Same tired stuff

I originally posted this over a year ago, but I just stumbled upon it again and it's worth rereading Father Schall's article. It's funny how some things never change: whether it's Obama trying to smooth things over while sweeping things under the rug; Father Schall being devastatingly spot on with his critiques of politics; or Plato telling it like it is while everyone chooses not to listen...

In an age when the trendiest political slogans are "Together we can" and "Change you can believe in," it's nice to hear someone bringing the Utopian masses back to their senses. Fr. James Schall, in a pithy contribution to the Ignatius Press website, writes about a question that has dominated the Western mindset for millenia: How can we make life better? And not in the future, but right now? Illustrated by Deval Patrick and Barack Obama's vapid campaign slogans, the "forward-looking" Progressive quest for improvement is humorously ironic, in that it is the same quest that Plato remembers having experienced as a young man. At the age of 40 in 334 B.C., the philosopher is reminded of his youthful enthusiasm by an encounter with a boy who has yet to be jaded by politics. Plato is empathetic with the youth's optimism and belief that his city of Syracuse "ought to be free and live under the best of laws," but experience (not the least of which includes his relationship with Socrates and hemlock) leads Plato to understand "how difficult it is to manage a city's affairs rightly." One's own daily experience with the fallible nature of man provides easy corroboration for Plato's claim. How is it that some people can find so much wrong with the world and still insist that it would take so little to make it all right? If only we had universal health care, if only this law were in place or that law were repealed or free market economies were magically changed to some Utopian ideal. Ahh, wouldn't things be wonderful then? Obama says that's change we can believe in. Patrick says that if we all work together, we can achieve this ambiguous and elusive state of happiness.

But what exactly is it that these politicians are campaigning on? If Plato, in 334 B.C., knew that the perfectly just city was to be forever beyond the earthly grip of man, what are Progressive politicians promising the masses? Fr. Schall notes that "Some philosophers even say that this very desire to have the perfect city is the cause of all political evils that do happen in the world." In my opinion, the careers of politicians of this stripe can have one of two endings: First, they may prove neutered and insipid like Patrick's, having failed to deliver on any of the grandiose promises made on the campaign trail. Second, and infinitely more dangerous, they may follow the path outlined by the philosophers of which Schall speaks in the last quotation, sacrificing many for the good of the whole.