What We Believe

Washington crossing the delaware

The Henry Dearborn Institute for Liberty (HDI) does not have a strict set of ideological dogmas that all members of the association must believe, but it does hold fast to a set of important principles it believes to be essential for the advancement of freedom.

First, HDI’s mission is to promote individual liberty in all aspects of life. This doesn’t mean HDI supports anarchy, of course. Government has an important role to play in ensuring all people’s rights are protected, by maintaining a fair judicial system, employing impartial law enforcement officers, and maintaining clearly defined national borders.

Second, HDI is a strong defender of religious freedom. Government shouldn’t involve itself in the affairs of churches, regardless of the religion, but this doesn’t mean government should ban religious expression in public arenas, either. All people have a right to worship God (or not to worship God) in whatever way they choose, so long as they don’t violate the rights of others in the process.

Third, HDI believes that freedom without a virtuous society inevitably leads to tyranny. A free people must always strive to be a “good” people, and although “good” may not be easy to define, it is essential people continue exploring morality and absolute truths about “good” and “evil”—both because it is a core part of the human experience and also because liberty cannot survive in the long run in a nation that is not virtuous.

Fourth, HDI supports free markets for two important reasons: (1) free markets have been repeatedly shown to produce healthier, happier, safer, and more prosperous societies than those that are governed by bureaucrats, despots, kings, or other forms of tyranny; (2) when government inserts itself into markets, evil inevitably ensues; governments force people to live their lives in a particular way, often in accordance with the will of the majority. Minorities end up being abused, mistreated, and punished in such systems. At the very least, minorities are often forced to sacrifice their deeply held beliefs to satisfy some wish of the majority. For instance, to advance the goal of universal health care, the Obama administration attempted to force nuns to violate their deeply held religious beliefs by making them pay for contraception and abortion. Mandating people violate their religious beliefs is evil, and it is an essential aspect of any Progressive, socialist, or even liberal governing structure. This is not to say the people who support such systems are themselves evil, only that their ideology necessitates evil mandates.

With these principles firmly established, as is often said in many churches throughout the world, HDI embraces the following motto: “In essentials unity, in non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.”

PHOTO: Washington Crossing the Delaware River. Painting by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze. Provided by Metropolitan Museum of Art. Photo is in the public domain in the United States.