Monday, July 23, 2007

Politics and Human Nature

Every morning author Roland Merullo passes the spot where Mussolini and his mistress were executed. He reflects on civic culture in an Op Ed column in today’s Boston Globe (“A grave lesson from Mussolini”). The pith:

We are so confident in the architecture of our American democracy, and in the abundance created by our labor, sacrifice, and ingenuity. But the balance we have been able to strike and maintain is a work in progress, our reward for a continual resistance to the natural human tendency toward divisiveness, corruption, and viciousness.

Division is inevitable. But corruption and the viciousness that becomes tyranny is why our government was formed with the built-in “inefficiency” of multiple branches operating in a balance of powers.

Our Founder's view of human nature was much like that of their contemporary Adam Smith. Today we don’t much discuss our view of human nature in political discourse. It is viewed as appropriate subject matter only for religion. That’s too bad. It is fundamental to thinking about government and economics as well.

4 comments:

Ramon amor d'hombre said...

"It is viewed as appropriate subject matter only for religion."

Don't know who gave you that impression. I am sure the sciences of biology, neurology, anthropology, and psychology would have something to contribute. In fact I don't think religion has anything meaningful to say on the subject at all.

flymorgue2 said...

I think the last time Biology weighed in on human nature, Lysenkoism was ascendent. In contrast to the communists' perfectible man, religion's low view of human nature inspired the checks and balances set up by the founding dads we have today (at least those checks that have survived Cheneyism).

Ramon amor d'hombre said...

So one crackpot scientist invalidates all of biology's relevance to the study of human nature. A scientist who actually conducted science much in the way that religion would have it, with blind ignorance of reality in service to a crackpot fairy tale ideology.

Religion's low view of human nature gave rise to democratic checks and balances. No sorry it gave rise to the doctrine of the divine right of kings, papal infallibility, jesuit strangle holds on ignorant populations, and other horrors. Religion has never been a friend of anything but tyranny.

flymorgue2 said...

Because "one crackpot"'s theories on wheat and corn fit with the anti-darwinist, Leninist notion of human nature, a gulag was filled.

And, oy, it is old ground to repeat it, Dear Ramon2, but you make the most of a tiny post to set up an instant strawman: "invalidates all"? was I saying that?

Science is silent to morality. What it does it does well, but it is pretty quiet about tying up a family of four and torching a house. It is "friend" to no one.