Prudence, meaning the ability to govern and discipline oneself by the use of reason is one of the Cardinal virtues.
According to Wikipedia, “in modern English, the word has become increasingly synonymous with caution. In this sense, prudence names a reluctance to take risks, which remains a virtue with respect to unnecessary risks”.
According to St. Thomas Aquinas....“it is the charioteer of the virtues. It is the practical wisdom that forms and guides our conscience and our ability to make choices.”
Damaris Zehner writing for the ‘Internet Monk’ website has a more contemporary view of prudence: “it is not just the careful, almost miserly, meting out of money, time, and self; it is ‘right reason in action’.........without prudence we would neither recognise the right nor choose to do it.”
Today, prudence has become a watchword of politicians as they grapple with the complexity of global economic uncertainty.
The politician we probably most associate with prudence is Gordon Brown during his time as Chancellor of the Exchequer.
In his first budget speech, Brown laid out his credentials as the ‘Iron Chancellor’ when he said: “my first rule – the golden rule – ensures that over the economic cycle the Government will borrow only to invest, and that current spending will be met from taxation.” In his second budget speech, he reiterated his goal stating, “I said that this would be a Budget based on prudence for a purpose and that guides us also in our approach to public spending”.
Sadly things went awry for Gordon Brown when he became Prime Minister. His Government failed to maintain a grip public spending. The end result was a humiliating defeat in the 2010 General Election. As a Prime Minister, Mr Brown was anything but prudent.
The Bible, particularly the book of Proverbs contains many references to the virtue of prudence.........
‘I, wisdom, dwell with prudence, and I find knowledge and discretion.’
‘In everything the prudent acts with knowledge, but a fool flaunts his folly.’
‘The prudent sees danger and hides himself, but the simple go on and suffer for it.’
‘A fool despises his father's instruction, but whoever heeds reproof is prudent.’
These proverbs are simply excellent advice for successful living. When prudence is consistently put into practice by individuals, difficulties can be anticipated and avoided.