Virtue And The Political Order

Often, if one has even the slighest inclination in questions of power and politics and related matters, one has to deal with questions about the ideal regime. It is common for people to think that a change of structure will lead to improved conditions in the absence of a change of moral conduct. It is folly, but a commonly held folly, to assume that a move from a dictatorship to a democracy is necessarily a good thing, or that the forces of moral chaos and anarchy that divided societies face can be solved simply through the imposition of a strong central control, or that elites know best on how a society can be structured.

That these are common enough follies suggests that we view structure with too great of esteem and do not pay enough attention to virtue. Since all human structures and institutions can (and have) been corrupted by sin, we cannot trust in laws or constitutions to ensure political virtue. Even an adherence to the forms of a government without its animating spirit will lead to some sort of corruption. Let us make it plain that virtue does not speak merely of moral virtue (though that is a part of it) but also the wisdom and discernment that allows someone to make the right decisions for the nation or institution that is being led. If we are morally upright without being wise and discerning, our blunders will lead us (and others) into great trouble. If we are savvy and street-smart without being morally virtuous, we will corrupt our institutions and nations by virtue of our evils.

Unless political virtue can be found somewhere in an institution, there can be no such thing as godly leadership. If such virtue can be found, then the ideal structure would match power to the place where virtue can be found. If virtue can be found everywhere, then any political system can be successful when it is governed by those who act in love and righteousness. If righteousness is found in a single man, then a monarchy or a related government would work at that time, and fail as soon as the king or other leader was corrupt. If righteousness can be found in an elite, than an aristocratic oligarchy could work as long as virtue was to be found, but no longer. If righteousness can be found in a great mass of people, then a democracy or republic could work, but only so long as virtue was found with the people. Virtue, after all, is to be found in beings, and not in forms.

This is a hard matter to understand. We would like to believe that our problems can be solved merely by writing new laws or changing our structures or adding regulations. Sadly, this is not the case. Those who write laws, those who enforce them, and those who interpret them must all be virtuous if virtue is to be preserved in an institution. These conditions are seldom met, and so virtue is seldom to be found in our nations and institutions. Since virtue must be developed from the inside out, it takes time to marry wisdom to moral purity, discernment to good intentions, there are no quick fixes for such moral development. We might wish it were otherwise, but we must be patient if we want good things, as they tend to require much effort and seasoning. Impatience only leads to problems.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, Musings and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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