American’s trust in our politicians’ ability to handle domestic and international problems is at its lowest point in more than two decades. A Gallup poll in January showed 35 percent of Americans do not trust the U.S. government to handle domestic problems, and only 41 trust it to handle international problems.
If Americans’ faith could be restored in our politicians’ ability to make prudent decisions, we would no doubt see an increase in trust. To be this trusted politician, the Greek philosopher Aristotle said requires practical wisdom, also called prudence. Such a man or woman must be able to choose the clever choice of action and have good intentions.
There are two components to our choices. One is our moral goal, the other is our practical goal. What moral thing do we want? Good choices not only involve good moral intentions, but they also involve practical decisions that pick through the circumstances to determine the correct action.
Dr. Larry P. Arnn said in his free online lecture at Hillsdale College that prudence “is the facility to calculate circumstances and find and issue true command.” It is practical wisdom about things that are always changing.
“Statesmanship is the scene where practical judgment is demanded intensely all the time,” Arnn said. Things are constantly changing, demanding good judgement of situations.
Practical wisdom is different than knowledge, however. Aristotle defines knowledge as “knowing a thing that is fixed and can be relied on,” Arnn said. Practical wisdom and judgement, on the other hand, are adaptable, as they are about changeable things.
Practical judgement is “a truth-disclosing active condition involving reason that governs action, concerned with what is good and bad for a human being,” Aristotle wrote in “Nicomachean Ethics.” It finds the truth about what to do and then does it. It is key that the judgement fit the circumstance.
We learned in Book One of “Ethics” that something is good only if it fulfills its purpose. A cup is only good if it has a bottom; otherwise it is not a cup. Likewise, a judgement is only good if it fits the circumstance that it is in. It requires wisdom because accurately placing judgement on ever-changing circumstances is difficult.
This is how we can determine a good politician in these always changing circumstances. Those who can calculate means and ends, and can understand evolving circumstances, tend to serve their nations well.
There are three distinctions to practical judgement. Astuteness is understanding the moving parts of a situation but does not issue action. Cleverness does issue action, as it knows how to insert oneself to get what one wants. Prudence, or good judgement, pursues action with good intent.
Arnn pointed to Adolf Hitler and Winston Churchill as examples of cleverness and prudence. Both were lethal individuals who knew how to get their way, yet used their discernment and action for opposite ends. Hitler used his charisma and cleverness for evil ends, while Churchill used his for good.
Alas, astuteness does not guarantee possession of all virtues. Hitler can be considered brave, but not just. To be clever but not prudent is incredibly dangerous. While not many are as dangerous as someone like Hitler, politicians without prudence may only pursue their own gain.
Perhaps our politicians can learn something from Aristotle, and learn to pursue a good beyond themselves and for the country.
by Peter Huessy
Russian President Vladimir Putin annexes the Crimea in gross violation of international law. What should America do, if anything?
There are many different ideas. Some suggest doing nothing. Some assert we cannot do anything. Others feel the consequences of letting such aggression stand will be serious.
The country’s divisions are certainly reflective of how divided on this Americans are.
What then is the proper role for America in the world that both keeps us safe and enhances our prosperity? Continue reading
by Stephen F. Hayes
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice accused Barack Obama of dramatically weakening the United States’ position in the world, drawing a straight line between Obama’s ever-yielding foreign policy and the increasing troubles around the world.
“Right now, there’s a vacuum,” she told a crowd of more than two thousand attending the National Republican Congressional Committee’s annual dinner last night in Washington, D.C. “There’s a vacuum because we’ve decided to lower our voice. We’ve decided to step back. We’ve decided that if we step back and lower our voice, others will lead, other things will fill that vacuum.” Citing Bashar al Assad’s slaughter in Syria, Vladimir Putin’s aggression in Ukraine, al Qaeda’s triumphant return to Fallujah, Iraq, and China’s nationalist fervor, she concluded: “When America steps back and there is a vacuum, trouble will fill that vacuum.”
Solipsism. It’s a fancy word that means that the self is the only existing reality and that the external world, including other people, are representations of one’s own self and can have no independent existence. A person who follows this philosophy may believe that others see the world as he does and will behave as he would.
It’s a quality often found in narcissists, people who greatly admire themselves — such as a presidential candidate confident that he is a better speechwriter than his speechwriters, knows more about policy than his policy directors and is a better political director than his political director.
If that sounds familiar, it’s a paraphrase of what President Obama told top political aide Patrick Gaspard in 2008, according to the New Yorker’s Ryan Lizza. Continue reading
Leaders of other countries don’t respect President Barack Obama, said 53 percent of respondents in Gallup’s annual World Affairs poll, conducted Feb. 3-6. That only 53 percent of Americans think this is an indictment of the news media’s coverage of foreign affairs.
He would lead the world by “deed and example,” not try to “bully it into submission,” Sen. Barack Obama wrote in Foreign Affairs magazine in 2007.
In a major foreign policy speech in 2008, Mr. Obama said he would focus on “ending the war in Iraq responsibly; finishing the fight against al-Qaida and the Taliban; securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states; achieving true energy security; and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century.” Continue reading
When Margaret Thatcher passed from this world on April 8, myriad books followed. Consequently, an exclusively eulogistic feel characterizes many of these works. Catalogues of the Iron Lady’s rousing successes, lasting impact, and life story predominate — as is expected and appropriate — the books dedicated to her memory.
Nile Gardiner and Stephen Thompson’s collaborative work, Margaret Thatcher on Leadership: Lessons for American Conservatives Today, effectively explores the success, the impact, as well as the life of Lady Thatcher and, while doing so, goes beyond mere eulogy.
On Leadership not only offers retrospective, but also proposes practical solutions for securing a promising future in the face of clear and present national malady; in its scope, this is a dynamic proposition rather than an insular one. Continue reading
A vast scholarly literature spanning more than six decades exists on the subject of leadership. The characteristics of effective leaders have been pored over, cataloged and debated. Among them, one trait stands out as axiomatic: Effective leaders take responsibility for problems around them; they do not shift blame to others. As Winston Churchill put it, “The price of greatness is responsibility.” Continue reading
The mainstream media is in the midst of one of its regular exercises in completely missing a wave of groundswell conservative anger — this time over the closing of the World War II Memorial. It’s as if the entire conservative case against the Obama administration’s incompetence, malice, and inefficiency was boiled down into one incident.
1. Government overreach: This was a monument built almost entirely through private donations — now the government pretends the monument belongs to it, and not to the people who donated to build it, not to the vets whose sacrifice it honors, and not to the families of vets and other citizens who want to use it to teach their kids about courage, honor, and sacrifice. Continue reading
by Michael Barone
Evidence of the astonishing incompetence of the Obama administration continues to roll in.
It started with the stimulus package. One-third of the money went to public employee union members — a political payoff not very stimulating to anyone else. Billions went to green energy loans, like the $500 million that the government lost in backing the obviously hapless Solyndra.
Infrastructure projects, which the president continues to tout, never seem to get built. He’s been talking about dredging the port of Charleston, for example, to accommodate the big container ships coming in when the Panama Canal is widened. Continue reading