Tuesday, March 24, 2020

A Socratic Mob

Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob. -- The Federalist No. 55

Another general remark to be made is, that the ratio between the representatives and the people ought not to be the same where the latter are very numerous as where they are very few. Were the representatives in Virginia to be regulated by the standard in Rhode Island, they would, at this time, amount to between four and five hundred; and twenty or thirty years hence, to a thousand. On the other hand, the ratio of Pennsylvania, if applied to the State of Delaware, would reduce the representative assembly of the latter to seven or eight members. Nothing can be more fallacious than to found our political calculations on arithmetical principles. Sixty or seventy men may be more properly trusted with a given degree of power than six or seven. But it does not follow that six or seven hundred would be proportionably a better depositary. And if we carry on the supposition to six or seven thousand, the whole reasoning ought to be reversed. The truth is, that in all cases a certain number at least seems to be necessary to secure the benefits of free consultation and discussion, and to guard against too easy a combination for improper purposes; as, on the other hand, the number ought at most to be kept within a certain limit, in order to avoid the confusion and intemperance of a multitude. In all very numerous assemblies, of whatever character composed, passion never fails to wrest the sceptre from reason. Had every Athenian citizen been a Socrates, every Athenian assembly would still have been a mob.

"The Total Number of the House of Representatives"
From the New York Packet
Friday, February 15, 1788. 
Alexander Hamilton or James Madison


Sunday, March 22, 2020

Toxic Leadership

“You’re fired!” Pres. Donald Trump not only cannot get along with the people he hires, he denies them afterward. He called Gen. Jim Mattis “over-rated.” If we did not know Donald Trump from his own publicity about his success in real estate (The Art of the Deal, Random House, 1987), then his rise as a media personality should have warned us that he is not someone to take responsibility for his actions. 

March 13, 2020. Remarks and Press Conference on the Coronovirus outbreak

Q    Thank you so much, Mr. President.  Dr. Fauci said earlier this week that the lag in testing was, in fact, “a failing.”  Do you take responsibility for that?

And when can you guarantee that every single American who needs a test will be able to have a test?  What’s the date of that?

THE PRESIDENT:  Yeah, no, I don’t take responsibility at all, because we were given a — a set of circumstances and we were given rules, regulations, and specifications from a different time.  It wasn’t meant for this kind of an event with the kind of numbers that we’re talking about.  And what we’ve done is redesigned it very quickly with the help of the people behind me.  And we’re now in very, very strong shape.

This is President Trump during an online meeting with state governors. Perhaps he had something else going on in his mind that made him feel defensive, but when I caught this image, he was listening to Gov. Larry Hogan, Republican, of Maryland, who was thanking him. 

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, this is Larry Hogan, Chairman of the NGA.  First of all, I just want to thank you so much for this call today and I want to thank you for the great communication that you've had with all of the governors over the past few weeks.  It's been tremendous.

Mr. President, thank you for signing the second stimulus last night and for your ongoing efforts to mitigate the economic impact that we're all facing.  And thank you so much for appointing Vice President Pence, a former governor, to lead this crisis.  He has been terrific in working with all of us and reaching out to us.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, Larry.

GOVERNOR HOGAN:  Yesterday, yesterday, we had a meeting of all of the governors at NGA, prior to this call.  And, you know, we were getting a lot--you're getting a lot of input--  you're being bombarded by 50 different people with different questions.  We try to consolidate it down to, kind of, a group of concerns that all of the governors agreed on were, sort of, our priorities.

In the Middle Ages, military authority and civil authority were identical. As Europe reawakened, the military was subordinated to civilian control. Ever less often did dukes, kings, and emperors lead their troops into battle.The capture of Napoleon III at Sedan in 1871 was the dunce’s after school lesson. And military dictatorships are notoriously unsuccessful. So, the modern army carries out the orders it is given. The Second Gulf War was not just winnable: it was won. The fifth largest army in the world melted and evaporated. We then met them again in a new fog of war, a war that could not be won. Sometimes, being brilliantly intelligent is just not enough. (The Fourth Star previously on NecessaryFacts reviewed here.) 

But Pres. Donald Trump is not brilliant. People like him who become leaders need strong teams. Donald Trump never learned how to build a team. He just appoints people to jobs and fires them when they disagree with him. We are living through the consequences of that.