Monday, January 21, 2008

Incentives that drove the Founding Fathers

Alfred North Whitehead once said that there were only two occasions in world history when the political leaders of an emerging nation behaved about as well as we could possibly expect: Rome under Augustus and the United States under the American founders. I think there are two reasons why this group managed it so effectively: First, they all knew each other personally, meaning they broke bread together, sat in countless meetings together, were forced to interact in intimate, face-to-face settings; second, they shared the common experience as revolutionaries who had been "present at the creation," a bonding process that generated mutual trust and a common sense of purpose. They knew they were making history. And unlike other revolutionary elites in places like France, Russia and China, they did not, with one exception, allow their rivalries to take a violent form. Instead of killing one another off, they argued endlessly. This is one of the most misunderstood features of the entire generation; namely, the very human competition among them. We have made them into statues but statues cannot throb with ambition or shout obscenities at each other. Here was a case where the best, not the worst, were full of passionate intensity.

-Historian Joseph Ellis

For Discussion: Why can't we create such incentives among present day leaders?

1 comment:

gaddeswarup said...

A different of view of 'Founding Fathers':