Monday, February 8, 2010

Leadership...or Dictatorship?

Many recent emails and articles I have been receiving are focused on the leadership styles we are seeing in both the USA and Panamanian presidencies of today. Both Presidents are somewhat in "hot-seats" where they try to deliver on the changes they were elected to bring forth. And while both Presidents won by unprecedented margins for recent times, they both are running into high levels of negative reactions to their policies or the current conditions perceived as their responsibility.

In both cases, these Presidents have attempted quick changes to the systems or problems they inherited. In both cases, some of the former supporters have turned on them when realizing the cost of these purported changes in the system. Everyone wants change as long as it doesn't cost THEM something. Unfortunately today's political reality is there are no painless ways to bring about change. Both Presidents inherited broken financial systems and are having to leverage taxes and other methods for bringing in the funds necessary to pursue their political agendas.

Of course, the biggest disconnect I and many others have is that these presidents are only raising more revenue (from their constituents) and not doing much about cutting costs. Governments and those who lead them are the only people on the globe who can print more money as they need it and run up big deficits on the people they rule over without much push back. I think that is starting to change in some sectors of both the USA and Panamanian populations. People are starting to wake up. There is a lot of insecurity in the markets and job sectors. Both the USA and Panama are tied together at the hip when it comes to the dollar currency valuations affecting worldwide trade. With a weak currency it might be easier to SELL the stuff you are making...but it is much more expensive to import the stuff you don't. Both countries import more than they export. Inflation is up considerably in Panama even if the real estate and job markets have not been as devastated as the USA. Wages have not kept up with inflation and that spells ongoing internal strife for the poor masses who are putting pressure on the government.

To sustain their democratic version of "dictatorship", our leaders are taking a few tricks from dictators like Chavez in Venezuela and Castro. They try to champion the causes of the poor masses by raiding the "rich" to give to the "poor". The main problem with that program is most jobs don't come from poor persons...and countries never get richer by taking from the rich and giving to the poor. There is a lot of "sleight of hand" going on. The magician leaders focus your attention on the "evil doers" who are after you and the danger you are in without their protection...while they quietly steal more and more from your income, interest and dividends and retirement/pension funds. They continue to take away your freedoms and personal sovereignty for the sake of the "common good". Patriotism is equated with "sacrifice"...but these leaders never own up to their own roles in perpetuating the emergency they want YOUR support to fix. Social security and other funds are continually raided to cover shortfalls in the general budget or put in the "war coffers". The legalities of how governments "account" for themselves financially are totally different than for the average citizen. Taxation without representation is running rampant in the world. Yet...we continue to vote one after another of these "illusionists" into the various offices of our governments.

While "dictatorship" might seem appealing to those casting stones at democracy and free enterprise...I would challenge anyone to come up with a positive model of this in recent history. Hitler and Mussolini are gone. Castro is on his way out...finally. And the new "Castros" like Chavez, Ortega, Morales and Africa's Robert Mugabe are being more and more isolated and economically weakened on a macro basis by the day.

Some might argue that the world is being dictated to by the multinational corporate complex. After all, it takes money to run most dictatorships. I would suggest that corporate support is the juice that runs American politics and probably most of Europe as well. Many large corporations profit handsomely from arms development and new "defense systems". Are they motivated to pursue peace? Is peace AND prosperity possible for some of them? I would argue many large corporations are dependent on conflict and lets perpetuate some more of that as long as it is not in OUR backyard. Remember, the MEGA-rich can live anywhere on the planet they want to. We "poor" people need a visa to go most anywhere.

China is the worlds largest population and economy now. You are now seeing an interesting blend of free enterprise and dictatorship in that system. Admittedly, it would probably be a mess to turn that system into an immediate democracy (remember the USSR free for all?) since most of their population is so poor and uneducated they wouldn't understand the voting process or how to exercise democracy on their $1 per day income. But even Chinese leaders are recognizing the need for more free enterprise, risk and reward in their system in order to feed the people and their economy.

There can be no doubt that our world needs leadership more right now than probably any time in our history. Unfortunately, no one seems able to stand up and say or do the things that really need to be done. Today's democratic leaders are in a designed popularity contest where they are rewarded for pleasing certain entities...not leading. It certainly would not be popular for a democratically elected leader to:

Reverse all the government promises on social security and other entitlements which are unrealistically offered and valued

Let the currencies float on the international markets to get a real indication of comparative economic strength or go to a world currency system where you give up your manipulative control of currency. (What ever happened to the "gold standard"?)

Balance governmental budgets the way everyone else in business has to...leading to service cutbacks or increasing taxes to balance things out

Demand social service from those who would receive charity and support from the government when unemployed or bankrupt

Reverse the "federalization" trend on everything and make states and local governments pay for more of their own costs

Let charity begin at home instead of the top down federal level

Let all companies, domestic or foreign, compete equally within the local market instead of having separate sets of taxes and rules of engagement between foreign and domestic. Abolish protectionism.

Get rid of all diplomatic privileges of international "diplomats" who flagrantly break laws and get away with actions that local citizens can't

These are just a few of the things I believe a TRUE leader needs to pursue in these times. But instead, most of our world leaders continue to make more promises they can't keep, keep lying about the true condition of our economies and society, and continue to go along with partisan politics as usual instead of pursuing inclusion and unity amongst all their various leaders.

Probably the largest dilemma in governmental leadership is the unrealistically short time one has to initiate and develop change. Many of our world problems took decades to bring on ourselves. In most cases it will take decades to reverse or overcome our trends. Most leaders have 4-5 years to lead...and then everything usually changes with the next guy. Maybe there is something to allowing the "good leaders" longer terms to pursue their programs. I know most Colombians right now are hoping for a third term with their first real leader in decades in the May election. While that president may or may not be totally responsible for all the improvements in Colombia, one might argue that perception is 80% of reality. Leadership is about image AND substance.

The world is hungry for leadership they can trust. Unfortunately, the nature of power and government is totally corrupt. It involves daily compromise and occasional flip flopping to stay in office in most democracies. It is leadership by consensus...or dictatorship...with little in between. Democracy is obviously not a perfect form of government, but as someone has said..."it is the best of all the systems we have at our disposal". Now if we the people could only vote in a true leader (wherever they might be) instead of a dictator to "take care of us". That would be a watershed day...

1 comment:

sonia bibiana said...

Se necesita encontrar el balance correcto, gobierno/ciudadanos.

El problema es que formula es la adecuada? Pues cada ser humano es diferente y piensa de acuerdo a sus propias convicciones, en cuanto se tiene el poder de un pais, si el lider no es lo suficiente listo y preparado sicologica e intelectualmente, facilmente perdera el rumbo y entrara el la locura, como paso con Castro y ahora en Venezuela con el esquizofrenico del chaves.