Walter Lippmann wrote that at the core of every social, political, and economic system is a picture of human nature. The premises we assume shape almost everything we do. The reason that the Founder’s conception of the American political system and Adam Smith’s vision of capitalism succeeded is that their understanding of the human person was essentially right; the systems they argued for conformed to basic human truths (men are not angels but are capable of virtue, people are driven by self-interest more than altruism, et cetera).
As we undertake the difficult task of self-government, lawmakers and citizens should from time to time step back and reflect on some of these deeper questions about human nature. This exercise isn’t a luxury, a diversion, or a distraction; it is absolutely central to the type of society we are and aspire to be. Public policy cannot be separated from political philosophy.