Of Faith

Faith is one of the Christian trio of primary virtues. Along with hope and love, it adds a temporal dimension to the Classical four (courage, temperance, prudence, and justice). Faith is backwards-looking, it is retrospective, empirical. We demonstrate faith through constancy. We keep our word, we fulfill our promises. Think of the appending language: we keep or preserve the faith. We maintain faith in adversity. It is a durable thing, preserved through diligent practice.

If you’re on Twitter, and your feed is anything like mine, two stories have dominated your feed today. One is the sordid tale of MIT economist Jon Gruber, who has been executing his role as disgraced (to the tune of, what is it, six million bucks in all) scapegoat-cum-sage in front of a sanguine Congress. The other is the lurid tale of CIA operatives torturing detainees. With few exceptions, most of the chatter I’ve read decries either one of these stories or the other, with a rare few decrying both.

What I find interesting is that any adult American could be surprised by either of these revelations. Shocked? Okay. Dismayed? Perhaps. But not surprised. It defies belief that anyone with even a cursory knowledge of the history of this civilized earth could be surprised when political elites behave precisely as their incentives predict, subject to the constraints of their institutions in which they operate. I cannot endeavor to lay my finger upon the historical period in which the political elite ruled the constituency bathed in the milk of human kindness. It isn’t part of the job description, it never has been. That anyone could rouse themselves to believe otherwise is testament to the power of indoctrinating rhetoric.

I have faith in American political institutions. I have faith that men and women in power will have a natural propensity to behave knavishly. If you find that you have faith of another type, perhaps this is a good time to revisit some of your beliefs and adjust them accordingly. The violence and the lies are not part of the system. The violence and the lies ARE the system.

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