Thursday, March 15, 2012

Don't Give Us a Leader. Just Give Us Competence

It is time to stop looking for a “leader.” America does not need leadership from any movement or any party, at least not leadership as we conceive it in the 21st century.

When you consider what the average American tends to expect from a president, or blame on him when things go wrong, an outsider might be forgiven if he assumed that the word “president” politically equated to “czar.” American ideas on what a president does and should not do have been driven relentlessly by the crises of the last century combined with the notion that if only we found the smartest man, we could plan well enough to avoid problems.

History proves that this just is not so.

Ancient sources of religion and wisdom argue against putting too much trust into a single earth made man alone. In I Samuel 8, God tells the Israelite judge Samuel that the people demand a king as the other nations have. They reject the idea of a limited government whose sovereign is God. God warned Samuel that the expansion of political authority would result in the seizing of property and enslavement of the people. Arbitrary power in the hands of leaders cannot end well.

Lao Tzu in the Tao Te Ching Chapter 17 wrote the following

The best rules are those whom the people hardly know exist

Next come rulers whom the people love and praise

After that come rulers whom the people fear

And the worst are those whom the people despise

The ruler who does not trust his people will not be trusted by his people

The best ruler stays in the background and his voice is rarely heard

When he accomplishes his task and things go well

The people declare: It was we who did it by ourselves.

Marcus Tullius Cicero watched the final days of the slow dissolving of what was once a free Roman Republic relative to his time and place. Rule of law gave way to a government led by ambitious and grasping men, such as Julius Caesar. The dictators of the late Roman Republic saw law as an obstacle to their plans, some of which were based on good intentions. However, the undermining of the basic law of the land ushered in the era of the Empire and all of its evils.

The people loved Caesar, but could never have imagined that his smashing of the law would lead to the depravity of Nero or the insanity of Caligula. Late in Cicero’s life, just before his own unnatural death, he railed against “the effrontery of Gaius Caesar, who, to gain that sovereign power which by a depraved imagination he had conceived in his fancy, trod underfoot all laws of gods and men.” He went on to write that “But the trouble about this matter is that it is in the greatest souls and in the most brilliant geniuses that we usually find ambitions for civil and military authority, for power, and for glory, springing; and therefore we must be the more heedful not to go wrong in that direction.”

While the English philosopher Thomas Hobbes argues that man’s evil can only be contained by a strong government, many other notables fear more the evil of men when they ascend to controlling a powerful government. This is why we limit power and put blocks in the way of our elected officials. America does not need a czar, a king, an Il Duce, or any other authoritarian leader, either by name, or in power alone. We work best when under the type of executive described by Lao Tzu, the type that we never notice and who engineers his policies to enable the people to act for themselves.

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