Thursday, February 4, 2016

Beware the Cult of Personality


One hundred and seventy three years ago, when I was still an undergraduate in college, I had the good fortune of taking a class on the history of the social sciences. I learned about and read from folks like August Compte, Herbert Spencer, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and yes, even Karl Marx. I have since come to realize that most of the thoughts of these gentlemen were pure hogwash, but also find that sometimes they actually had something to say about how societies are put together.

Max Weber, among other things, taught us about power and government rule. He outlined where political authority comes from, categorizing power into three groups: charismatic authority, legal authority, and traditional authority.

The United States was founded on the concept of legal authority. The Constitution was written as the supreme law of the land. The founders also understood that the rule of law promoted the most good for the most people.

Since the introduction of progressivism (a code word for socialism) in the US, politicians have chopped away at the Constitution and the rule of law in order to promote socialist programs that ostensibly help the poor. (I say ostensibly, because in practice, socialist programs have never produced any expected results.) With billions spent on welfare programs, on education, and now to prop up health insurance companies, our "progress" remains negligible. The number of poor has increased. The test scores of students remain the same and, in some places, are declining. Obamacare has increased costs and taxes, decreased coverage (except for that all important birth control!) and has failed to enroll the very people it was designed to protect.

All this has occurred because the people of the US have gradually given up the legal authority of the Constitution in favor of charismatic authority. We've replaced laws with charismatic leaders. We've turned the US from the rule of the people into a nation ruled by the cult of personality.

The cult of personality exists when people put their faith in individuals rather than in principles. A cult of personality exists when people praise and adore their politician. These cults are maintained through flattery and propaganda.

In the US, we have set our leaders up as demigods and grant them powers to "save us" from the "ravages" of life, economics, terrorism, poor choices, health problems, or the mean people over there that we don't like. We blindly follow anyone who will preach to us the gospel we want to hear, despite the obvious evidence that these chosen leaders don't really believe the twaddle they spew from their mouths. (Even more dangerous is someone like Bernie Sanders who actually believes his own twaddle. There's nothing more dangerous than a true twaddle believer.)

The sad part is that most Americans no longer stop to think of the damage that one person can cause a country. The demons of the past are lost to history and are forgotten.

We no longer pay attention to good ideas, but are deafened by soundbites and witty comebacks. We no longer even ask the question, "Which candidate will uphold the Constitution?" Instead, we bow and scrape before some of the most dishonest members of our society and are blinded enough to call them leaders.

What could possibly go wrong?