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Sunday, May 11, 2008

The Imperfectibility of Human Institutions - Even America

In his speech following his impressive win in the North Carolina primary, Barack Obama said:

I believe in our ability to perfect this union because it’s the only reason I’m standing here today.

Setting aside the question of whether the adverbial clause sensibly follows from the main clause, this is one of my pet peeves. I simply do not believe in anyone’s ability to perfect anything. As the NAB puts it, ”all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.” Or, in the classic phrasing of the King James, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God ....”

Finally, all too many people who talk about perfecting a society strive to do so through the vehicle of government. Personally, I do not believe the government can make people, institutions, or societies better—let alone perfect. After all, government is itself comprised of fallen men and women whose imperfections are precisely the reason good government is shackled with checks and balances. Unconstrained, government attempts to create a “Great Society” destroy communities, disintegrate the little platoons that inculcate virtue, atrophy both man’s ability and desire to control their own destiny, and limit choice.

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