The Loss of Trust in Political Leaders
by Gary North: President
Obama Shoots Himself in the Foot on Gun Control
When Ron Paul
left the House of Representatives, this created a vacuum. Libertarians
only had two representatives over the last 60 years: Howard Buffett
and Ron Paul. That is not a lot of representatives. These days,
the conservative movement seems as bereft of leaders in Congress
as the libertarians are. We hear soundbites from Marco Rubio, and
Rand Paul is also quoted from time to time, but there is no one
who has the conservatives' ear in the way that Jesse Helms did a
is important in every institution, but its absence becomes visible
rapidly in the field of national politics. We do not think much
about the fact that we cannot name the CEOs of America's 10 largest
companies. We probably do not even know which companies these are.
Business leaders tend not to be well known in the general population.
The few exceptions to this, such as Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, are
rarities. I have no objection to this. I do not think it is a job
of business leaders to spend time and money on becoming national
figures unless this is going to increase revenues for the company.
There have been a few like this. Colonel Sanders is an obvious example.
But it was his company. Dave Thomas of Wendy's restored the company's
flagging sales with his TV advertisements. People believed in him.
Lee Iacocca had a similar effect in the early 1980s on the sales
of Chrysler products. But this is not normal.
OF POLITICAL LEADERS
When you cannot
find political leadership, this is generally an indication that
the political system is either in gridlock or chaos. When no single
leader becomes the spokesman for a particular ideology, that ideology
is surely on the defensive. If a group of ideas is not associated
with a particular individual who articulates these ideas, the spread
of these ideas is hampered.
In the 1930s
and 1940s, there were famous leaders. Franklin Roosevelt was one
of them; Adolf Hitler was one of them; Joseph Stalin was one of
them; Winston Churchill was one of them. They represented gigantic
populations. They took us into World War II. There has never been
a degree of leadership internationally comparable to the era of
World War II. Of course, given the effects of World War II, this
is probably an advantage.
later, we had Margaret Thatcher, Ronald Reagan, Deng Xiaoping, and,
most improbably, Pope John Paul II. Except for the threat of nuclear
war, the stakes were much lower in the 1980s than they were in the
1940s. The level of leadership, meaning the level of commitment
by their followers, was not at the same level as it had been during
the great crisis of the Great Depression and World War II. That
also was a good thing.
the threat cannot be personified, the level of commitment to national
leaders is almost nonexistent. There is a war against terrorism,
but that war has no visible leaders. There is also no way of knowing
who is winning and who is losing. There are not even criteria available
for what would constitute victory. So, without personified leaders
on the other side of the conflict, the level of commitment is less.
Great Depression, a national leader could personify his enemies.
Hitler was the obvious example. Everything wrong with the economy
he blamed on the Jews. Stalin had the same approach with respect
to failures in the Soviet economy. He blamed the failures on the
wreckers. These were sometimes latent capitalists, and sometimes
they were followers of Leon Trotsky. There was always some malevolent
force within the system that was keeping the system from working.
blamed his fellow rich bankers, the people he
had sold bonds to from 1921 to 1929. He called them money changers
in the Temple and "malefactors of great wealth." Nevertheless,
it was pretty hard to keep blaming them, and taxing them, and still
blaming them, when the economy got no better.
came World War II, when leaders could easily personify evil enemies.
It is easier to be a national political leader during a major war
in which the stakes are high. But wars eventually come to an end.
Losing leaders depart. In Churchill's case, the winning leader departed.
The Labor Party won in 1945. He got the boot.
Today, no national
leader seems to be able to target any particular group that is solely
to blame for the economic crisis. The biggest beneficiaries have
obviously been the big bankers. The bailout saved them. No national
leaders are going after them in public. But if you cannot blame
the big bankers, or the greedy capitalists, or CEOs whose pay is
too high, and make it stick politically, who are you going to blame?
If you cannot
figure out who to blame, you cannot present a plausible political
program to restore prosperity by placing the bad guys under restraints.
Therefore, there is not much that leaders can do to demonstrate
that they are successful leaders in the war against the bad economy.
They just keep promising that things will get better. How, they
do not say.
This is why
the present situation is steadily undermining the public's sense
of trust in national leaders. There is virtually nobody in Congress
that large numbers of voters seem to trust. There is nobody in Congress
with a separate movement behind him, people ready to sacrifice on
behalf of the message of this leader. There is no Ted Kennedy. There
is no Jesse Helms. Without Teddy, the Right has trouble raising
money with scary fund-raising letters. Without good old Jesse, the
Left has trouble raising money.
At some point,
the public is going to figure out that there is something fundamentally
flawed with the system. It is not possible to identify individuals
or special-interest groups that are specifically at fault for the
bad economy. National leaders cannot figure out a way to restore
economic growth and a strong job market. Voters are going to lose
faith in deliverance. They do not know who or what is capable of
overcoming the economic problems that every large nation seems to
hope of deliverance, the voters lose confidence in politics as a
means of healing. This is the central religion of our era. This
trust is waning. The Keynesian system holds on power by default.
There is no widely shared faith in what can be substituted and how.
people incarnate, it is really difficult for would-be leaders to
mobilize the troops. Leadership becomes problematical, because people
do not die for a cause that does not have leaders to articulate
the cause. They do not sacrifice for a cause unless there is a leader
out there telling them that the sacrifice will make a difference,
at least in the long run, and they can be victorious.
This is why
we do not have leaders today. The problems that every modern economy
is facing has to do with the structure of the economy, not manipulation
as such. The problems cannot be solved by tinkering with the system.
the rest of the article
North [send him mail]
is the author of Mises
on Money. Visit http://www.garynorth.com.
He is also the author of a free 31-volume series, An
Economic Commentary on the Bible.
2013 Gary North
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