Ethics - Why should leaders care about the population?

Discussion in 'Archive: The Senate Floor' started by keynote23, Mar 20, 2011.

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  1. keynote23 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 26, 2006
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    Before starting, this post is not an attempt to be nihilistic but meant rather to be considered in the following context.

    What gives the people inherent merit that justifies why a leader should respect us to work on our behalf?

    It is my belief that most leaders (elected or otherwise) who succeed in accomplishing things of extraordinary impact (that is things that affect millions in a significant and forseeable manner) often must do so WITHOUT the assistance of population. Indeed, often their fellow man will seek to impede their progress.

    Examples:
    -Voters will condemn a politician who is trying to do good for them if it means harming them in the short run (makes a leader's job more difficult)
    -Individuals will selfishly resist surrendering their freedoms even if it means society as a whole will suffer (again makes a leader's job more difficult)
    -The population reserves the right to pass judgment (through voting) on issues about which they reserve the right to know next to nothing about (like a jury allowed to cast a verdict despite not being in court most of the time)

    Given that the attitude of the people is often one akin to that of spoiled or ignorant children towards those in power most of the time, why should they give a damn about what most of us think?

    Oh we can threaten to throw them out of office or have a revolution but that's why they should fear us. It's not an argument as to why they should inherently value us.

    Why should a leader RESPECT his people?
    Why should he care if they live or die or suffer?
    What gives the people inherent merit that justifies why a leader should respect us?

    (If it helps, picture yourself as leader of nation x. Why would you care about your people?)

  2. Darth Geist Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 1999
    star 5
    Effective leaders need effective followers, and followers do better work when they're loyal.
  3. keynote23 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 26, 2006
    star 1
    My fault for not being clear. What I'm trying to get at is why should leaders care about the people outside of our ability to pose a threat or be an asset to them?

    Essentially why should people be valued for their own sake (particularly when we can be quite a pain)?

    We ask a lot and complain at the slightest provocation.
    Why shouldn't they just use their power to enjoy themselves (if they can get away with it) since we don't seem to appreciate them anyway?

    Why are we worth the trouble to truly care about?
  4. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    Yes, we in the general population do act like spoiled whiny children a lot of the time, ironically enough, we act that way when we are trying to decide who to elect and lead us.

    But that isn't really the point. We are a democracy/republic/whatever you want to call us, not a totalitarian state or a dictatorship. And while we have become a corporate oligarchy, that is not what the Founders intended. Leaders work for us, and it is their job to serve us. Not try to be our mommies or daddies or gods and give us what they think is best for us at the time. And actually, maybe this is me being a cynic, but I do not trust any of our national politicians to lead us in that manner even if it were appropriate and constitutional for them to do so. I've observed our national politicians acting like spoiled whiny children as often or more often than the general population does.

    All that being said, I agree with you to a point. The American people are often too short-sighted to make the choices that are tough in the short-term but better in the long-term. That's where a good leader comes in.

    One small case in point: ending the corn subsidies would be much better for everyone in the long run. It would stop or at least greatly slow the production of HFCS and therefore the production of processed food; it would improve the nutrition quality of food available in the grocery store and would therefore improve the health of most Americans. But I'm not holding my breath for any politician to be willing to piss off the corn farmers in the short term in order to reach this long-term goal.

  5. CT-867-5309 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 5, 2011
    star 5
    A leader should always care about his people's well-being, but he shouldn't let their stupidity get in the way of their own prosperity.
  6. keynote23 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 26, 2006
    star 1
    But what makes people worth caring about? What's the leader get out of it (barring the "pleasure" to serve us)?

    We keep saying leaders should serve us and that they should value us but why exactly?

    What makes us so important?

    I'll put forward an example. I think Stalin starved the Ukraine with communal agriculture because he personally wanted to see the Soviet Union exist the way he envisoned it it could be. That involved redirecting the food and letting 7,000,000 Ukranians starve.

    And this raises an important point of distinction.

    Many dictators/conquerors (albeit not all) have a grand vision they wish to fulfill for a given people and will force the people to bend to that vision. They care about the people insofar as the people will aid in the creation of that vision.
    Presidents and other elected leaders on the other hand must serve at the whim of the people who as a whole are typically not guided by much of a unifying vision beyond vague constitutional/religious/philosophical abstractions on which they often cannot agree anyway.

    Based on the above, I could see why a dictator would "care" about the people, but not why an elected official would. In the former case, the people are servants and potentially helpful aids to the ruler's vision. In the latter they are often obstinate, ignorant and capricious obstacles. The elected official is the servant in this case.

    Why would a servant care about a master who often seems utterly uninterested or ignorant of what that servant's job is or how difficult it might be? It's like an abusive boss. Why should you give a damn?

    If you had a terrible boss at work and he always came down hard on you no matter what you did and then said to you "and it's your job to care about what I want whether you like it or not" wouldn't most of us be tempted to tell our boss to go to hell?
  7. CT-867-5309 Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Jan 5, 2011
    star 5
    I really don't know what you're looking for with this.

    Are you suggesting all leaders should be selfish, heartless psychopaths who couldn't care less if his fellow man suffers?

    Should leaders just burn the world?

    Why should leaders care about the people?

    Because they're human? Because the betterment of humanity is a worthy goal? Because decent people care about and help others? Because all people are worth caring about?

    If that doesn't answer your question, I really don't know what to tell you.
  8. SirakRomar Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Mar 30, 2007
    star 4
    I think what you describe here is the main problem of leadership. Despite very few small states where weapons rule people the great problem of all countries in the world right now is . . . that people think LEADERS think exactly like that! Why should they care!?! That´s why we have no single elected government anymore, that can count on voters longer then 4 years. And no dictator can do anything but try and keep his people under control. Actually it´s not a good time for leaders.

    And there you are. Because if you´re people are fine, you are fine. It´s that simple. Or as Louis 14th once said (or was it 16th?) a full stomach doesn´t rebel.
  9. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    Exactly.

    And Stalin didn't care about anyone but Stalin, which is why he thought his personal vision of how the Soviet Union was so important that he was willing to literally kill Ukrainian citizens in order to make it happen.

    And herein lies the difference between a leader and a totalitarian dictator.
  10. keynote23 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 26, 2006
    star 1
    Why are people worth caring about when they largely have no interest in being any better or different than they are? Should we force them to be better against their wishes? Should the people be allowed to vote out a government then for trying to make them better against their will?

    If Stalin only cared about his well-being there are safer places to stand than at the head of the soviet government. He would've been safer moving to the U.S. and opening a drycleaners in Jersey.

    It wasn't personal safety that drove him to become leader. Stalin didn't care just about Stalin. Stalin cared about his vision.

    Is being committed to one's vision a bad thing? Wouldn't it be more accurate to say you believe its bad because he was committed to a vision that your values don't agree with? It would be gross oversimplification to write Stalin off as a simply selfish.

    What makes you think those two things are mutually exclusive?

    China is a totalitarian regime and yet it would be difficult to argue that they have been unsuccessful if one were to measure them by economic standards today. Oh we could find some other measure by which to criticize them assuredly but then what nation is without fault (and for that matter is as difficult to manage given the billion plus residents that reside there)? And does not an abundance of wealth bring with it the possibility of prosperity for all? The average citizen there seems better off now than they once were.

    We all want good government (however relative that definition may be) but do we deserve it? Should they listen to us or care what we think? Could their refusal to do so be only a sign of a bad self-centered government with no inclination to help their people? The example of China would seem to suggest otherwise.

    How much would someone have to pay you to become president of the U.S? Why?

    Questions like this are important because we expect a lot of our leaders and reserve the right to blame them when things go wrong, but what what do we accomplish for them when they do things right other than let them keep their job (the equivalent of not firing someone even if he performs superbly at work but never actually giving him a raise).

    These questions probably make some people uncomfortable but I believe they are essential to face if one is to reserve the right to pass informed and fair judgment on our leaders who have to live with our scorn or the threat of it day in and day out.

    If you were a leader and were convinced the people couldn't be reasoned with, wouldn't it be more logical to just do what you considered to be the right thing and just ignore the people altogether?

    Is an aspiring dictator always evil by definition or is it the people who eventually convince would be leaders to simply tune them out because they are largely an unthinking, disunified, selfish mess?

    Is there such a thing as a bad dictatorship or are there really only bad dictators?


  11. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    If you were a leader and were convinced the people couldn't be reasoned with, wouldn't it be more logical to just do what you considered to be the right thing and just ignore the people altogether?

    No. The best thing to do in that situation is to step down and let someone less arrogant take your place. Anyone with that little regard for the people that he or she is supposed to be serving, has no business in any leadership position. Again, a dictator is not a leader. A boss who has only disdain for his or her employees may technically be "in charge", but he or she is no leader. A real leader respects the people as opposed to merely thinking that they are so stupid that they would perish unless the so-called "leader" has absolute power.

    And just because Stalin was willing to sacrifice personal safety for absolute power does not mean that he actually cared about the people. It means that he thought Stalin was so great that Stalin was entitled to absolute power--no matter how many Ukrainians died.

    Are you actually advocating dictatorship? That goes beyond the realm of "uncomfortable."

    And no, I personally would not run for President if someone held a gun to my head, but that doesn't mean that anyone who wants power is admirable and unselfish.
  12. keynote23 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 26, 2006
    star 1
    You'll need to restate your point. You've got the context reversed. I was referring to how in democratic nations, the people are the boss with "disdain for his or her employees" and the president,PM,etc. is the employee.

    And as an objective question, why should power not belong to the powerful? If the people have no interest in power should it not then rest with those willing to devote the time and effort to pursue it? Why give people a say in how you run things if they aren't willing to shoulder the responsibility that comes with it themselves while you are?

    Note: I'm not saying I support that view. I'm only asking you to consider it. Beyond the knee-jerk moral outrage what's the logical answer?





  13. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    Really not sure where you're going with this now... :confused:.

    Do I think people are generally too hard on the President and blame him for crap that isn't his fault? Yes. But do I think that means that he should just ignore the will of US citizens and do whatever the hell he wants? No, absolutely not. Same goes for members of Congress.
  14. keynote23 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 26, 2006
    star 1
    Why not?
  15. Alpha-Red Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Apr 25, 2004
    star 5
    He's got a point though. The American Founding Fathers were suspicious of mob rule, so they set up a system where elected representatives would theoretically be able to make decisions for the people. Unfortunately, it seems like mob rule might have triumphed anyway.
  16. Darth Geist Force Ghost

    Member Since:
    Oct 23, 1999
    star 5
    I always liked what David Wong had to say about power:

  17. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    Exactly.

    And if that isn't an explanation for why power should not belong to the powerful, and why the desire for power alone should be a sign that the person in question should be given as little power as possible--then I don't know what is.

    Heck, if you want an explanation for what happens when the powerful achieve absolute power--watch Revenge of the Sith. There is a lot of truth to be told in fiction.
  18. keynote23 Jedi Grand Master

    Member Since:
    Jul 26, 2006
    star 1
    I don't know about that. Not all power stems from a desire to behave as you choose without fear of punishment.

    Gandhi acquired a form of power that allowed him to free India.

    I think of power as more the ability to push obstacles out of one's way with greater ease. What end that is may vary but I think it would be inaccurate to say that all those who desire influence do so simply for the sake of acquiring a kind of immunity from reprisal.

    Those with vision seek power because they have a view of society that they believe in however noble/deranged that view may be and the possession of power makes fulfillment of that vision easier. So naturally, like a workman seeking a more efficient tool, he pursues it.

    Whether power is evil is, I think, a separate question from whether or not you agree with someone's goals.
    Is power bad when wielded by a capable man who cares about the future of mankind down to the last child?
    I think society often sees centralized power as an evil when it resides with someone they don't agree with but those same people don't even register the presence of power if it happens to rest with someone they believe is going to benefit them. A christian who saw a devout christian president implement policies specifically routed in christian values wouldn't see a man corrupted by power. Same goes for atheists.

    The question of whether or not power is evil has to be weighed separately from whether or not you agree with the goals of someone in power.

    Also, in the cases of people with vision I have difficulty saying that they should not be allowed power because after all, shouldn't ambition, planning, care and intelligence be rewarded with the obtainment of one's goals? To stand in the way of that seems somehow like standing in the way of the just reward for diligent efforts. It's even worse when the person standing in the way reserves the right to object but actually shows no interest in taking power himself. It's like he exists only to make your life difficult. (again I'm sort of thinking along the lines of the people vs. their leaders). I think most of us would agree that were it not power that was being pursued that we'd probably consider it slightly unjust to stand in the way of a man's ambitions. If a man saves enough money to buy a car why should we suddenly say he can't have it? (there's of course an obvious counter to this but I'll leave that for now)

    As for power being corrupting that's really just a point of view ;). Evil and corrupt are often just how we describe someone whose values differ from our own.

    Relative terms really.

    So is power bad or good? I think people's answer is largely dependent on (in addition to the values thing above) on how much power they feel they themselves have. The powerless are distrusting of something that can be wielded against them so they view power as evil. The powerful/ambitious/passionate however are able to appreciate power's ability to help bring to fruition whatever goals they may have.
  19. anakinfansince1983 Chosen One

    Member Since:
    Mar 4, 2011
    star 7
    I am assuming that you are talking about centralizing power into one political office, say, the executive branch.

    Here is the problem with that: One person might serve a term in that office and have benevolent goals, but the next person to get elected into that office very well might not.

    And you nailed the point that people who are in power, don't want to lose it, which is one of the ways that power corrupts. People become so desperate to not lose their power that they will start to believe that the end justifies the means in order to keep it.

    And Gandhi did not have power. Gandhi had influence. There is a difference. People had the choice to not follow him, but he convinced them that it was in the best interest of all the people of India to choose to follow him. What you are describing--dictatorship a la Palpatine as some form of good :oops: --does not give individuals a choice.

    And if you're going to make the argument that "most people are stupid so why should they be given choices"--who are you
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