The Four Cardinal Virtues and Government

By Bob Wallace.
Exclusive to STR
The Four Cardinal Virtues are not what most people think they are. Justice and Courage sound like good things; Prudence and Temperance, don’t, not really, to many people.  The idea that many people have of them, they sound like they take a lot of the fun out of life. But in reality they are good things. It’s just that most people don’t understand the correct definitions.
Prudence is actually defined as “using reason to discover the laws that govern reality.” Basically, that’s it. It’s not just theoretical knowledge; it’s also practical knowledge--putting what you know into effect.
Let’s use economics as an example. Someone who is prudent will discover and understand the economic laws that govern reality, and put them into effect. A prudent person understands that the free market and liberty are the highest and best economic and political goods. A person who is not prudent does not understand these things.
Temperance just means not letting the bad aspects of our personalities control us--greed, gluttony, envy, lust, pride, ennui. Again, basically, that’s it.
Here’s the rub: Those in the government – politicians – are not prudent or temperate. They’re also not just or courageous. In fact, generally, they’re ruled by the Seven Deadly Sins.
Here’s a truly bizarre thing – most people know what politicians are, but keep putting them into office. They always say, “My politician is okay; it’s the one over there in that district who’s the problem.” Of course, the people in “that district” are saying the exact same things about “their” politician and other people’s.
Why do people act like this?  Because when it comes to the State, they’re not prudent, or temperate, or just, or courageous. In fact, they’re ruled by greed and gluttony and lust – gimme gimme gimme!
As an aside, there should be Eighth Deadly Sin – “being a child and never growing up.” That’s how many people act when they see the State as a never-empty tit from which all good things flow.
The word “virtue” means “strength” or “power” and also derives from the word “man.” It means the “strengths and powers of Mankind.” The word “sin” comes from the archery word “hamartia” and means “to miss the mark.”
In short, virtue and sin refers to the strengths and weaknesses that are inherent in people.
Would that we not have these weaknesses! But we do. So we’d better make sure we know about them and understand them. 
The State can be described as a manifestation of our own inborn weaknesses. The same goes for politicians – we put these lying weasels into office as a manifestation of our own flaws. If people weren’t as flawed as they are, there would be no State or politicians.
I don’t know if we can ever get rid of the State. But if nothing else, everyone should at least keep in mind that politicians are not much more than little satans (and “Satan” means “adversary”), ones ruled by the worst of their sins. And for that matter, ours.

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Bob Wallace's picture
Columns on STR: 89