In the introduction to the book by Morton Frisch and Richard Stevens “American Political Thought,” they mention the circumstances facing President Abraham Lincoln and his attitude that then, “as now and always, there are some things worse than war.” Similarly, those of us struggling to pursue happiness in our own lives must realize sometimes – like it or not – political war is necessary.
We’re at that point now – and we all know it. Finding that “vitalizing spark,” as General George Patton called it, is the job of the hour. We need people up and in action.
A few basic statements from the introduction by Frisch and Stevens, with only minor changes to the text:
“In the ordinary sense, theory and practice are separated by an enormous gulf which must be bridged.”
“The peculiar virtue of the statesman is understood to be practical wisdom or prudence, and prudence is understood to be the special capacity to grasp the connection between theory and practice and to fashion one’s practices accordingly.”
“All political action is based on some implicit view of what is better and what is worse. At the crudest level, this amounts to no more than the desire to have more without regard to the cost or consequences for others.”
Again, Frisch and Stevens paraphrased:
“Surely everyone who does not take a frivolous view must see that the well-being of a country turns on which men and women are in and which are out of political office.”
To paraphrase a couple of other lines – the difference between better and worse countries is chiefly made by the difference in the quality of their statesmen. Better leaders weigh from the available evidence whether a policy will result in losses costlier than the gain achieved.
Here in Illinois, if you think the gains in revenue from expanding gambling are greater than the costs – you haven’t read the research (click here to learn more). If you think postponing the coming day of reckoning with the Illinois state employee pension scam makes things easier, you’re fooling yourself (follow the links here to learn more).
Nationally, Barack Obama and his Democratic friends on Capitol Hill aren’t spending like drunken sailors – sailors spend their own money. Obama, Reid, and Pelosi are borrowing from future generations. It’s behavior which is, frankly, reckless, irresponsible, and immoral.
I’m merely scratching the surface of the content of the Frisch and Stevens introduction. Two more (emphasis added in the second quotation):
“The democratic statesman must make the most and best of democracy by appealing to principles which [may] threaten to tear the democracy asunder.”
“Since a statesman plays the nurse if he can and a surgeon if he must, it is probably true that the crises in the life of a country call forth to statesmanship those most suited to the steady but hard business of surgery.”
Anyone who regularly listens to Rush Limbaugh understands his terrific sense of humor. Rush refers to himself as “the doctor of democracy,” and his fans (like me) get what he’s saying. Leadership comes not just through elective office, but any time there’s a bully pulpit properly used.
As I noted in a series of articles back in January, conservative talk radio could actually be improved if our men and women with the big microphones called their audiences to real political action.
“The secret of victory,” Patton said, “lies not wholly in knowledge.” That sure is the case when you look at the abundance of knowledge available on the political right. From what the commentators and think tanks produce – there’s already plenty of analysis and research.
What’s needed now are Americans willing to find the time and do what’s necessary to bring about a renaissance and reformation. It’s going to take many doctors and surgeons and statesmen and stateswomen at all levels.
Up next: Good arguments from one young American on the challenge ahead.
©2009 John Francis Biver