What the World Needs Now : Applied common sense.
What is happening now, in our world, makes no sense.
With that in mind, the following makes sense.
by Ben Moreell, August 1997
When a person gains power over other persons — the political power to force other persons to do his bidding when they do not believe it right to do so — it seems inevitable that a moral weakness develops in the person who exercises that power.
It may take time for this weakness to become visible. In fact, its full extent is frequently left to the historians to record, but we eventually learn of it. It was Lord Acton, the British historian, who said: “All power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
Please do not misunderstand me. These persons who are corrupted by the process of ruling over their fellow men are not innately evil. They begin as honest men. Their motives for wanting to direct the actions of others may be purely patriotic and altruistic. Indeed, they may wish only “to do good for the people.” But, apparently, the only way they can think of to do this “good” is to impose more restrictive laws.
Now, obviously, there is no point in passing a law which requires people to do something they would do anyhow; or which prevents them from doing what they are not going to do anyhow. Therefore, the possessor of the political power could very well decide to leave every person free to do as he pleases so long as he does not infringe upon the same right of every other person to do as he pleases. However, that concept appears to be utterly without reason to a person who wants to exercise political power over his fellow man, for he asks himself: “How can I ‘do good’ for the people if I just leave them alone?” Besides, he does not want to pass into history as a “do nothing” leader who ends up as a footnote somewhere. So he begins to pass laws that will force all other persons to conform to his ideas of what is good for them.
That is the danger point! The more restrictions and compulsions he imposes on other persons, the greater the strain on his own morality. As his appetite for using force against people increases, he tends increasingly to surround himself with advisers who also seem to derive a peculiar pleasure from forcing others to obey their decrees. He appoints friends and supporters to easy jobs of questionable necessity. If there are not enough jobs to go around, he creates new ones. In some instances, jobs are sold to the highest bidder. The hard-earned money of those over whom he rules is loaned for questionable private endeavors or spent on grandiose public projects at home and abroad. If there is opposition, an emergency is declared or created to justify these actions.
If the benevolent ruler stays in power long enough, he eventually concludes that power and wisdom are the same thing. And as he possesses power, he must possess wisdom. He becomes converted to the seductive thesis that election to public office endows the official with both power and wisdom. At this point, he begins to lose his ability to distinguish between what is morally right and what is politically expedient.
Mr. Moreell was the chairman of the board of Jones & Laughlin Steel Corporation.
This essay originally appeared in Volume 1 of Essays on Liberty , published in 1952
by The Foundation for Economic Education in Irvington-on-Hudson, New York.
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It’s time for America to admit mistakes in Iraq, academic says
By Nara Schoenberg
Tribune staff reporter
( Tempo -section 5 – Q & A )
July 10, 2007
Princeton professor Anne-Marie Slaughter’s new book is plastered with glowing blurbs from the likes of former secretaries of state Madeleine Albright (“a brilliant book, deeply moving, exquisitely timed”) and George Shultz (“Read this book and be challenged to … work for American values”).
“The Idea That Is America: Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World” is also wrapped in an image of the flag, packed with American history, sprinkled with quotes from the Founding Fathers — and profoundly critical of this nation’s post 9/11 foreign policy, at one point referring to a law limiting the rights of Guantanamo Bay detainees as “democracy at its lowest.”
Intrigued, we picked up a copy and read Slaughter’s impassioned argument that America has strayed from the bedrock values — liberty, equality, democracy — embodied in documents such as the Declaration of Independence. “What I really want is an America that will simply stand up and say, as President Bush did when he saw the Abu Ghraib photographs, that this is not who we are,” she writes in a passage condemning the use of torture against suspected terrorists. “I want a president, and a country, who means it.”
We caught up with Slaughter, 48, dean of Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, during a recent stop on her book tour.
The following is an edited transcript.
Q So it’s time for America to eat some humble pie?
A I do think that. We would gain a huge amount of capital if we just admitted that we’ve made some major mistakes, and I find it so incredible that we don’t have the guts to do that. You know, I’m a mother and I spend my time telling my kids — they’re 8 and 10 — look, you did [something wrong], admit it, take the responsibility and move on. That’s what character’s about. And we seem incapable of doing that as a nation.
Q Were we wrong to go into Iraq?
A We were wrong about weapons of mass destruction. We were wrong about what it was going to take to rebuild Iraq. We were incredibly arrogant — thinking that we knew [the weapons of mass destruction] were there, even when the rest of the world was telling us: why don’t we wait a little longer? No, no, we knew [better]. And then [it was], we could do this in a month. And then, we only needed 150,000 troops and the Iraqis were going to greet us in the streets.
We’ve made some really big mistakes.
Q. What about the people who say, maybe we were wrong, maybe we made mistakes, but under Saddam Hussein, innocent people were tortured and the Kurds were gassed. Why are we the ones who have to step forward and admit we were wrong?
A. Well, two wrongs don’t make a right. I mean, [this is] really basic, right? You tell your kids this. Your kid says, “Well, Johnny did it.” OK, great, Johnny did it — but you don’t. This is not about groveling. It’s not about going around apologizing all the time. It’s about having the strength and character to be humble and recognize that you don’t know everything. It’s about being stronger because you show people that you’re big enough to acknowledge when you’ve made errors.
Q. You’re a liberal, right?
A. I am a liberal, but I am deeply bipartisan, and indeed, when I submitted the book proposal, many publishers didn’t want it because they wanted it to be much more partisan.
Q. You do make some fairly liberal assumptions — for instance, that readers look favorably on gay marriage. Are you talking to the Red States in this book?
A. I think I’m very much talking to people in the Red States; indeed, the most supportive radio interview I’ve gotten has been [Dan] Gresham on Fox radio. Absolutely. Because this is the language of the Red States. I grew up in the South, and I’ve had people come up to me — I just gave a talk in Washington — and three people came up, two from the military and one from Texas, and [one] said, “Ah, this is exactly what I need because this is the language that the people I talk to are comfortable with. This is the language of American values. It’s the language of our heritage. It’s the language of the flag.” And it is not a language that I think many liberal Democrats are comfortable with.
This radio interviewer, he said at the end, “Ya know, I’ll follow you anywhere.”
Q. Did he agree with, say, the idea of a PAR index — that other countries should rate us in terms of our government’s accountability, respect for rights and representativeness?
A. [Laughs] We didn’t get that far, but we definitely talked about Abu Ghraib. We talked about what this country was standing for in the world, and he actually said that we need to get back to something that crosses the political divide. You cannot doubt, if you read this book, that I love this country as much as you do. You cannot doubt it. Now, I have my set of experiences, and you have yours, and we [may] disagree, but there is this common heritage that we have, and we should be assuming that we’re [all] trying to find our way forward, according to our principles.
Q. For me, one of the most eye-popping statistics in your book is that 95 percent of Jordanians think that Americans should be more religious, not less. Can you explain that?
A. I think it’s because of what the average Jordanian sees of America, and what they see is Hollywood — what they see are reruns of “Baywatch,” or movies, or the Super Bowl halftime with Janet Jackson.
Q. And you’re saying that perception hurts us?
Q. And what can we do to change it?
A. One of the things we could do — I talk about our convening a dialogue of civilizations. And our talking about what we value in other civilizations. The hall of the lawgivers in Congress has Hammurabi — a great Babylonian, well, that’s Iraq. It has Suleiman — a great Muslim lawgiver. It has, of course, Moses. It has Maimonides. It has Greek and Roman lawgivers.
And that’s [a] conception of Western civilization that is deeply embracing of the Islamic tradition, even the pre-Islamic tradition. That would be a different notion [of America for Muslim nations]: We [in America] stand for universal values. America has contributed one very distinct set of experiences to the realization of those values. But only one. And that would create a space for Muslims to look at the glories of their civilization.
Copyright (c) 2007, Chicago Tribune
The Idea that Is America: Keeping Faith with Our Values in a Dangerous World
by Anne-Marie Slaughter (Author)
Key Phrases: ordered liberty, United States, New York, Geneva Conventions
A leading voice in global affairs calls us back to America’s founding principles–and shows how they can guide us forward into the twenty-first century. When Army Captain Ian Fishback decided to blow the whistle on prisoner abuse in Iraq and Afghanistan, he posed the central question facing America in the new century:
“Will we confront danger in order to preserve our ideals, or will courage and commitment to individual rights wither at the prospect of sacrifice?… I would rather die fighting than give up even the smallest part of the idea that is ‘America.'” But what is this idea? George W. Bush waged war in Iraq in the name of American values–liberty and democracy. His critics in the United States and around the world also use the language of values, and attack him for deceiving a nation to wage an unjust war. What are the values that America truly stands for?
In The Idea That Is America, a preeminent foreign policy scholar eloquently reminds us of the essential principles on which our nation was established: liberty, democracy, equality, tolerance, faith, justice, and humility. Our ongoing struggle to live up to America’s great promise matters not only to us, but also to the billions of men and women everywhere who look to the United States to lead, protect, and inspire the world. In The Idea That Is America, Anne-Marie Slaughter shows us the way forward.
From the Publisher
“If an American renaissance is to happen, Anne-Marie Slaughter shows, it will be because US leaders and citizens return to the bedrock ideals that fueled the American dream. In this forceful and necessary book, Slaughter elegantly mines pivotal moments in US history for contemporary insight, and she shows that leaders who take heed of law and justice, and who proceed with humility, can leave behind a more peaceful and just America, and a more stable world.”–Samantha Power, Anna Lindh Professor of Practice of Global Leadership and Public Policy, John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University and Pulitzer Prize-winning author of “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide “Passionately argued, yet plainly written, The Idea that is America is part credo, part manifesto — a wholehearted return to first principles by one of America’s most talented and distinguished legal minds. Anne-Marie Slaughter’s analysis of the U.S. constitution and its legacy encapsulates the liberal interpretation of American history, while her recommendations point the way to a paradigm shift in American
foreign policy.”–Niall Ferguson, Laurence A. Tisch Professor of History, Harvard University and author of The War of the World and Colossus
“Slaughter’s book focuses on an important theme and one close to my heart: the relationship between power and principle. Her arguments, stated with passionate conviction and intellectual clarity, appeal both to my heart and to my reason.”–Zbigniew Brzezinski
“Anne-Marie Slaughter has written a book that will educate and inspire all Americans. At a time when many claim that we cannot afford the luxury of our liberties, she explains why America’s values remain vital, how they can be preserved and strengthened, and what it means to live by these ideals. This book should be required reading for every citizen.”–Fareed Zakaria, author of The Future of Freedom and editor, Newsweek International
“The Idea That is America is a brilliant book, deeply moving, exquisitely timed, authored by one of our country’s leading scholars.”–Madeleine K. Albright, Former Secretary of State
“Read this book and be challenged to think about, to aspire to, and to work for American values.”–George P. Shultz, Thomas W. and Susan B. Ford Distinguished Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford University, and Former Secretary of State
A New World Order (Paperback)
by Anne-Marie Slaughter (Author) “THE BEST EVIDENCE OF THE
DISAGGREGATED STATE MAY BE FOUND IN logs of embassies around the
From Publishers Weekly
Breaking new ground in international relations theory, Slaughter urges readers to lose their “conceptual blind spot” and see how the world really works. Scholars, pundits and policymakers, she writes, have traditionally seen nations as “unitary”—that is, as single entities that “articulate and pursue a single national interest.” In fact, she says, we would do better to focus on government networks, both horizontal and vertical. Horizontal networks link counterpart national officials across borders, such as police investigators or financial regulators. Vertical
networks are relationships between a nation’s officials and some supranational
organization to which they have ceded authority, such as the European Court of Justice. Networks, she says, are the solution to the “globalization paradox”: The world needs global governance to combat problems that jump borders, like crime and environmental degradation, and yet most people fear—rightly, Slaughter implies—the idea of a centralized, all-powerful world government. The book both describes the here and now and plots a course for the future: Strengthening existing networks and developing new ones “could create a genuine global rule of law without centralized global institutions.” The author, who is the dean of the Woodrow
Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton as well as president of the American Society of International Law, is steeped in these issues and offers genuinely original thinking. Written in dense academic language, this book will not pick up many casual readers, but it will likely attain instant textbook status and generate much discussion about foreign policy and whether, as Slaughter believes, the U.S. should welcome such networks in a globalized world.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights
reserved. –This text refers to the Hardcover edition.