Now it seems every crisis must be addressed by some massive law, in which every possibility of error can be foreseen; every detail regulated. It is as if to say, let the government solve all our problems, people need not be involved.
A mechanism that does not involve people is an automated machine. And so whether it be health care (Obamacare), finance (the Dodd-Frank Act) or education (Common Core), there are all sorts of automatic, machine-like systems put in place by massive laws or regulations, all of which are designed to churn out identical results.
It is a policy that is woefully misguided. Such systems only generate more problems in the form of spiraling costs, bloated bureaucracies, and increased complexity.
What are missing are leaders. We need people who step up to the plate and face a crisis. History teaches us that in times of great crisis, great leaders, not massive laws, arise.
The question we need to be asking is not “where are the next massive laws to face the present-day crisis,” but rather, “where are our leaders?”
It is a question a lot of people are asking these days. Of course, there are plenty of people willing to be the high-paid managers to keep our machine-like systems running. However, when the going gets tough, there are few who are willing to be real leaders.
That is because leadership entails responsibility, duty and honor. Real leaders are what sociologists call “representative characters.” They are those individuals who normally play a leadership role in society by representing the community. Such representative characters perceive the ideals, principles, and qualities that are desired and admired by a community or nation, and translate them into concrete programs of life and culture.
Most of us have encountered such figures at all levels in society. Who has not known a teacher, employer or priest that embodied the desires or qualities of their small communities, associations or parishes? The importance of these characters cannot be underestimated since they provide that human element that resolves problems without 20,000 pages of regulations. With great effort, they come up with original and organic solutions that correspond to our human nature and not some bureaucratic system.
The reason we don’t have these heroes is because they are not out there. Rather, those who should come forth have become what sociologist Charles Murray calls “hollow elites.” They often live very successful lives, but are dysfunctional in relation to their social responsibilities. Murray notes that, “They have abdicated their responsibility to set and promulgate the standards.”
On the other hand, we have what might be called “hollow communities,” that survive as empty shells of what was once vibrant social life. The recent decline of civil involvement has led members of communities to no longer think in terms of society or the common good but in their isolated individual lives.
In other words, those who should be representative characters no longer want to represent anything. Members of communities no longer want to be part of a community. All seek to go their own ways in the pursuit of their own whims without concern for the whole. At the same time, a hostile pop culture encourages people at all levels to discard responsibility, duty and honor and think only in terms of self.
That is why we have the massive laws and systems in place. When there are no organic bonds of unity between authentic elites and communities, society comes apart. The only forces able to keep things working are the massive laws and systems that control so much of our lives at great cost.
But now even these systems are faltering. The burden of debt nearly exceeds our gross national product. The size of government has become monstrous and onerous. The political landscape is disjointed and polarized.
Everyone complains about this breakdown and blames big government. However, we would do better to defy our hollow culture and embrace duty, responsibility and honor. We need to look for those solutions with that human element embodied in the leadership and not in massive laws and systems. The first step toward a return to order is the long step up to the plate.