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Why we seldom get principled leaders

January 16th, 2012 by Mike N · 7 Comments · Culture, Uncategorized

The Friday Jan 6th print edition of the Detroit Free Press carried an oped by Leonard Pitts Jr of the Miami Herald titled “Ron Paul is foolishly consistent in his extremism.” He starts it out with this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote: “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” I’ll skip the fact that there may be some debate over the contextual meaning of that quote in some circles and just focus on how Mr. Pitts uses it as received wisdom. I will quote a few passages with my comments in brackets.“Ralph Waldo Emerson, meet Ronald Ernest Paul. He is the very soul of a foolish consistency. Meaning that he is willing, often to a fault, to follow his ideology to its logical and most extreme conclusions.” [Right off the bat, Pitts is using extremism to smear Paul’s consistency i.e. integrity. “(T)o a fault” means excessive, too much, but no argument is given as to why extreme consistency or integrity is a fault. Why is a man who is extremely honest faulty?]

“In this, the congressman differs from other GOP contenders for the White House and, for that matter, from most politicians, period. Your average pol might rail against the intrusion of government into the private lives of its citizens, then turn right around and advocate a law regulating what a gay man does in his bedroom–and see no contradiction. [Very true] Paul is too intellectually honest for that.” [Mr. Pitts, you’re starting to make Paul look really good]

“Intellectual honesty is a good thing, if only because it can lead you to reconsider a faulty premise.(If only? It has no other value?) But in Paul’s take on the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he doubles down on the bad premise instead.” [Here Pitts confuses government enforced segregation with private prejudice and treats them as equal malfactors which of course they’re not. Here the ‘bad premise’ is private prejudice.]

“In other words, forcing a restaurant to take down a Whites Only sign infringed the rights of the restaurant owner.[Yes, it did] A similar argument was made by segregationists in 1964–and by slave owners in the 1850s.” [Not actually. Slavery and the Jim Crow laws were enforced by local and state governments and should have been repealed. Had they been repealed sooner, market forces would have eroded the private prejudices even sooner than history shows.]

“Can government be overlarge, overbearing, overwhelming, overrestrictive, overintrusive? Of course. And where it is those things, it is the right–and duty–of the electorate to pare it back.” [Obviously Mr. Pitts doesn’t think today’s government is any of those things because the Tea Party which he opposes, exists to pare it back. Notice too that he doesn’t object to the government being restrictive or intrusive, just overly so. He doesn’t understand that he is actually saying don’t overchain your slaves but chains are ok. But what would happen if the chains were removed completely?]

“On the other hand,unless you enjoy salmonella in your food and lead in your paint, unless you think it’s OK that your doctor has no medical degree and your lawyer no licence, unless you’re fine with breathing sooty air and drinking tainted water, and unless you really think a black woman in Mississippi, locked out of public places by threat of violence and force of law, should have been required to wait on market forces to rescue her, you must regard Paul’s moral imbecility with a certain awe.” [This is a partial rewrite of history. According to Pitts we were walking over bodies in the streets who died from salmonella, lead, tainted water and air and doctors and lawyers who didn’t have government permissions to practice until the caring, loving government came along to save us all. Utter nonsense.]

[I have noticed that when statists mentalities are on the brink of achieving or losing their goals, they become more bold in the accuracy with which they identify their true goals and ideals.]

“Heaven help us if the intellectual rigidity he symbolizes is really the only alternative to the intellectual malleability of so many of his colleagues.” [Wow! An open admission that intellectual malleability is the ideal, the norm to be achieved and admired. I will only add that Mr. Pitts is to be admired for his cognitive precision in identifying the intellectual status of Paul’s Republican colleagues.]

With pundits like Mr. Pitts bombarding the public with ideas like this it is no wonder that the public has no principled leaders. My hope is that there are principled leaders out there taking notes on the election campaigns and deciding whether the public is ready for principled leadership. I think a growing number are. I just don’t know how big that number needs to be to turn this country around. Perhaps 2012 will give us a clearer picture.

7 Comments so far ↓

  • c andrew

    Jon Stewart referred to Ron Paul as the Republicans’ “13th Floor Candidate.” I think that Gary Johnson was a better candidate for that “honor.” And, to date, the best candidate for president that I’ve seen in 30 years. Completely marginalized by the Republican leadership because they couldn’t paint him as hopelessly out of touch – he’d actually had successful government executive experience – and he was a serious threat to the actual Republican goal of continuing to expand government power in the hope that some day, if they are very very good, they can wield it themselves. The last thing they want is a reduction in that power they hope to hold in the future.

  • Michael

    Private discrimination is still a hot button issue for some it seems

  • Mike N

    C andrew: I like Gary Johnson too. And you’re right about the Republican leadership. They all need to be cleaned out, purged from the Party.

  • JHB

    MikeN, rational men will agree that it is good to be principled, since, given every action comes with a cost and a benefit, principles give us a standard to weigh such costs and benefits in an organized fashion. However, being principled is not the same thing as being doctrinaire. Doctrinaire individuals blindly stick with a creed or a formula indifferently to the costs and benefits involved in a decision, as if the consequences of our actions matter not at all.

    Progressives, themselves unprincipled — in principle! — obviously don’t like the fact that Ron Paul is principled. But the average voter rejects Ron Paul for a different reason — they can easily detect that he is doctrinaire, the kind of man that would easily let American cities be incinerated because of liberty, or not giving into fear, or some other explanation. Give people credit for selfishly not wanting to sacrifice themselves for someone else’s slogan.

    And, as it should go without saying, it is foolish evaluate a man for his principles without identifying what those principles happen to be. Ron Paul shares a philosophy of the neo-Confederate Stormfront/Alex Jones variety — 911 truth, white supremacy, secret all-powerful Jews behind the scenes controlling our financial institutions, etc. etc. — which suggests his movement is more of a bizarre cult of personality than a genuine movement built on an integrated body of thought. Indeed, Paul’s misintegrated, conspiratorial worldview corresponds with his misintegrated appearance. His hunched posture, nervous laughter, sloppy attire, twitchy mannerisms, are what we would expect from a slimy, evasive used car salesman misrepresenting himself and his product.

  • Mike N

    JHB: I agree that there is a difference between principled and doctrinaire. The principles have to be rational ones of course. And I am no fan of Paul’s foreign policy. Obama is consistent in his Marxist principles and we know that they are irrational so I agree that just because someone is principled doesn’t mean they have the right ones.

  • Neil Parille

    Looks like the comments are closed on the “How Small the . . . ” post, but if anyone is interested in the black-white IQ gap I’d recommend the 2006 debate between James Flynn and Charles Murray at the American Enterprise Institute available on you tube in 12 parts.


  • Inspector

    No locking as far as I know, Mr. Parille – just an overactive spam filter which we have to sometimes give a little manual nudge to.