I am quite fond of the notion of gospel, good news. I (the better me who now thinks he speak) long for it. But, and this is a very weighty but, I (the actual me in the in-between of production of the better me) am very cautious, even suspicious, about the false prophet–he who proclaims the gospel falsely. I am especially wary of he who combines the good news with ease. How often has that been falsified in my short life. What I have learned, and it is not much, is that the good and the easy are in an almost invariable inverse proportion.
The good is that which satisfies and it does not come ready-made. It must be produced. Production is work. Work requires focus, sacrifice, investment (death to the actual while aiming at that which is not yet). The progressive-welfare-statist and a variety of evangelical Christian share a similarity here–they both say “it is easy” to satisfy. Both conceal from view the valley of the shadow of death that is involved. The former conceals the enslavement of those (deemed rich) that these (deemed poor) may be satisfied. The latter conceals the suffering that precedes the death to actual self that produces the better potential self. They are not identical, but they do both spread a false gospel of good plus ease. Run!
“So, what then is your good news Puritanical Libertarian?” In 4.2 we asserted the hierarchical relation between virtue and goods. We asserted that the human animal needs both but that virtue was more important. A temptation, grounded in history, is to see the two as inimical. A few examples: first, the monastic disciplines. He who is concerned with the moral/spiritual is to be separated from this world and to live a life as close to death as possible without dying in the denial of earthly goods. The monastery theme transcends any particular religion. Second, the almost unavoidable association of malformed feeling and error. Indeed, a long tradition associates personal failure with our animality and materiality. So, it is the slaying of this animality that is seen as the proper way to atone and to build virtue. One finds this both in Plato’s body as prison and in Paul’s lust of the flesh.
But let us frankly and unapologetically acknowledge the possibility (not probability) of the association of earthly prosperity and virtue. In fact let us assert that it may be a higher calling to engage the world virtuously than it would be to wall oneself off from it and live in isolation from it.
And then let us think, even for a moment, about the prudence, focus, patience, endurance, courage, temperance that are both the best way to produce and the best way to preserve what is produced.
Finally, let us ask where the training ground is for the production of virtue. Why need it be anywhere but here and now? What is inadequate about this time and this place for the exertion of energy in the direction of prudence, focus, patience, endurance, courage and temperance?
The good news is that here and now is the precise place for the production of virtue. He who wants virtue need go nowhere and no other time for its production. This is something to rejoice at.
“What did you say Puritanical Libertarian? That the best way to create and preserve earthly prosperity is through the production of virtue and that the best way to produce virtue is available to each immediately without reserve and in endless quantity? This is good news.”
The same traits that will make you trusted with earthly prosperity by an employer (even held onto while others are let go) are the same traits that will attract to you a best friend you may call a mate which are the same traits that will cause you to save and build capital without overconsumption or misallocation.
What is best for the rational social animal is that he have meaningful work in strong social bonds. The best way to become that individual (which does not guarantee anything it, only increases the possibility of selection) is to produce virtue. And the best way to produce virtue is to RIGHT NOW prudently focus, patiently endure, courageously move toward the challenging, and temperately engage with that which satisfies.
To engage this world well is to engage it on a mission. The Puritanical Libertarian (in his best moments) makes his mission the production of virtue trusting that it puts him in the best position to produce earthly prosperity. He need go nowhere to work on this but simply respond well to boss, to wife, to daughter, to friend, to work, to the mundane, to the dissatisfying, to the challenging. The opportunity for producing virtue is here and now. And that is good news.