Thursday, October 16, 2008

Human Nature and Leadership

While it has been said that the natural tendency of government is to expand and increase in tyranny (a paraphrase of a Founding Father), I would say that humans, by nature, gravitate toward self-inflicted tyranny. You find examples of this throughout history, even in government skools, although you'd have to be studying, for example, Shakespeare's Julius Caesar in English literature instead of actual history, since it tends to be inadequate and full of inconsistencies (like Senator Joseph McCarthy heading up HUAC).

While I do agree that government tends to grow when left alone, I argue that it is not the institution but the people who support that allow it to grow either deliberately or through apathy. In any given system of government, it is only as good as the people who work for it and the people who allow it to rule over them. I could go into the middle of a town square, declare myself king of that town and then make various decrees for the townsfolk to follow. But they don't have to follow them and they are less likely to do so because I have no viable means of enforcement.

This simple fact is elementary logic to most people with even a remote education in political science and has been demonstrated time and again throughout history and through entertaining dramas. In the end the people are the ones who hold up leaders and submit to them.

So, given that people are responsible for leadership, it then follows that people are responsible for the tyranny imposed on them, regardless of whether they were born into tyranny or "saw" it give rise in the particular sovereign entity they reside in. While I am not denying that individuals are intelligent and on our own, we would not cede our will to another, the very nature of a society gives rise to this desire to allow another to rule over us.

This is almost exactly what happened to the Israelites when King Saul came to rule over them. Before, there were no kings, only judges who were ordained and held up by God to rescue them, literally and figuratively, from oppression. The Judges themselves were not perfect individuals without sin, as demonstrated by Samson and Gideon (although Shamgar may have been a good judge), and often caused harm to themselves and others (one even ended up sacrificing his own daughter to God because of his own foolish tongue).

In the time of Samuel, who was the prominent judge at that time, the Israelites called for a king to rule over them. Before that, they had true freedom from government oppression and only had to worry about foreign invaders. Even then, God would always rescue them by raising up a prominent prophet who would direct the military leaders or lead the militia themselves to a great victory over their enemies. In essence, people did as they pleased without fear from their own.

It wasn't a perfect system because man was imperfect and sinful. The book of Judges is full of stories that would horrify a hardened sociopath if it were put to the big screen. But at the same time, the Israelites were not held in thrall by a central authority and would do as they please, regardless of whether it was pleasing in God's sight.

Eventually the people called for a king and God gave them one. And he sucked. He was a tyrant who continually tried to kill a young man he believed would take his place, which is something God had ordained. In any case, Israel did have good kings before its exile.

But it had far more bad ones. That's why I am a Christian Libertarian. I don't have faith in central leadership. They are corrupt and the power only serves as a crutch to them spiritually. No matter how pious they are, they will always become corrupt or their successors will be corrupt.

The only sure-fire way to prevent this is to limit government as much as possible. With the current crop of candidates running for office, I'm not holding my breath.