What has happened to us? Why this plaintive (and almost universal) hope for "new" leadership? Press for an explanation from almost anyone who shares this hope and you'll discover he wants something from the government… a job, a tax break, an artificially low loan rate, or an ongoing handout. I don't believe America's problem is leadership… our problem is "followership." This country grew rapidly and successfully because Americans have traditionally been lousy followers. We crossed the Alleghenies, the Mississippi, the Plains, and the Rockies, not at the behest of Washington, but more times than not, because of its constitutionally mandated indifference to economic setbacks, income disparities, and low wages. Hard times meant it was time to acquire a new trade, start a new business, move to a new territory, or plant a different crop. For the most part, Americans weren't specialists but jacks of all trades — the times demanded it and those who refused to recognize it, were destined to spend their lives just scraping by working for others.

The American of late 20th and early 21st centuries is (generally speaking) content with working for others. Through an incredible series of remarkable developments (thanks almost entirely to the remnant who maintained the pioneer spirit) those of us born in this very narrow slice of time receive (or received) very generous wages…enough so that we are content in our niches. Our contentment has been reinforced by an ever-expanding series of programs which shelter us (to varying degrees) from true, honest-to-God grinding poverty.

However, there now exists a real threat, if the intelligentsia of the 6 o'clock news is to be believed (and, for once, they may be on to something) of a major economic downturn. But instead of carefully surveying the situation, weighing the probabilities, and adjusting our saving and spending accordingly, we cry out to Washington: "Save us…give us the leadership we need!"

Well, folks, this isn't Exodus and no one, including Obama, is going to perform Moses-like feats. It's time to look within ourselves, discover our own leadership abilities and guide our families as best as possible. There are plenty of promises coming from the many politicians out there but, as we are discovering with remarkable clarity, every promise has a very, very steep price tag. Also becoming equally clear is that all those comforting shelter programs are not only very expensive, but work only when a limited number of families (or pensioners, or savers, or banks) are affected.

In a general slowdown, we shall discover the emptiness of the promises. Like it or not, the present economic downturn, regardless of its severity or duration, is going to introduce a strange but age-old concept to many of the unsuspecting: self-reliance. It's time to lead, not follow.

P.S.: And pay little attention to the world's view of us. As Nock pointed out as far back as 1937, most of our "allies" merely want us to come in, clean up the mess, and get out as quickly and quietly as possible.

Mark Goulston comments:

I agree heartily with you. It's a big challenge to see if American can show some and take personal responsibility. We have become a country of blamers, excuse makers and self-pitiers and it's amazing that we've gotten away with it as long as we have.





Speak your mind

4 Comments so far

  1. Matt Johnson on January 2, 2009 5:32 pm

    I just think capitalism is dead (almost dead? mostly dead? hangin’ on by a thread?).

  2. John on January 2, 2009 7:00 pm

    Speaking for the younger generation, it is not leadership that we have been missing and hoping for. It is competence. It is a great irony that the party of smaller government expands government, messes it up, and then points at the mess-ups and exclaims, “See! I told you big government doesn’t work!”

  3. George Parkanyi on January 3, 2009 10:50 am

    Government today is driven by a tapestry of special interests. Essentially it's there to cement in the status quo as much as possible. You need to read Machiavelli's "The Prince" to understand how it came to this.

    Machiavelli counseled the Prince to be miser, otherwise, the led come to expect things that cannot be later taken away, whether or not later circumstances require it.

    The entitlement mentality is pervasive. Very much so here in Canada as well. Everything is a "right" now, whether earned or unearned (or affordable).

    Politicians do not have the will to say "no" where it means a vote lost, so expectation is layered upon expectation, and before you know it, you have a paralysed political process with no vision, nor the ability to implement a vision if it did have one.

    Unfortunately, the only thing that can break things loose is an external shock such as a major disaster, or a truly threatening war (not an Iraq, which is basically a remote regional action.).

  4. d higgs on January 5, 2009 12:56 am

    Jack it all began with Hoover’s promise of a chicken in every pot and a car in every garage………..


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