Friends of mine were discussing politics and leadership the day before yesterday and one raised the question: “I wonder why the most successful people, financially speaking, like Bill Gates or Warren Buffett shouldn’t be running the country?”
The question carried a bit more weight in my mind given Donald Trump‘s recent indication that he would get into politics if the country continues in its economic and political downward slide. I just can’t shake the thought…what would it be like were the nation’s greatest and most respected business leaders to govern our country?
While I don’t have the answer to that question, I do know that our liberty is not sustainable if those who run our government are not wise and virtuous. Why is it that wisdom and virtue are so scarce these days?
For starters, many people fail to mature beyond the teenage years emotionally and their sense of wellbeing is determined by the answer to the self-centered question: “What has the world done for me lately?” When those same people head to the polling booths, they tend to cast their vote based not on what is best for the whole, rather, they tend to choose based on what is in it for them, the assumption being that what is good for them is good for the whole.
Thomas Jefferson made a fascinating declaration in 1813 that is worthy of consideration now, nearly 200 years later:
There is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents…There is, also, an artificial aristocracy, founded on wealth and birth, without either virtue or talents; for with these it would belong to the first class. The natural aristocracy I consider as the most precious gift of nature for the instruction, the trusts and government of society. And indeed, it would have been inconsistent in creation to have formed man for the social state, and not to have provided virtue and wisdom enough to manage the concerns of society. May we not even say, that that form of government is the best, which provides the most effectually for a pure selection of these natural aristoi into the offices of government?
These natural aristoi are not chosen ones, predestined to rule. Instead, they are raised by family, friends, educators and mentors, a village of caregivers dedicated to creating environments in which the inherent virtue is drawn forth so that acquired talents can be rooted in righteousness.
While all men are created equal in the sense of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, we are not copies of one another. Each of us was endowed with certain proclivities and natural gifts which were either nurtured or stamped out in the process of socialization, education and the accumulation of life experience.
Given these background factors, the challenge we face is to elevate public service in the minds of our citizenry to what John Adams called “the divine science.” It is easy to write off the idealism of the Founding Fathers in this regard given the seemingly incontestable might of human nature, but I, for one, still hold fast a vision of a land and beyond that, a world governed by men and women whose thoughts and actions are reined by wisdom and virtue.