Do we really need a leader?
Both major presidential candidates have made it quite clear that — policy differences aside — they’re running to be national leader and they want to be assessed on their readiness to take the nation’s helm.
That’s a shame, because if there’s anything this country does not need, it’s a leader.
In fact, the whole idea of national leadership in a republic of free, self-governing people was intensely distasteful to the founders. In his book, The Cult of the Presidency, Gene Healy points out:
Indeed, the term “leader,” which appears repeatedly in Madison, Hamilton, and Jay’s essays in defense of the Constitution, is nearly always used negatively, save for one positive reference to the leaders of the American Revolution. The Federalist is bookended by warnings about the perils of popular leadership: the first essay warns that “of those men who have overturned the liberties of republics, the greatest number have begun their career by paying obsequious court to the people, commencing demagogues and ending tyrants.” The last essay raises the specter of disunion and civil war, ending with the “military despotism of a victorious demagogue.” For the Framers, the ability to “move the masses” wasn’t a desirable quality in a president — it was a threat.
Free countries don’t need leaders because their citizens lead themselves. The inhabitants of free countries are disparate individuals with varying values and preferences, all wanting to go in a multitude of different directions. The role of the government in a free country is to protect the borders and prevent the citizens from getting too rough with one another, and otherwise let people find their own way as best they can.
Many of our problems are caused by leaders who insert themselves in the voluntary interactions between consenting adults. We would be far better off if they limited themselves or playing Simcity or Civilization and left us alone.