Intelligence is a necessary, but insufficient, condition of good government. A ruler may be intellectually-gifted, but if he lacks the necessary virtue his role demands, he will fail to implement policies that are beneficial to his people, and he will lose the confidence of many. Virtue epistemology, standing at the junction between ethics and the philosophy of knowledge, is an important resource for Christians, whose aim, among other things, is to know and teach the Truth.
Christian ethics encompass both personal, private action and the actions of the state. The state, tasked with pursuing policies that will benefit the people, is not merely an abstract entity. It exists in the real world in the persons who carry out its functions, the members of the executive, legislature, and judiciary. Since the state is, in this sense, made up of people, it follows that these people ought to be both virtuous and wise if they are to foster, and not obstruct, the prosperity of the governed.
Politicians dispute proposed courses of action on numerous grounds. At the most basic level, which is most evident in debates between political extremes, they argue over whether an aim is good or not. If the parties can agree in outline that an aim is desirable, they may still dispute the question of what the most appropriate or efficient means of achieving that aim may be. In seeking the truth and, where appropriate, relying on facts, good rulers must be able to fairly assess evidence adduced in support of arguments, showing due regard to methodology and interpretation.
Consciously or not, as the governed, we hold our rulers to these standards. When we see them give interviews or watch recordings of them in sessions, we are concerned if they show insufficient regard for the rigour that is required to reach the truth. Those who indicate a lack of belief in objective truth are particularly frightening to us. Without the stability of objective truth, we have no real means of preferring one view or course of action over another. How, then, can proponents of such a negative worldview persuade us to agree with them?
Underlying our kulturkampf and political battles is a concern with truth and virtue. While it is true that our immediate concerns are often economic, our complaints spring from questions of justice. Arguments about protecting a nation’s citizens and defending the freedom of allies come from concepts such as: contractual obligation; regard for free will; doing to others as you would have them do to you; and so on.
If we are to restore harmony and trust between governors and governed, then we must first address the more serious underlying issue of virtue and truth. Truth is costly: it is not grasped without effort, and its consequences often involve submission on our part. Simply claiming to be virtuous is not enough to inspire true confidence in one’s fellow man: one must demonstrate it in the conduct of one’s life.