Man's fallen nature, and the national debt?

by Joe Ferullo

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A not-so-small chunk of Catholic theology finds its way into The New York Times yesterday, courtesy David Brook's column on the national debt.

Brooks writes that no real political solution to the debt appears on the horizon, even-though the leadership classes in many other countries -- like Britiain and Germany -- are working hard together to set things right where they live.

Why not here? Brooks argues that more than our national checkbook is out of balance; our sense of national morality is off-kilter as well.

Our system of government, an equilibrium of checks and balances, was established because the founders recognized that human nature -- left unbridled -- won't always allows us to do the right thing.

Brooks writes:

This equilibrium is fragile because we are flawed and fallen creatures and can’t quite trust ourselves. So all of us, but especially members of the leadership class, should practice self-restraint. Moral anxiety restrained hubris (don’t think your side possesses the whole truth) and self-indulgence (debt corrupts character).

But that, he goes on to say, is not where American leaders stand now. Instead of restraint and humility, each side is certain it holds the truth, and that the other is a vessel of evil. The outlook Brooks paints is a bit bleak.

Ah, but Brooks does often tend to indulge in sepia-toned nostalgia. I am not sure what moment in American history displayed the perfect balance he writes about -- was it the Civil War? Perhaps the epoch of robber barons and sweatshops? Maybe the McCarthy Era?

American political leaders always seem to struggle with doing the right thing and doing the popular thing, with playing to the crowd versus playing to the choir.

We are, as Brooks notes, flawed and fallen. But that didn't happen this election cycle, or the one before. It began way back, with something about an apple.

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