What would happen if, tomorrow, the national debt could be paid off with no inflation or other ill effect, and if the per capita income of our nation could be doubled, and if we discovered a means of extending human life to 100 youthful years, and…well, put in whatever else you wish. What would happen? In twenty-five years, we would find ourselves again bedeviled with problems that seem insoluble and crushing, and we would again bemoan our wretched state.
After we won the Cold War, there was an immediate peace dividend that allowed us, if we would, to run budgetary surpluses until the national debt was paid off while lowering tax rates and leaving social spending unchanged. What happened? That toxic stew of materialism, nihilism, and instant gratification corrupted everything.
Our problems are not economic. We live in an America in which the greatest health problems are obesity and inactivity and our greatest mental health problems are boredom and an attendant addiction to drugs or games or other things that make the tedium of life bearable. The vast majority of “stuff” we seek in life is not really needed at all.
What we lack and what the world lacks is a spiritual benevolence that will incline us to be happy with what we have and to seek our peace and joy in honorable and just ways. What we lack and what we need is the religious commitment that was the foundation of our republic and that outsiders visiting America saw as the most remarkable aspect of our life. Without regard to a particular branch of Christianity, and many branches flourished in America, we were an intensely religious people. We connected our future with the will of God.
Such faith proved the perfect tonic for the grim disease of anti-Semitism. The same visitors to our nation who saw a genuinely religious Christian population also saw the most harmonious relationship in the world between Jews and Christians. Jews served in the Continental Congress; Jews were elected governors of our first states, and senators as well.
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