Leadership

There’s a lot of debate on the low standards of national leadership especially in the USA and U.K. In the latter it’s largely being blamed on the belief that Eton students dominate the current leadership. But there are lots of Old Etonians not in politics. The problem is much deeper.

In families and clans people led due to their abilities, and if they failed, they could be replaced. As communities expanded, skills in battle and ensuring survival were important. Lords of the manor made money from tenants paying rents and in return ensured their safety in crisis and imported food when there were shortages.

Many rich people before The Reformation left charities in their wills for the locals to pray for their souls. They funded chantry chapels where priests prayed and often held schools for the poor who also prayed for their souls so there was a virtuous cycle which replaced family or clan ties. This suggests that altruism needed promoting.

Much of this changed in England’s 18th century when unstable times led to gambling, investments in lotteries and the disastrous South Sea Bubble. Great Houses employed many local people, providing stable employment and allowing many to save enough to marry. But improved transport allowed the rich to become more mobile, visiting each other and urban centres and spas for their various ‘seasons’. This meant lords of the manor were seldom at home to serve as justices and to administer charity. Much of this new money came from the colonies so lords of the manor relied less on tenants rents. They built huge estates, often evicted locals and demolished their homes and farms, driving the poor into the crowded unhealthy cities. The poor were of no use to them, were mere obstructions. See my blog on fox hunting which was probably promoted to reconnect rural populations.

Military leaders were prominent on the battlefield, visible to their armies to urge them on. Britain’s last royal military leader was George II though barely so. Nelson has been condemned for his vanity which made him an easy target for marksman but this was his duty.

The industrial revolution introduced a new breed of leaders, mostly based in towns and often Nonconformists who were dedicated to civic improvements. They realised that workers who were treated well worked better and were more loyal, so they benefitted each other. They helped establish the modern welfare state.

There are lots of complaints about our present government being dishonest, incompetent and more. But if this were so it could be fixed. Letters could be written to them, petitions signed etc.

The situation seems to be that the relationship between the rulers and the ruled is broken. Many MPs are funded by the rich so don’t need membership funds or to serve their constituents. There is no virtuous cycle. The rich don’t care about the poor or most of the voters as they are of no benefit to them and cannot harm them. There is no lack of irony that in our age of so much communication many people are being more selective in who they listen to.

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