The premise of this book is this paradox: “the greatest enemy of freedom is freedom” (19). Guinness continues saying that “Americans today are heedlessly pursuing a vision of freedom that is short-lived and suicidal. Once again, freedom without virtue, leadership without character, business without trust, law without customs, education without meaning and medicine, science and technology without human considerations can only end in disaster” (29).
A Free People’s Suicide is an outsider’s view of the strength of America (Guinness is an Irishman); the book is the same vein of Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville, which is heavily quoted in the book. While praising American freedom, he cautions that we will lose freedom when the freedoms we enjoy are not tethered to something larger than the idea of freedom itself.
I probably should have enjoyed this book more than I did. Even though I like Guinness’s perspective on issues, his writing feels unclear to me. Perhaps it is my lack of knowledge on the issues that Guinness raises. Or, maybe it was because I read this in the final days of the 2012 election, and we met in our Apologia book group after the results were announced. It’s an understatement to say that I wasn’t in the best mood that day.
Here’s a brief excerpt of the author discussing the “golden triangle of freedom”: freedom requires virtue; virtue requires faith; faith requires freedom.