Suitable President: Loyola and Napoleon

Bertrand de Jouvenel in his musings on authority and power suggests that in the executive there are two primary qualities needed. These qualities are not “either/or” type features but often one dominates over the other. Jouvenel is French, so his examples he draws from French history, and actually from one particular element of each of the titular men’s life. For Loyola he cites an (apparently) famous painting in which Loyala is seen under a spreading oak tree and with his words and example reconciling two opposing people. Reconciliation and bridging of differences is the feature that he cites for Loyola. This is one kind of leader. Napoleon he cites another painting, a heroic charge across a bridge. Napoleon (again apparently) through his charisma, leadership and bravura inspires his mean and leads a charge across a bridge capturing victory from defeat. Inspiring leadership is the second quality that we seek in our chief executive.

Neither alas, has been found in any measure in my lifetime in any executive elected in this great nation.

My suspicion is that the reason is how our electoral process has developed over the years. The qualities that are required to win the election in this country have little to nothing to do with the qualities that would serve us best in serving in that same office.

Fortunately we are in something like a democracy, which as noted is the worst sort of government … except for all the rest. Let’s hear it for representative democratic rule. Sucks less! What a wonderful slogan.

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11 comments

  1. Boonton says:

    “worse sort of gov’t, except for all the others” is a bit of a cliche that ignores the fact that Democracy comes in many flavors. A Parlimentary system, IMO, is probably what the US needs as the US is currently split ideolgoically, not geographically. The system we have is ideal IMO for a geographically diverse nation. While geographical based clashes still happen now and then (N.E. wants money for transit and highways, midwest wants crop subsidies), elections are becoming less about geographical clashes and more about ideological ones. A parlimentary system may work better. How radical a change that would require of the Constitution, I’m not sure.

  2. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    Pushing our disagreements to more local levels seems a less Constitutionally violent solution … and one that would get people more likely to feel that their voice makes a bit of difference. Congress could “do things” more effectively if what the Feds (Congress) was deciding where things that we more or less all agree on.

  3. Mark says:

    Boonton,
    You realize that Churchill was the source of that quote right?

  4. Mark says:

    I also wonder about the “pushing more to the states” at the same time as making the State be defined by membership and not geography.

  5. Boonton says:

    An idea I had a while ago, could make an interesting sci-fi story. Matrixed Citizenship. Imagine two different people living in the same place, some belong to country A, others to country B. Depending on their citizenship, they will vote in different elections, have different laws etc. Since they live together, though, a reconciliation gov’t would ensure that laws are coordinated when they involve cross members (such as the rules of the highway, interactions between A’s and B’s and so on. I thought maybe the Isreali-Palestine problem might ultimately be solved by such a creature.

    Anyway, if you reread the Constitution as being about a ‘state of mind’ rather than geographic entities, then you might end up exactly with a Parlimentarian system. Though I suspect you’d find such a reading pretty violent to the Constitution as it now stands.

    The ‘pushing to the local level’ ignores IMO the fact that the ideological rift is at the national level and both sides want to win all. Texas, for example, is trying to pass a law banning the banning of plastic bags since they are confronting the fact that the cities are much more Democratic than the larger state. How far can you push down? IMO things like Social Security, Medicare and other programs get unworkable at the state level.

  6. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    The ‘pushing to the local level’ ignores IMO the fact that the ideological rift is at the national level and both sides want to win all.

    Except it’s not. Remember the Scott Walker fight over unions in Wisconsin. Not ideological, geographical. It was the big cities (Green Bay/Madison/Milwaukee vs the rest of the state). An urban/rural split. Lots of issues you’ll find divide on locale not ideology.

    And as for an interesting sci-fiction story. It’s been done. Good book too. “The City and the City” by China Mieville. Murder mystery too. Recommended.

    Also not entirely unrelated, if you don’t have a stand in the Puppies/Hugo wars, John C Wright (whose books I’ve recently encountered and many of which are very very good) has both in The Golden Age (trilogy) and in his Count to a Trillion (series, two left to be released) the notion of “sense filters”. In the former, most of the inhabitants of the milieu in which Golden age is set utilize “sense filters” to edit out from their sensory inputs things they don’t want to see (if “google glass” or something like that could edit out from your field of vision advertisements that would be the idea). In Count to a Trillion in the far far future, one solution to having hyper-intelligent beings coexist and not dominate more ordinary intellects, a “sense” barrier is in place that makes those non-hyper intelligent invisible to the hyper-intelligent (and the non-hypers need to be careful not to interfere with the others consciously or the barriers will be “noticed” and at least for them removed, which makes you vulnerable to whatever the intellgence wishes (swatted or slavery or worse … or more hopefully to be ignored)).

  7. Boonton says:

    What exactly is the problem ‘sense filters’ are trying to solve? It seems that the assumption is that people are highly offended by other people doing things differently, hence they want gov’t to try to force others to change. So with ‘sense filters’, there is no need to force anyone, just ‘filter out’ offensive people.

    First, some motivation for policy making is premised on ‘offense’. For example, pro-lifers would not be happy if they just never heard about abortion ever again. They don’t want abortion to happen so simply walking around wearing shades that made advertisement for abortion clinics invisible would not satisfy.

    Is this a big part of what gov’t does, though? Consider a city like NYC. Here you have Orthodox Jews, who insist that their women wear wigs so as not to let the public see their natural hair, walking down streets with giant billboards of nearly naked people. As radically different as these views are, do people spend their money to move to places with less offense? I don’t think so. Mostly they tune out the offense as reduce it to background noise and use their circle of family and friends to ensure that their culture remains strong. Since we don’t utilize what filters are already available to us, I’m not sure a ‘sense filter’ would be anything we’d develop.

    So what do we ask of gov’t? i see a few things:

    1. Collective defense
    2. Collective security
    3. Collective goods

    Collective defense would include the armed forces. Collective security I’d bring in local law enforcement and Justice. Collective goods would be the allocation of new assets (for example, how Congress divided up the Lousianna Purchase and other land expansions) and the production of collective goods (social safety net, bank insurance, etc.).

    In some cases these need not be rivalous since they produce more output than they cost. For example, the legal system and general infrastructure produces more in GDP IMO than they cost…or as Obama put it “you didn’t build it”. Other goods are reivalous in that what one person gets, another can’t. Social Security, at some level, means we don’t get free College. (Even with the first, there is a zero sum game in who pays for it. National defense benefits everyone, yet the coastal states used their influence to ensure that missle bases were located in the center of the country…so rural communities bore the cost of being a prime target in a nuclear war while more populated states got the benefit).

    ‘Filters’ would only help in so far as they would solve some problems of goods and services….if you could ‘filter’ your home into looking like a mansion, you may not care anymore that it is tiny. The allocation problems, however, would remain at either a federal or state level so I’m not sure filtering would work. The matrix idea might on the grounds that it can provide different people with ‘their own’ gov’t while at the same time not insistng that the ‘other people’ leave the territory. Jews and Palestinians probably will want to have one of their own as Prime Minister but they could probably live with the same traffic laws. Matrixed gov’t lets that happen.

    For the US,however, I think the problem is we have a Constitution designed around allocation of goods on a geographic level (making sure no one state or group of states got too much of an upper leg on the others) while the main disagreements have become ideologically centered.

  8. Mark says:

    Boonton,

    What exactly is the problem ‘sense filters’ are trying to solve? It seems that the assumption is that people are highly offended by other people doing things differently, hence they want gov’t to try to force others to change. So with ‘sense filters’, there is no need to force anyone, just ‘filter out’ offensive people.

    Offense I think is a minor part of it. You walk through a noisy city, filter out the sounds that are loud and irrelevant. Filter out the advertisements for stuff you don’t want to see or hear. At a concert? Filter out the audience noise, or reverse it and filter out the loud sounds so you can hear the person next to you whisper. A filter makes it easier to concentrate on those things that interest you.

    The allocation problems, however, would remain at either a federal or state level so I’m not sure filtering would work.

    Wow. You are so enamored of tyranny you dream of it.

  9. Mark says:

    Boonton
    People (possibly you as well) use sense filters all the time. We call them “headphones”. Some of them pride themselves as “noise cancelling”. Making that 100% efficient so you only hear or see the things which interest you. Wouldn’t that be useful? An not just to filter out things that annoy you.

  10. Mark says:

    Boonton
    Oh, and “filtering” your home to look nicer isn’t about envy. It’s about beauty and enjoying the space in which you live. I’m not seeing the harm there … and I am seeing benefit.

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