Maybe it is time to trot out again old Ben Franklin's proposal for a new political party, our old ones haven't worked well together for a very long time. A United Party for Virtue, composed of excellence-seekers "acting only with a view to the good of mankind," is a pretty dream. (Hap Hyp, ch8).
But could just anybody join, on their mere word of wishing to transcend sect and narrow self-interest? I know what we'd all soon be shouting at one another: "You lie!"
Still, Aristotelian virtue-- maximizing potential, pursuing purpose, selflessly embracing the common interest-- sounds really good. It sounds excellent, in fact. Arete!
(Don't know much about Aristotle? Here's a three-minute primer from a vulgar Aussie-- mildly amusing, slightly informative.)
And Poor Richard is a good model of virtue in the American grain, not "goody goody" but (as Maira Kalman illustrates) with good and industrious intentions and a whole lot of zest and sparkle and wit. Sign me up.
And btw: HBO captured him perfectly, I hope. I much prefer his spirited wisdom to John Adams' New England testiness, even though I don't much follow Old Ben's advice about public anonymity. But young Ben, I'll bet-- the printer and Almanac publisher-- woulda been a blogger, under one name or another.
Can't say much for his singing in 1776, though.