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P C
  • P C
  • Miami, FL
  • United States

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Two grand archetypes of democratic leadership

The foundation of modern democracy was poured in 1215 CE when the people of England took some power back from King John. They told him that he no longer held absolute rule, that he had to listen to the advice of a body of representatives who held the sole power to levy taxes, and that certain rights were to be recognized. The result was the Magna Carta and the birth of the English Parliament.

The Parliamentary monarchy enabled England to defend herself from multiple invasions and build an economy robust enough to send colonies to the New World. By 1649 King Charles I violated the Magna Carta in every form, even placing guards to prevent the convening of Parliament. The result the English Civil War, the king's execution, and the formation of the English Commonwealth.

The English Commonwealth was lead by Oliver Cromwell. However his behavior had become increasingly autocratic to the point where he was virtually indistinguishable from a king. He further soured relations with Parliament by entertaining the possibility of having hereditary rule. Although these were not the only reasons that led to his downfall, they greatly contributed to it. When he fell the English Commonwealth fell with him 11 years later.

About 130 years the American colonies became independent, modeled their government on a Parliamentary system, and their new leader George Washington, was thrust into the same role Cromwell faced. Using Cromwell as the antithesis to avoid, he modeled his behavior after the Roman general Lucius Quintus Cincinnatus, who after having supreme control gave up the reigns of power and returned to a private life.

The peaceful transition of power has enabled the US to maintain a continuous government for over 200 years. When we tie this to current events, we find that many political issues can be traced to contested transitions of power, and that in general two opposing archetypes emerge: Cromwell vs. Cincinnatus.

What are your thoughts and observations?

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  • Feb 25 2011: A thought about US politics - many consider the US government to be the largest terrorist organisation on the planet. US culture is largely welcomed by the young, but intellectuals the world over would consider the 'Americanisation' of the planet to be the worst destroyer of culture there is.
    The US is also a kind of Mecca' of the money-based economy, that has now been widely discredited as leading to planetary ruin.
    So, it is difficult for many to see what was called above "the peaceful transition of power" to be something culminating in success. The world is now experiencing an enlightenment of the corrupting nature of power and money. So - democratic leadership has led us all up a blind and dangerous alley.
    • P C

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      Mar 11 2011: Sounds like you're bundling together a lot of issues. I'm basically talking about the process by which nations are able to remain stable while new leaders are created. China successfully pulled it off as have many nations regardless of their economic system. When you have a strong-man that never goes away and who fights to stay in power even when the people want him to go, it destabilizes the country and usually leads to civil war.

      Culture sometimes gets caught between the twin horns of religion and secularization. Both of them deal with how we frame our reality. When a community reframes its reality, it will abandon the old ways of doing things.

      You blame the money-based economy for leading to planetary ruin. If you're going to blame the US because it is a money-based economy, then you should blame ALL money-based economies including... the EU, all former European colonies, USSR/Russia, China, all of North Africa-Middle East, Central and South Africa, Central America, South America, Australia, and Antarctica (basically the entire world). However human beings have engaged in trade before the invention of writing... and money (traded goods were found in 50,000 year old anthropological sites).

      What is really leading to planetary ruin more than anything else is the explosion in population and demand for goods. Will you be honest and also blame China for causing the extinction of Bengal Tigers or Asian nations for the decline in ocean fish populations? Maybe you've noticed how environmental damage increases at the exact same rate as population growth? But of course somehow all of that consumption is America's fault...

      I wonder do you blame us for being an open society that admits its flaws too? After all I at least keep my profile open and admit that I'm an American while you hide yours, and hide your sources. Who are "many" and which intellectuals "the world over" are you talking about? It's an American trait to want to face our accusers.
  • Feb 24 2011: I think the question could be reworded - my first impression was that there would be two contrasting forms of leadership, both culminating from a democratic process. However, the Cromwell issue is most definitely as you described it an autocracy with strong features of that - not a democracy, even though certain developments of such preceded.

    I personally prefer to interpret the entire power struggle idea as an economic struggle.You could be a man in total power, a solid dictator, but as long as the people are fed, clothed, sheltered and entertained, or just generally kept busy, people are content with your rule. For me, even though people stress political freedom as the number one priority, I would say economic freedom is the real tool to a better world. A lot of developmental speed-bumps in the world today are usually the by product of people not having the freedom to share resources within their community and with the outside world. Addressing that issue is more important than holding 'democratic elections,' and that is just my strong opinion.