President Biden’s $2.3 trillion infrastructure plan is encountering major obstacles as many legislators find questionable items in the bill that have no link with improving public works. This spending spree goes beyond the media-friendly projects like replacing bridges and lead pipes. It includes disguised pork in the form of senior care aid, hospital bailouts and other projects.
However, the worst thing about the infrastructure bill is what it does not contain. It does not cut to the chase in seeking out the things that ail America. It leaves a whole sector of American life in shambles, threatening the nation’s future.
A Spiritual Infrastructure That Needs Attention
This massive crisis involves not a physical infrastructure but what might be called a spiritual one. Institutions that serve as the building blocks of society simply are not working anymore.
These institutions involve the family, community, intermediary associations and the Church. Over the decades, they have fallen apart in a manner much worse than any bridges or highways. They make up a crucial infrastructure that most people refuse to recognize.
Infrastructure is an underlying foundation or basic framework of a system or organization. Without these assets, things do not work. The nation’s spiritual framework is in shambles. As a result, many physical structures are also in ruins. There is a relationship between the two frameworks. It does little good to fix one without the other.
Components of This Crisis
The evidence of this need is everywhere. The sad state of the American family is a good example. Broken families weigh heavily upon public resources because they tend to create poverty, overwhelm individuals, destroy mental health and shatter communities. Family problems often force governments to allocate resources to make up for shortcomings. Divorce and family breakup have dire consequences on the economy.
Where families decay, communities also suffer. A strong family structure serves to create trust-building bonds that strengthen local communities. The family is a source of self-reliance and initiative. These things are impossible to replace with government programs but can make all the difference in making societies flourish.
The same conclusions can be drawn regarding community organizations and groups that work to improve society. Sociologists are unanimous in affirming that this essential social infrastructure is in radical decline. Social engagement in civil society is much needed if a nation is to be regenerated.
Finally, religion’s sad state reflects a decay of morality and manners that destroys the rules by which society functions. The massive spread of drug abuse and opioid addictions is a visible sign of a much deeper spiritual problem of moral relativism. Once moral structures break down completely, the world will no longer have meaning, purpose or direction.
These institutions constitute the spiritual infrastructure that plays a more important role than bridges, non-lead pipes and interstate highways. All these spiritual things are in shambles, and yet no one wants to address this crisis.
It Cannot Be Solved by Government Programs
Bloated government’s strategy is to act contrary to what is needed. Government bureaucrats tend to blame the decay of the nation on material things. Their “solution” is to throw money into physical infrastructure to improve the American people’s temporal welfare. It is an exercise in futility since the spiritual problems are constantly depleting the resources allocated to the physical efforts.
“The State does not contain in itself and does not mechanically bring together in a given territory a shapeless mass of individuals. It is, and should in practice be, the organic and organizing unity of a real people.
“The people, and a shapeless multitude (or, as it is called, “the masses”) are two distinct concepts. The people lives and moves by its own life energy; the masses are inert of themselves and can only be moved from outside. The people lives by the fullness of life in the men that compose it, each of whom—at his proper place and in his own way—is a person conscious of his own responsibility and of his own views. The masses, on the contrary, wait for the impulse from outside, an easy plaything in the hands of anyone who exploits their instincts and impressions; ready to follow in turn, today this flag, tomorrow another. From the exuberant life of a true people, an abundant rich life is diffused in the State and all its organs, instilling into them, with a vigor that is always renewing itself, the consciousness of their own responsibility, the true instinct for the common good.”
Pius XII, Radio message of Christmas 1944, in Discorsi e Radiomessaggi di Sua Santità Pio XII, Vol. VI, pp. 238-239
For bureaucrats, spiritual infrastructure problems are frustrating because they cannot be solved with money. These problems stem from the moral actions of individuals and families, which renders useless the financial efforts of these soulless functionaries. Solutions must be forged in the interactions between people working out problems inside a healthy social order.
An Exaggerated Individualism That Destroys the Social Fiber
What has particularly destroyed the nation’s spiritual infrastructure is an exaggerated individualism that claims individuals can create their own reality. People think that they can live out their fantasies even if it destroys families and society. This disorder causes people to refuse to consider their responsibility to further the common good.
This decaying spiritual infrastructure is, above all, a crisis of leadership. Authentic leadership consists of creating a social union oriented toward the common good. Most successful individualists today use their leadership positions to advance their personal well-being. They do not wish to risk their comforts by saying no to the frenetic intemperance of a world gone awry.
As a result, there are no longer those mutually beneficial relationships that weave the social fiber so that all might advance to a higher end beyond mere material gratification and fantasy. These hierarchical relationships that once existed in society created the conditions for people to care for one another.
Considerations like these represent an existential crisis that calls into question the purpose of life. They tie the two infrastructures together. Indeed, to what purpose does America build a great infrastructure if there are no families and communities to benefit from it? If there is no spiritual infrastructure, what will supply the cohesion needed in times of crisis? How can problems of this magnitude be solved without relying upon the benevolence of a loving God?
The monstrous infrastructure acts of 2021 skirt all these questions and gamble with America’s future.
© Adobe Stock/Kevin Ruck