Libertarian Thinking

Tuesday, October 24, 2006
TCS Daily - The Leadership Myth: "The conventional wisdom is that we would be better off if politically powerful leaders were less mediocre. Instead, my view is that we would be better off if mediocre political leaders were less powerful."

4 comments:

Knucklehead said...

I have some strong libertarian leanings. Part of my journey from being a muddleheaded Yute With A Heart (i.e, your garden variety "liberal") to my current state of "conservative" (such as it is) passed through Libertarian Land.

These days I tend to look back and wonder what, precisely, "That government is best which governs least" really means. Leastwise the notions of warlords, mullahs, failed states, and no-go zones have given me pause. Not to mention that a sizeable portion of My Fellow Citizens want no part of government leaving them to fend for themselves. They want Big Gummint and lots of it.

Somewhere along that journey I also became convinced of the fallacy of the Best and Brightest cultism. The Best and Brightest are, by definition, relatively few among us. There is undoubtedly some significant overlap between the Best and Brightest and those who exhibit high levels of honesty, ethical behavior, common sense, effectiveness, and other such admirable attributes. But none of those are mutually exculusive and some of as far as I can tell some of our Best and Brightest have little or no interest in such things.

So demanding the "best" and the "brightest", it seems to me, leaves us with a pretty meager selection. And yet we expect those folks to do our science, our engineering, our teaching, run our government, and pretty much every other darned thing that strikes us as important at any moment in time. The poor saps much be exhausted!

I suspect we're going to have to continue to muddle through making due with more mediocre and mundane and imperfect people. We'll just have improvise, adapt, and overcome. It sucks to be us, doesn't it. Not enough Best and Brightests to go around, part our seas, and lead us through the desert. As tough as it is we're just gonna have to make sure we ain't settin' arse down on a cactus, scorpion, tarantula, or rattler all for our selves now and again.

David Thomson said...

Arnold Kling pushes his argument a bit too far. He is on fairly safe ground regarding domestic issues. The crap hits the fan, however, when superb leadership is required during war time and other foreign policy crises.

Knucklehead said...

DT,

The crap hits the fan, however, when superb leadership is required during war time and other foreign policy crises.

Therein lies the issue, doesn't it. If "war time" and "foreign policy" crisis are the likes of San Juan Hill then Teddy is "superb" leadership.

If it is any more challenging than that Robert E. Lee cleans the clocks of every sap Abe sends against him. Pearl Harbor gets destroyed and Wake Island and the Phillipines lost before FDR manages to drop a handful of bombs on some Tokyo factories. Patton gets sacked for being a loudmouth. MacArthur get his arse blasted out of Manila before he can gloriously return.

What seems to define "superb" in terms of leadership is hanging on through the failures until success arrives. There just isn't all that much unerring genius going on. Even Alexander and Rommel f'd up sometimes.

loner said...

What seems to define "superb" in terms of leadership is hanging on through the failures until success arrives.

As it should.

Perhaps only another soldier, and that the greatest, could truly gauge the fortitude it took to weather the military extremity of the bad years. At any rate, when Washington died and the word got to Europe, Napoleon himself was seen to bow his head. In the English Channel, the British fleet fired a salute of twenty guns.

Alistair Cooke's America