Tech, policy, liberty, voice

On favoring quantity of leaders over quality

10 Nov 2020

Summary: Our political leaders have great power. We invest massive amounts of resources - both mental and physical - on selecting a few high quality leaders to wield this power, yet they consistently abuse it. We should instead focus on quantity of leaders, all of which have substantially less power than our current leaders. This will reduce the investment in choosing leaders, limit the harm done by selecting poor leaders, and result in better leadership by introducing more competition.

Only the most isolated (or disciplined) have been able to escape the omnipresent 2020 American presidential election. An incalculable amount of mental energy and cash has been devoted to argument and persuasion about which old man should wield enormous political power.

I dislike politics and make no apologies for frequently stating this, but on one such occasion a friend asked me a good question:

There’s always going to be a leader. How would you recommend going about picking them?

I agree that leaders are a given. There may be a few social structures where no true leader exists, but they’re rare and unstable.

The fact that leaders exist isn’t a problem. The process of selecting them isn’t necessarily a problem either - though democracy does have plenty of problems. The problem is that we have far too few leaders, and those few have entirely too much power.

Leaders are a great thing. We need more of them. Leaders within families, within companies, within schools, within churches, within social clubs, within charities, within neighborhoods.

Leaders in these facets of life are substantially different from our current political leaders. They are defined by their voluntary nature. You are not forced into participating in them. You can leave of your own free will. The leaders’ power is limited to the domain in which you choose to interact with them.

The problem with our current political leaders is that they are given power over society at large. This is a problem because 1) society at large is not voluntary (I don’t have much choice in joining or exiting) and 2) political leaders claim they can morally use force to alter other people’s behaviors.

Let’s use a church as an example. Most pick leaders in a church democratically. Those leaders wouldn’t then say that you can never leave the congregation, and if you don’t follow their rules that they will send deacons to imprison you or forcibly take your tithe. Yet that’s exactly what our current political leaders do.

If a pastor were to overstep his bounds and attempt to exert his power outside of what his congregation considers acceptable, there are many options available to address this. The congregation could kick him out, sue him, or simply leave the church.

Abusive church leaders exist and have hurt many people. The harm they do - while tragic - is fortunately limited to the people in the congregation or community.

Abusive political leaders exist and have hurt many people. The harm they do is not limited to people who support them, and it can be spread across millions (even hundreds of million) of people.

When a local leader fails, the harm is limited and people can then choose alternatives. When a national leader fails, the harm is unlimited and alternatives only come on certain calendar dates.

The investment in determining local leaders is far less then national leaders because the stakes are far lower. Having an eighteen month long campaign for a local leader with only a few hundred followers is difficult to imagine.

Local leaders know that their followers have other choices, and must act accordingly. National leaders have no competition for years at a time.

We should let a million leaders bloom in peaceful, local organizations instead of giving massive power to one. Look at the result of doing that.