Virtues are positive and preferred values. They are desirable attitudes or character traits, motives and emotions that enable us to act in way that develops our highest potential. They are tendencies which include solving problems through peaceful and constructive means and follow the path of the golden mean between the extremes of ‘excess and deficiency’. Some of the commonly held virtues are Honesty, courage, compassion, generosity etc.
Civic virtues are the moral duties and rights, as a citizen of the state or an integral part of the society and environment. An individual may exhibit civic virtues by voting, volunteering, and organizing welfare groups and meetings. For instance, Payment of taxes on time (Moral duty) and Voting in Election (Moral Right). George Washington embodied the civic virtues as indispensable for a self-governing administration that can be categorised in the following manner;
- Civic Knowledge – Citizens must understand what the Constitution says about how the government is working, and what the government is supposed to do and not to do. One must understand the basis of our responsibilities as citizens, besides duties and rights.
- Self-Restraint – For citizens to live in a free society with limited government each citizen must be able to control or restrain himself. Otherwise, we would need a police state to maintain safety and order. He advocated for morality and declared that happiness is achieved and sustained through virtues and morals
- Self-Assertion – Self-assertion means that citizens must be proud of their rights, and have the courage to stand up in public and defend their rights. Sometimes, a government may usurp the very rights that it was created to protect. In such cases, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish that government (for e.g. voting rights, right to recall).
- Self-Reliance – Self-reliant citizens are free citizens in the sense that they are not dependent on others for their basic needs. They do not need a large government which has the potential to become an oppressive government to meet those needs. Only a strong self-reliant citizenry will be able to enjoy fully the blessings of liberty.