02 September 2006

The Allure of Kings

I once heard management consultant Peter Block say that leadership is a collusion between control freaks and the irresponsible. As I get older, I find this claim more convincing.

It's not politically correct to contrast the Protestant and Catholic faiths, but if it weren't for the Protestant Revolution it is very doubtful that things would have changed much from medieval times. Yet plenty of people are still Catholic and plenty more Protestants have adopted the medievel model of reliance on religious leaders. There is something very alluring about the notion that one's salvation, one's peace and joy, can be outsourced like laundry.

Which brings us to politics. Like others, I find myself appalled at the direction neo-conservatives have taken this country. The over-arching theme of the neo-conservatives who own every branch of the American government - from legislation that makes it more difficult for the poor and disenfranchised to vote to repeal of the estate tax - is movement backwards towards a consolidation of wealth and power.

The progress since medieval times has moved us in the exact opposite direction of this. Even de Tocqueville commented that every half century or so, the difference between aristocracy and the commoner is lessened. Our modern world is a place where the commoner is free to make decisions about how (and if) to worship, how (and if) to borrow or invest, how (and if) to vote for policy. Neoconservatives have recently attacked these freedoms from every side, trying to legislate teaching religion in schools, and instituting harsh penalties for mistakes in credit management, retirement planning (or execution), and voter registration efforts.

Politicians and the media need to stand up to denounce any efforts that consolidate rather than diffuse wealth and power. Progress is the result of two things: steady increases in the quality of life of society's elites and a steady erosion in the difference between the quality of life of the elites and us commoners. Any effort to derail this progression that has defined the West for 500 years should be vigorously opposed, even if it does promise freedom of responsibility for one's own life.

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