Topic: Leadershift by Orrin Woodward and Oliver DeMille – a recent publication of the Hachette Book Group.
Leadershift is a wonderful little book that should inspire all who decry the current human order and aspire to be participants in forging a new society that delivers peace, prosperity and freedom. These are worthy goals and I applaud them unconditionally. Also, I am impressed with the level of historical and analytical scholarship with which these authors inform their readers – both in this book and in others that each of them has written. They really do their homework, as they gather, organize, analyze and present relevant information concerning their topic. I know of none better.
I must also point out that the authors of this book are men of action. I have personally seen them on a stage before an audience of 15,000 admirers. Their speeches stir the hearts of those present, and I’m sure by now their “following” includes at least 100,000 men and women – and possibly many more. It is for this reason that I’m writing this review – as a critique of what I perceive to be a critical error in the conclusions drawn by the book’s authors. Given their popularity and potential to influence others, I feel compelled to provide a little corrective feedback to those who might listen.
Since November 1, 2011, I have been attempting to arrange a meeting with Mr. Woodward and his business partner Chris Brady – but thus far I have yet to succeed. So I’m fearful that their organization may become too bureaucratized to reach its ultimate goals. And I’d much rather see them succeed. Bureaucracy, a common feature of hierarchic organizations, is the systematic elimination, destruction or avoidance of corrective feedback – and as such plays a major role in destroying the efforts of well-meaning men and women of action whose goals are much to be desired.
So it is in the spirit of caring support that I’m offering the feedback contained in this article – in hopes of seeing the authors modify their plan of action in a way that will lead to their ultimate success.
“We need a nation of citizens who are leaders”, says the principal character, David Mersher to himself, just 5 pages into the story. Mersher is a successful business consultant who specializes in corporate “turnarounds”. And with this brief statement he establishes a template for what is great about this book – and for what is not. Recognizing that our government is not meeting the needs of the nation’s people and framing that fact as the consequence of inadequate leadership is brilliant. And, as the story unfolds we see Mersher doing what he does best – leading.
He gathers about himself a cadre of competent successful people who jointly undertake to initiate a turn-around in the current evil trend evinced by the U.S. government today. In laying the foundation for this plan, the authors present a conversational explication of the history that led to the dilemma we face today – and they do this consistently in the spirit of the country’s founders. In fact, each chapter begins with a somewhat whimsical discussion among the ghosts of those very founders – most especially George Washington and James Madison, the latter of whom actually appears twice in the story as a living human, for the purpose of performing an intervention when he thinks Mersher’s plan may be going astray. It makes for a nice dramatic touch in the storytelling.
As the story proceeds, the Leadershift plan is advanced and the historical context deepens with each conversation captured in print. The skill evinced in this presentation is masterful and the resulting analysis of the weaknesses in the U.S. Constitution is well conceived. Especially so is the notion that the framers of the Constitution presumed that political leadership at the local level would continue to be highly motivated and well informed – when in fact this turned out not to be so, and the consequences of this fact proved highly detrimental to achievement of the framers intended outcome.
We know that at the time Benjamin Franklin had reservations about the implementation of a republic form of government, and in the eyes of the authors those doubts came home to roost.
So it is that in Chapter 26 (on page 130 of 192) we are presented with Mersher’s plan (or, more to the point, the authors’ plan – I presume.) to solve the problem of the decline of U.S. government. The rest of the book details this plan and provides insights into steps that a new generation of informed local leaders can take to make our government substantially more responsive to the needs and wishes of our populace by making changes in the Constitution.
The solution offered is valuable and the proposed steps may even be necessary for our species to survive – but at this point I have to maintain: this solution is insufficient, because it does not address the illusory nature of government authority.
I think the authors would agree that their plan to fix our government rests on the following assumptions:
- The existence of the “State”, at any level of government, is real – not a delusion or hallucination.
- The legitimate purpose of government is to protect the rights of the people, i.e. the public at large.
- A person can legitimately represent another person without that individual’s explicit informed consent. (a central tenet of “representative government”)
- Majority rule provides an ethical way of making group decisions. (Mersher’s proposal assumes this.)
- A group of people, elected as legislators, can legitimately delegate rights and powers collectively that none of them possess as individuals (law making).
- Among these legislative rights is the right to forcibly take resources away from one person or group and bestow them upon another. (taxation)
- A [government] act that benefits more people than it harms is acceptable – whereas one that benefits fewer than it harms is not (the utilitarian ethic).
- The nature of government (ours at least) is such that it can be altered and improved by the people.
In Chapter 26 one of the book’s characters points out that at the time the Constitution was written, government was mostly a local activity and most people were involved in it on a regular basis. The significance of this fact went unnoticed – much the way a fish doesn’t notice the water in which it’s immersed – until/unless the fish suddenly finds itself removed from the water. So the framers of the Constitution took it for granted that such local activity would continue – and this was an error on their part – an error that profoundly weakened the power of the Constitution to achieve its goals long term.
Similarly, I would argue that the assumptions listed above, which form the implicit background of the story, are in fact fallacious – yet so widely accepted that the authors failed to recognize the fact of their falsehood, let alone the significance of their falsehood. And further, that while the Constitutional improvements proposed in the book are worthwhile, they cannot solve the deeper problem inherent in the false assumptions.
About the Assumptions
As pointed out by William Edwards Deming, referenced more than once in the book, it is very risky to modify a system in hopes of eliciting better results without a “profound understanding” of the system itself. This, of course requires that one make accurate assumptions about the system. Deming called failure to do this, “tinkering”, and warned of a variety of undesirable consequences that otherwise often attend the unstudied effort. Although he addressed this problem from a management perspective, his doing so constituted a magnificent example of leadership. And, though not often recognized, organizations that followed his advice not only became more successful, but also more creative and ethical.
In the paragraphs that follow I refute the assumptions listed above, providing links to more detailed explanations where those are available.
- The State exists.
Although it appears to be a noun – and is used as one – the word “state” doesn’t represent a person, place or thing. You can’t put a state in a wheelbarrow, no matter how big, so the word isn’t a noun. It is rather a nominalization, a word that represents a process or activity. Although states often have geographic boundaries, it’s generally agreed that a state isn’t the land within such a boundary. The boundary is simply the line beyond which a state cannot exercise its power without coming into conflict with another state. Think “jurisdiction.”The definition of a state has been attempted many times by many authors and scholars. On two things they generally agree. A state levies taxes. And a state maintains (as best it can) a monopoly of coercive power. But levying taxes and exercising power are activities enacted by people – people who often say they represent the state. And this brings us back to the question, “what is the state”? Given the visible activities of states, I’d suggest that the state is an idea, concept, fiction, illusion, hallucination, or opinion that exists only to justify the exercise of power by one group of people over another.From this it follows that states have no real existence and no moral authority whatever. Think it through. Under what circumstances, other than self defense, does one adult have the authority to exercise coercive power over another? The Ethics tells us unequivocally, “NONE!”
- The legitimate purpose of government is to protect the rights of the people. So says the Declaration of Independence – but the statement is highly misleading. Purpose doesn’t exist in government any more than it exists in the putative state. The word, “purpose” implies motivation. Whose purpose are we discussing – those who serve and work for government? Those folks abrogate our rights more and more each day – with the passage of every new law, code, regulation etc.The sad fact is that protection of our rights has never been the purpose of government – no matter how ardently we’ve wished for it to be. A more accurate assumption would be that the purpose of government is for those who own the government to control the people at their expense – and that purely for the owners’ benefit. Our government, like most governments, is owned by the ultra wealthy central bankers, who also own the major global corporations, the prominent universities and the mass media. Their ownership is purchased via campaign contributions, school endowments, insider business tips, lender bailouts, stock option transfers, interlocking corporate board memberships, as well as by simple stock purchases, foundation grants and outright bribery.The upshot of this, more accurate, assumption is that our government is a machine – a robot that serves only its owners, and not the rest of us.
- A person can legitimately represent another person without that individual’s explicit informed consent.
Consider this scenario. You go to your attorney and request that he attend and represent you at an important meeting that you will be unable to attend yourself. The outcome of the meeting will have profound effects on your life. What does the lawyer do? We know the answer. He draws up a very detailed contract called a Power of Attorney that specifies exactly how he is to represent you – including what he may say and what not, what you are willing to risk or give up, what you want in return, and what liabilities, if any, you are willing to undertake. And before he represents you, you have to sign the agreement – else he won’t.It is interesting to note that when that same attorney gets himself elected as a legislator, at whatever level of government, he will invariably present himself to the public as representing his “constituents” – even though most have never met him, let alone signed a power of attorney for his representation of them. It would be an understatement therefore to describe the entire concept of representational government as farcical at best – and otherwise fraudulent.
- Majority rule provides an ethical way of making group decisions.
When a fox and a coyote take a chicken to lunch and vote on who will pay the tab, the outcome is invariably the same – the chicken gets eaten. This dynamic has been the downfall of every democracy instituted since the dawn of history. The result is known as the “tyranny of the majority”.Compound this dynamic with the elite ownership of the mass media and the schools and the result is the installation of the two party political system that is owned and operated by and for those same elites.Yet in spite of these facts, the authors of Leadershift propose fixing government by employing a strategy that includes voting based on majority rule – when in fact, we know ways of making much better, more ethical and more creative decisions than those made via majority rule. Yet this knowledge is ignored. How smart is that?
- A group of people, elected as legislators, can legitimately delegate rights and powers collectively that none of them possess as individuals.
What would you think if you met a pair of legislators on the street and they demanded you hand over your wallet or purse to them – or face serving time in a cage? You’d call that a “mugging” wouldn’t you? It would be a crime against you – obviously.Yet that same pair of muggers can walk into the state-house or capitol and, together with their anointed accomplices, enact a tax – with the same net effect as a mugging. Even the Mafia members are more honest than that – as they operate their various protection rackets. At least they make no pretense of operating for the benefit of their victims.Yet the proposed government fix includes three taxes that everyone would be required to pay – or else. The general acceptance of assumption number 5 has many terrible consequences that go way beyond the taxation issue. These consequences bring us face to face with evil in almost every aspect of our lives. So I would challenge authors Woodward and deMille to justify acceptance of this assumption.
- Among these legislative rights is the right to forcibly take resources away from one person or group and bestow them upon another.
The preceding section could stand alone to refute this assumption; but the matter is so important that I must call the reader’s attention to two other relevant discussions on this topic. Why Taxation Is Slavery presents three arguments against the acceptance of taxation as ethical. Ethical Means and Ethical Ends presents a more general explication of the fact that it is impossible to achieve ethical ends by unethical means.
- A [government] act that benefits more people than it harms is acceptable – whereas one that benefits fewer than it harms is not.
This assumption, known generally as the “Utilitarian Ethic”, is readily refuted in at least 3 ways, as demonstrated in the preceding link. Yet it is generally accepted as valid by those who choose not to examine it properly – and it forms the ostensible ethical basis for government per se. As such, its acceptance constitutes a critical error in the thinking of Mr. Woodward and Mr. deMille.
- The nature of government (ours at least) is such that it can be altered and improved by the people.
This assumption is partly refuted by the discussion of Assumption #2 above. For a more comprehensive discussion of the nature of government and the ethical implications thereof, the reader will find Ethics, Law & Government to be highly illuminating.
The book, Leadershift, is well worth reading. It contains much that is both thoughtful and informative. And it embraces the “grassroots” principles that are largely missing in today’s world. What is more, I know enough about the authors to have immense respect for them. Mr. Woodward is building a huge leadership training organization that is without peer – potentially a great asset to the human species.
In light of the falsehood of the 8 assumptions discussed in the foregoing, I must assert that the Mersher plan to fix the government is doomed from its inception. While the steps outlined in the book may be necessary to provide a just and ethical human society, they are surely insufficient. To correct the ills of society we will need to employ a strategy that is outside the box of political action. Such is the Titania Project.
Unfortunately, it is all too easy for great leaders to insulate themselves from valuable feedback from outside their immediate sphere of influence. When leaders make themselves immune to such feedback, they become bureaucrats – by definition.
So to Orrin Woodward, Oliver deMille, Chris Brady, and the Life Policy Council I say, this is a test. You have to choose. Are you leaders or bureaucrats? You can’t be both. Let me show you a better way to implement grassroots self-governance. Let’s get you going in the right jungle.