"...the best political community is formed by citizens of the middle class, and that those states are likely to be well-administered in which the middle class is larger, and stronger, if possible than both other classes." Aristotle - Politics, Book IV
For four very different types of approach to
Magna Carta | US Constitution | Palestine Charter
We use the term governance to mean the style by which an organization manages itself. That organization can be as simple as a family unit; it can be an enterprise; it can be a nation state or the United Nations.
Governance plays critical roles in not only the welfare of its people, but in generating dissonance that can range anywhere from constructive criticism in dialogue through grumbling to terrorism and open revolt. Governance is therefore a critical issue in this new age of terror.
The political history of the last 200+ years carries a simple yet profound message. The current US Supreme Court notwithstanding, Jeffersonian democracy is now widespread and gaining in much of the third world. Political systems having regard for the individual simply work better than do authoritarian ones. The U. S. Constitution, with its separation of church and state and tripartite checks and balances is a leading model.
Throughout western history, governance was applied first by tribal chieftains, then by royalty with its feudal lords who began giving way to Jeffersonian democrats in the 18th Century. This liberalizing process accelerated in the 20th Century and is still going on. Through it all, totalitarian regimes have come and gone; remnants remain, mostly in the third world.
Fourteen-hour days and child labor drove the wheels of the industrial revolution until the early 19th century. That changed, however briefly, when Robert Owen took over managing a textile factory in the Scottish mill town of New Lanarck. No one knew it at the time but a new day was dawning. Among other innovative changes, Owen instituted shortened working hours, a grievance procedure, pay-continuance during business downturns, and contributory health, disability and retirement plans. He did these things while getting rich in the process. Ordinary stuff today, but remarkable (and highly profitable) in his time. Owen was a liberal, not the conservative who practiced child labor. He set an example for all of England and England followed suit eventually.
Owen was more than an industrialist; he was a social visionary and much of what he instituted is now embedded in modern British society. His New Lanarck experiment included the entire community. By harnessing waterpower and his philosophy of valuing the human being, productivity of the New Lanarck ensemble was hundreds of times what had been standard when he was born. His philosophy was simply stated: "rational approach [to any problems at hand]". There was no punishment, only encouragement and kindness. He was a doer, not a talker. When he later began publishing his ideas, radical for his time, he became an outcast. In pre-Victorian England, Owen's reduction of child labor and other advanced ideas were not just novel--they were threatening to all those in power. He was attacked from all directions. Although he publicly became a non-person, he became president of the first Congress at which all the Trade Unions of England united in a single great trade association. He never gave up working to better the plight of the common man.
Charles Hill has a few things to say on how the various pendulums of governance can interact to produce terrorism. He summarizes:
"If in past decades the pendulum has swung against the sovereign state, it is time to swing it back and hold states accountable for permitting terrorists on their territory."
According to Hill:
Terrorists do not want peace. "The religious dimensions of the recent attacks cannot be explained away. The terrorists struck in the name of Islam."
And we seem to be striking back from a position of a certain brand of Christianity (not quite clear which brand, but capable of "clothing" a female statue in the Justice Department) claiming to represent Christianity as a whole.
Statehood has failed in the Middle East. "Sharia law based on a literal reading of the Koran takes precedence over the state. The frustration of the Arab world over its economic failure stokes its hostility toward the West. A cultural infection has spread across the Middle East in recent years, the conviction that every social failing can be attributed to a foreign plot. What appear to be a variety of governmental forms in Middle Eastern States are all variations of a single approach to the political ordering of society: government by strongman."
We are reminded of the McCarthy years when all dissent was labeled a Communist plot.
Current Situation. "Every regime in the Arab-Islamic world has proved a failure, every one." Strongman regimes are playing dangerous games to save their own skins by stirring up hatred of the infidel. "The attacks on New York and Washington DC made it clear that the terrorism beast may have escaped the control of its keepers."
What Next? "the Middle East presents the United States with some opportunities to shape the region and the international scene in a positive way. The United States must help Arab regimes recognize that their commitment to their faith and to their people can best be strengthened through a commitment to the state."
Commitment to the state is not enough. A state must serve its people and, if the state is to prosper, it must immunize itself against extremism, especially states with little history or experience with stability. Jeffersonian democracy is one such model that works. There are many shades; those having two, or a very few, participating political parties seem to prosper more. The current US Supreme court notwithstanding, Jeffersonian democracy is now widespread and gaining in much of the third world. Political systems having regard for the individual simply work better than do authoritarian ones. The U. S. Constitution is a leading model.
On the personal level, having high office may command obedience, but personal respect does not follow if our personhood (nationhood) is lacking the ingredients that others respect. By earning the respect of others, we find our own dignity and sense of self-worth. We earn affirmation of self and take rightful pride in being part of our group. Experience shows that hierarchy responsible to the group (needed for a semblance of order and mutual responsibility) and self-motivation engendered by freedom (necessary for morale) are part of an effective governance system.
Most terrorists are well educated, some are wealthy, all are in rebellion against their masters, not just the infidel.
Proper governance is needed to maintain self-motivation within. Each of us is responsible for and accountable to ourselves, our group, and our society. And societies are, in the end, accountable to each other as well.
We repeat Hill's kernel suggestion:
"If in past decades the pendulum has swung against the sovereign state, it is time to swing it back, and hold states accountable for permitting terrorists on their territory."
The foregoing quotations are excerpts from an adaptation of A Herculean Task: The Myth and Reality of Arab Terrorism, by Charles Hill, which appears in the book "The Age of Terror: America and the World after September 11", edited by Strobe Talbott and Nayan Chanda (Basic Books, 2001).
See also Nuclear Terror.
Posted by RoadToPeace on Wednesday, August 03, 2005.