The establishment of a regional institute dedicated to the dissemination of the ideas of a free and healthy society is built on the conviction that human freedom, directed by the virtues1 , is the most effective tool to assist those in need. The institute brings to the local community opportunities to learn, dialogue and implement these principles. Love for America, love of neighbor, concern for the poor, respect of the principles of freedom, and a desire to build a society that respects human dignity outline the elements of our efforts. In pursuing our goals we do not support any political party or candidate but we are willing to tackle the “tough issues” of the role of government in society and the place of faith in public life.
One of the most fundamental assumptions about “social justice” in America since the late 1920s is that the government is preeminent in assuring the common good. We believe, however, that human freedom and private initiative in local communities are the best instruments to effect lasting positive change in our society.
Through dissemination of literature, effective workshops, consultation and educational conferences the Freedom & Virtue Institute bridges the gap between thinkers and doers. It develops local networks of “activists for freedom.”
The paramount goal of the Freedom & Virtue Institute is to bring to the local SW Florida community varied opportunities to learn about and live out the principles of a free and virtuous society.
In times past, informal structures of support were used for sustenance in times of trouble. Charity was based on the principle of limited government and what is termed in Catholic theology as subsidiarity. While subsidiarity2 focuses on the individual as the primary reality within the basic communities of society, a contrary principle, that of entitlement, focuses on collective identity. Our institute wants to educate the residents of SW Florida on the richness of America’s founding principles of limited government and individual freedom as the best principles to uphold human dignity.
The idea of finding government-driven solutions to promote the common good must be carefully considered against the need to restrain government from unnecessarily intervening in the affairs of a free people. The excesses, abuses, and errors of government bureaucracy are a good testimony against entitlement becoming the primary mechanism for justice and compassion, as they injure true justice in the name of “social justice.” Compassion must be lived in personal encounter.
1Literally, virtue means courage or fortitude. In general it means the excellence of a thing as opposed to vice which is the degradation of something. The virtues are those things that make us pursue excellence, what makes us seek after what is truly good.
2Michael Novak defines subsidiarity as the principle which asserts that “human life proceeds most intelligently and creatively when decisions are made at the level closest to concrete reality, and when next-higher levels of decision-making are invoked only as a last resort.” The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism (Lanham, Maryland: Madison Books, 1991 ) p. 179. A similar principle exists in Evangelical thought under the rubric of Sphere Sovereignty.