By Daren Jonescu

Among the various ways that modern leftism benefits from its systematic promotion of infantilism is that perpetual children lack the basic courage that is essential to the maintenance of liberty. A courageous adult will not trade his freedom, let alone that of others, for a "social safety net." Thus, leftists are deeply invested in cowardice, although naturally, as clever propagandists, they use alternative names in their promotional materials.

Everyone can recall the following experience from his own early childhood: you are wandering through the market with your mother, feeling quite carefree in dawdling among any items that strike your fancy, until suddenly you look around and realize that your mother is nowhere to be seen. Instantly, the reckless abandon of the self-indulgent daydreamer is transformed into a near-paralyzing fear: "I can't face this strange world alone!"

Being gripped by the fear of abandonment in this way is "irrational," in the sense that it is reasonable to assume that your mother is not far away, and has not really forgotten you. It is understandable, however, in the sense that as a child, it is actually true that you could not make your way in this unfamiliar terrain alone.

Gradually, with experience, you realize that your mother's occasional "disappearance" is no cause for alarm, and that a brief search will undoubtedly restore your sense of normalcy. A few years along, you begin to crave the opportunity to strike out on your own, although always with the comforting knowledge that you are an easy bus ride away from those familiar apron strings.

For millennia of human history, the next step in the process of emotional development has been regarded as the essence of growing up, i.e., of becoming a mature adult. This is the stage at which one finally feels ready to step out into the world without the emotional safety net provided by that figurative bus ticket in one's pocket. Finally, one is prepared to face the unknown future, with its risks and dangers, without shrinking back to the security of mother's protective arms.

This moment entails many developments of character and intellect, but none more plainly than the first awakening of the cardinal virtue of courage. Courage, as it relates to one's everyday life, is the capacity to face life's inherent risks and challenges without succumbing to the fear of uncertainty.

For courage, as Aristotle teaches (Nicomachean Ethics III.6-7), is not merely the absence of fear; fear is a natural passion, and cannot simply be eliminated from the human soul. We all experience fear. Courage, on Aristotle's brilliantly clarifying account, is the ability to stand upright in the face of life's fearful risks, including and especially its greatest risk, death in battle. In fact, Aristotle contends that fearing such things as poverty and disease is beneath the spirit of a dignified man, and that being fearless of such ultimately trifling concerns can only be called courage by analogy with the strict meaning of the term. In other words, fearlessness regarding mere personal comfort and "security" does not even rise to the level of true courage, but is merely the baseline condition of one who is decently mature and rational.

One who falls short of even this baseline confidence in the face of life's vicissitudes displays the cowardice of a man who simply never grew up. It is to respond to adult challenges in the manner of the four year old who loses sight of his mother in the market: "I can't face this strange world alone!"

A free society, as the great political thinkers and statesmen have always contended, depends on the virtue of its citizens. Nowhere is this more urgently true and evident than in the once-freest of societies, the United States. Life in a free republic demands that minimum basic confidence -- the individualist's self-reliance -- as a prerequisite for maintaining social order and civility. The so-called "rugged individualism," which has fallen into disrepute and parody thanks to generations of collectivist education, is nothing more than the simple willingness to face life's obstacles, trials, and genuine hardships like a grown-up, relying on one's own resources, and on what can be earned through one's own effort and voluntary interaction. A free society cannot survive the death of such self-reliance.

As this basic, quotidian form of courage wanes, the petulant, self-congratulatory nouveau cowards who have been raised to take over society's reins fall into doing what the excessively fearful always do. They overcompensate in the direction of "security." They refuse to face even adult humanity's most unavoidable challenges -- supporting yourself, planning for potential misfortunes, taking care of your own -- without a "safety net" purchased at the price of their freedom. They sell their liberty -- and their neighbors' -- for a child's idea of security: that is, security provided by someone else, by a mother surrogate, by "society," i.e., by government.

This coward's quest for a safety net that can only be achieved through coercion is the antithesis of good citizenship. It means, in principle, that everyone is seeking to sacrifice everyone else to himself. The mutual respect of the citizens of a free society evaporates into mutual envy and resentment; in short, into an entitlement society.

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