Image

Frank S. Meyer

From 1909
 to 1972

With this simple statement from his 1962 book, In Defense of Freedom: A Conservative Credo, Frank S. Meyer defined the goal of postwar conservatism: to create a society in which men are free to pursue virtue but not enforce virtue at the point of a gun.

After World War II, when collectivism seemed triumphant, individuals who opposed the welfare state for different reasons banded together in order to fight it. Yet the tension between the traditionalists and libertarians threatened to tear the conservative movement apart. Meyer showed the groups what they had in common by pointing out where they were each mistaken.

To the libertarians he said: You are right; freedom is the only political end. But that does not mean it is the only end. Without using force, intellectuals must persuade people of the virtuous path and must not be afraid to make moral judgments. After all, freedom itself is based on the moral principle that men are endowed with inalienable rights by their creator.

And to the traditionalists he said: You are right when you say that a large leviathan state corrupts individuals by taking over functions of society, but you cannot destroy leviathan by proposing a group of mini-leviathans called communities. A community is nothing more than a group of individuals who voluntarily come together to achieve a common purpose. However, a community cannot force a man to be virtuous. In order for a man to achieve virtue, he must make a choice between good and evil, and the government should not interfere between man and his Maker.

With his philosophy, Meyer showed that enforcing Christian virtues by the state is anti-Christian. Unlike the Greek pagan philosophy, Judaism and Christianity teach that human beings are not parts of an organic whole but autonomous individuals free to pursue their destinies and accountable for their actions. Meyer is his own best example of free will. After being an active member of the Communist party, Meyer recognized his error and did everything he could to destroy the evil philosophy he once helped promote. He became a founding editor of National Review, and converted to Catholicism as he was dying of cancer in 1972. The fall of the Iron Curtain, the pope's embrace of capitalism, and the progress of the conservative movement in America are just some of the vindications of Meyer's efforts.