Inc., in Indianapolis.

In 1962, Frank S. Meyer, then Senior Editor at National Review, published his small, but controversial tract, In Defense of Freedom: A Conservative Credo (Henry Regnery). Here Meyer argued that what American conservatives had to conserve was largely an Anglo-American tradition of liberty. The purpose of the political order was to preserve individual liberty, Meyer maintained. Questions of virtue were to be left to the institutions of the great civil society. But only individually free-willed acts could produce virtue; so freedom and virtue were necessarily allies not enemies.

In this day of continued conservative factionalism, it would still profit people of good will on the right, particularly the younger conservative, to consider the implications of Meyer’s thesis.