Liberty is not the basis of rightly ordered society, as liberals think. Liberty is rather a byproduct of a rightly ordered society.
A society that lacks liberty – that, i.e., contravenes the doctrine of subsidiarity (which mandates the devolution to each organ of the social hierarchy (thus, in the limit, to individuals) all the powers each of them can well handle, or delegate in their turn) – is not just, to be sure. That injustice however lies, not in its lack of liberty, but in the fact that it is wrongly ordered to begin with.
In properly ordered societies, the interests of disparate social actors are aligned with Reality, ergo with each other, so that there is preponderant and relatively effortless – and indeed thoughtless – social harmony, that is then rarely even noticed as such, so that as overlooked it is taken for granted (and so, too often, wasted). There is then little need for social control, and lots of play for … well, for play: for enterprise, innovation, creativity, ingenuity, art, and for prodigality of life. Liberty arrives naturally and organically in conditions of justice. It needs no special provisions or protections, then. Formal protections of liberty indicate that it is already vitiated by the conflicts inherent in inapt social order.
Marxists – and other merely economic analysts – likewise err in thinking that economic factors (including power relations) are the bases of social order, when on the contrary, they, too, are outworkings of righteousness. They are tells – inditia – rather than the thing indicated. A society wherein almost no one is wealthy enough to live decently cannot be said to have succeeded in a meet accommodation to reality as she is. A society that has succeeded to righteousness on the other hand is ceteris paribus likely to prosper, and to a prevalent sufficiency among its people of the means of life. But prosperity is, not the source of right order, but evidence thereof. Nor is prosperity always a reliable index of probity and prudence. A society wherein most men are prosperous enough to live a healthy life is good only insofar as that prosperity derives from right action. A society ordered to predation or piracy might be very wealthy for a time and two times, and half a time; but could not be just.
If a society be just, then can it be prosperous; but, NB, not vice versa: prosperous societies can be quite wicked. Marxians and other economic determinists then err by affirming the consequent.
It is the same for idolaters of equality or fraternity.
A wicked society frustrates familiarity; and there can be no fraternity where there is no common sense of familiarity. But a band of pirates can be suffused with fraternal good feelings, and its members feel that it is as it were a family.
Equality is of course an utter shibboleth, nowhere ever to be found among men, except as between identical twins, for a short time after their natal days. But the notion that moderns intend by their emphasis on égalité is, not equality simpliciter, but rather that basic dignity shared by all men, in virtue of their common creation as, at the very least, each an image of God. Equality is nonsense. But dignity is not.
A rightly ordered society will understand that all men are made imago Dei, and honor their basic dignity.
But nor nevertheless is a widespread observation of basic human dignity even a reliable indication of right social order, let alone its source. A nation of wastrels each convinced that he and his countrymen are all pretty doggone dignified can be quite wrong in this estimation, and quite wicked. Think of Saudi Arabia.
Prosperity, liberty, dignity, fraternity, harmony, and so forth: these are all aspects of the bloom of social health, rather than its source. They are symptoms of health, not the health itself.
The true basis of a rightly ordered society is the proper adequation and meet ordination of political relations, and of human lives, to the Good – which is to say, to the Most Real. This derives in turn from a correct apprehension of the Truth. A society properly ordered to the Good under a correct understanding of the Truth will itself be good: just, and what is more, beautiful – and so, probably, therefore prosperous, free, and so forth.
The Liberal, Jacobin and Marxian errors have all the same form: they mistake a supervenient thing for a subvenient, the bloom of health for the health itself.
A similar critique could perhaps tell with equal force upon any scheme of political formalism, including those beloved among latter day reactionaries. Constitutions and Laws, customs and taboos, are all abstract ex post facto formalizations of prior and concrete social realities. “Proposition Nation” is a contradiction in terms. You can’t generate a nation from a constellation of laws. Indeed, you can get laws in the first place only from a constellation of people of a common heritage and outlook, a shared system of values, deriving from a shared set of metaphysical understandings. Lacking that national familiarity and solidarity, that basic agreement about what’s what, there would be no reason for a population to take notice of the acts of the legislature. That “ethics” derives from the same Proto-Indo-European root as “ethnos” is not an aetymological error. Nor is it a matter of happenstance. Ethics per se presupposes a people.
It is foolish, then, to order public policy toward the nice things, such as harmony and liberty, that good public policy tends to generate. To do so would be like pursuing happiness – as Utilitarianism does – rather than the good that is its only source. As ill, such pursuits work ill.
The only basis of right social order, and therefore the only proper objective of public policy, or for that matter of personal comportment, is the pursuit of the Good. Taken as a goal, every other thing whatever is a species of disease.