Monday, October 8, 2012

Searching for Fearless Leader

Over the weekend (10/6) I posted this blurb on Facebook:

I've heard a number of people say that what our country needs is better leadership in the White House. Actually, under our constitution the president is not the "leader" of the government or the American people. He (she) is the chief of the executive branch of the federal government. That position's duties under Article 2 include serving as commander-in-chief of the armed forces (not the people), entertaining foreign dignitaries, appointing cabinet ministers and reporting to Congress on the state of the union.

A republic is not founded on the notion of leadership vested in an individual. Our president cannot make laws by decree. He can propose and advocate for many things. He can represent the American people in foreign matters. But in theory the power is vested in the people. A republic doesn't need a "leader," and the notion of a national leader (Führerprinzip) is a very dangerous one, indeed.

Iran and North Korea have supreme leaders. "Oh, but those are dictators." Yes; but investing the president with the power to set a national agenda takes us well down the road of despotism. We need to reacquaint ourselves with the principles of republican government and the intent of our founders.

How we think of government dictates how we act and vote. And voting for a "leader" is not the mark of an (ostensibly) free people.

Later the same day Jack Kerwick wrote the following for Beliefnet:

Our founding fathers, recognizing that liberty requires as wide a dispersion of power and authority as possible, bequeathed to their posterity a government that is self-divided. In spite of the singularity of the term, the American “government” actually consists of many governments, each sovereign in its own specifically delineated arena. Even the federal government is comprised of multiple branches, and within these branches, authority and power is further distributed. As the founders conceived it, the federal government—precisely because it was a federal, and not a national, government—was severely limited in its scope.

Although we still talk the talk of liberty, our vocabulary reveals that we have long since stopped walking the walk. For example, we insist on crediting politicians when they “lead,” and blaming them when they fail to do so. But this concept of leadership in politics is inimical to liberty. The last thing that a liberty-loving people should want is a political leader. Indeed, a champion of liberty who elects a leader is a contradiction in terms: the lover of liberty is not about to “follow” any politician anywhere...

The lover of liberty abhors the notion of a political leader. He wants nothing more or less than for his representatives to govern or, what amounts to the same thing, to rule in accordance with constitutionally sound law.

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