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62 Am. J. Juris. 1 (2017)


There is no more important question in thinking about life-and actually living-in political community than whether it is to be permeated by, and purposefully oriented around, the main truths about human flourishing. It is at least paradoxical that, precisely when the state and its law and political life are shaping people's lives more and more, the professed roots of all this influence are growing thinner, more shallow. Lawmakers who profess and in many cases even think they should be "neutral" about values are more involved with how persons' lives go than, perhaps, ever before.

Of course, any community which has lost faith in the truth about human wellbeing is going to be quite befuddled by the question. But the perennial centrality of the question about truth and politics can be obscured for understandable reasons. One is the immediate urgency of so many practical challenges, such as settling the defense or state budget, protecting against terrorist attack, or deciding what to do about a nuclear-armed North Korea (and then doing it). Attention to the fundamental question is attenuated, too, by focus upon diffuse problems which affect nearly everyone daily, such as getting good healthcare coverage or creating jobs. Significant public debates about moral issues affecting policy are still common. But they tend to be episodic, and wary of getting down to foundations. When Americans argue today about immigration policy and capital punishment, for instance, they rely upon profound ethical beliefs. All too often, however, they link these commitments not to the objective moral truth at the heart of the matter, but instead to past practices ("traditions"), or to communal identity as a matter of fact ("it's (not) who we are!").



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