There is a scene near the beginning of the film The Departed (2006) in which the character played by Martin Sheen, a police captain, asks Leonardo DiCaprio, a potential recruit for undercover work, a pointed question. The question is this: “Do you want to be cop, or do you just want to appear to be a cop? It’s a legitimate question. Some guys just want to appear to be cops.”Continue reading
The following story is told by the political theorist Ibn Zafar (1104–1172?) in his treatise on the art of government. We have encountered him several times previously in these pages, and have discussed many of his ideas on leadership, governance, and the conduct of foreign affairs. There are times when anecdotes can bring certain principles into sharp focus.
Corruption is like a virus, or a noxious weed. If you turn your back on it for even an instant, you will find it has found creative ways to grow and spread. Like any human activity, it can never be completely eradicated; but it can certainly be tamed and curbed, and prevented from interfering with the purposes of government. But it takes leadership and determination, and a willingness to take certain risks. And if anyone thinks that one man can make no difference in such matters, he need only study the example of Antonio Tron.
When a new leader assumes a position, it is often necessary for him to undertake significant reforms. If he wishes to make lasting changes to the system, he should undertake to do so both quickly and boldly. To wait too long is to risk seeing one’s foes united against you; and when embarking on a course of reform, it must be made clear that the old ways of doing things will no longer do. Bold adjustments are often more effective than half-hearted measures.
Some recent travel experiences reminded me of a passage from Machiavelli’s Discourses, an intermittent companion of mine these past few weeks. The quote appears in I.17 and contains several related ideas which we will comment on.
A couple days ago I had a chance to tour the vacation retreat of former president Harry S Truman. The experience prompted some thoughts and observations on the value system of our current political elites.
Regardless who wins the presidential election of 2016, it is certain that insider dealings and conflicts of interest (or, in plain English, corruption) will remain integral components of the Washington political system. Those who have been tasked with serving the people use their tenure in office to enrich themselves and their families, and care nothing about the fate of those they are supposed to be serving.
[To read the rest of the article, click here.]
A reader notes that the previous generations failed to prevent the corruption and decay afflicting the US in the modern era. How did this happen? The short answer is that wealth and ease breed laziness and corruption. Tune in for more details.