Yesterday, there were primaries held in four states: Indiana, North Carolina, Ohio, and West Virginia. I will need an extra day to go into the details, but for now, I will say that some of the results disappointed me. That said, I would like to discuss a related topic: What government is for, what leaders are for, and what we should want out of them.
In the past few weeks, I got into some arguments with people, some of them were conservative and some of them were self-professed liberals. Believe it or not, the most heated exchanges I had were with the liberals. Usually, the conservatives I’ve clashed with over the years have ghosted once I countered their points. Many right-wing talking points (and pundits) infuriate me because if they’re not bereft of substance, they are contradictor or appear to be contrarian in nature — but liberals can be especially vicious to each other over disagreements.
Of course, there are some things that infuriate me about other liberals — and I have come across a discussion that made me think about where I part ways with similar-minded people. I especially don’t care for social progressives, those I have called social justice warriors; it’s because their economic, domestic, and foreign policy viewpoints are nonexistent, informed by whoever runs the country, or contradictory to their state social viewpoints. Also, they tend to be very authoritarian and ostracize people who are not in lockstep with them; that’s very toxic to any type of discussion.
Now, this is what bothers me about anyone, regardless of their ideological standing: if they are party loyalists and/or blind ideologues. If someone follows a party no matter what, that’s a problem. We also have a problem if people put their ideology over people and they refuse to intake now information.
All of this is encapsulated with the discussion of leaders and government. I would also like to revisit some thoughts I shared about what makes a good leader because this will help illustrate where I stand on the matter.
What Do I Want Out of Government?
In one of the discussions I was in, I asked one person what he thinks a government should so and he said the government should do the following:
- Build basic infrastructure. This includes aqueducts, roads, and bridges.
- Provide security and a national defense. This includes border control
- Manage the electrical grid.
- Provide other services beyond the scope of private enterprises.
This sounds very reasonable and I agree on all these things. However, I feel that this is the bare minimum of what a national (and to an extent, state or provincial) government should provide to its citizens. I feel that the government should play an active role in ensuring the quality of life of its citizens and it should serve as an avenue to help provide solutions to people’s everyday lives. It should also protect people’s privacy.
Now, I am not talking about just giving people handouts or for the government to do everything for people. But there are services that people cannot exactly provide to themselves (like health care) where the government may be able to provide a solution that is better than those offered by the private sector. At the very least, the government should provide all necessities to citizens and be able to compete with the private sector. Such a setup would force the latter to provide better services at competitive prices.
That said, there are many ways in which the U.S. government, as well as state and city governments, fail to even do the bare minimum. In some states, toll roads have been outsourced and in states like Michigan, there are thousands of residents without clean water. Flint is the most infamous case because citizens are still being poisoned by the water and the switch in waters sources was completely unnecessary.
What Do I Like in a Leader?
In 2016, I reblogged a post from a now-defunct website, but I was able to keep the text. The text talked about “5 Ways to Become a Better Leader,” and I added some of my thoughts to that original text. In short, I said that I felt three aspects of being a leader were important: communication, the delegation of tasks, and transparency. This is how I view the job of a person who’s working for a school or for a company, but I understand that the metrics are significantly different for those who work in law enforcement or who lead cities, municipalities, states, provinces, or entire countries.
For instance, for those who lead cities, states, or countries, I will add these caveats:
- Leaders should act with the voters in mind, and not be beholden to oligarchs and corporations.
- Leaders must refrain from approving, pushing, or creating rules and laws that actively seek to harm a specific demographic or otherwise codify discrimination against those demographics.
- Leaders must refrain from making decisions that are capricious and unnecessarily cruel. This includes refraining from wars of aggression.
- Leaders must be lifelong learners and be receptive to the opinions and suggestions of experts, researchers, and everyday citizens.
- Leaders must fight against corruption and be held accountable.
If someone is a governor, they bear responsibility for the well-being of residents in the state. A president bears some responsibility for the well-being of others in his country — and to an extent, the wellbeing of people in other countries since that president’s foreign policy might negatively impact those people, too. Depending on what a president does, I may grade him harshly.
Why Do People Have a Problem with These Views?
Honestly, I don’t know. I’m not a mind reader, but some of the people I shared messages with felt that my standards were too high. They’re incredibly wrong and they offered no standards of their own.
While I understand that leaders can’t be perfect, I feel that they should still adhere to decent standards for those three aspects of leadership I first mentioned, no matter what their job is. When someone has a seat in government or serves in law enforcement, their responsibilities are greater. Since they are responsible for so much territory and so many lives, they should be held to much higher standards (than regular people).
To use the Flint example again, we should judge someone like Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder harshly. The move to switch Flint residents’ water source was driven by corruption because he was receiving campaign funds from the companies who had vested interests in his decision. He made the situation worse every step of the way and the move was also driven by racism since Flint is predominately black. Snyder should be in prison.
The thing that I’ve noticed, though, is that we judge regular people and civilians more harshly than we judge police officers and politicians. The latter has affected more lives and often, not for the better. That is incredibly backward.
Shouldn’t We Hold Leaders Accountable?
We should hold our leaders accountable for all the reasons I mentioned. Their jobs are too important for them to be given a pass. When they do inexcusable things, they should be removed and if they break laws, they should be prosecuted like any regular person would. They’re supposed to set an example, and a fair treatment will should everyone that no one is above the law.
That said, I would like to know where other people stand on this issue.
- Do they excuse corruption?
- Do they excuse laws that are openly discriminatory?
- Do they excuse wars of aggression?
- Do they excuse politicians who are openly hostile to certain voting blocs, including their own base?
From what I have seen, the people who vehemently disagree with me check off all those boxes, and they disgust me. They say my standards a too high, but theirs or low, or they have none. In most cases, they will make excuses based on who’s being talked about and which party they belong to.
Even worse, some of the people I’ve talked to think a certain political party is entitled to people’s votes by virtue of not being some other party. At the same time, people of their ilk call those who want change and reform entitled. Do you not see the irony in that?
Yeah, my standards for leaders are strict, but that’s because their jobs are so important. When they fail to do their job, they need to go. And if someone thinks that too harsh, frankly, they’re full of it.