Governments enact rules to force people to do and not do things, or force them to pay taxes and use the money to do things for them. You have the political power, the monopoly of legitimate violence, and the economic power, using incentives to made it harder to do one thing and easier to do another. That’s public policy. But what about all the choices people make in their own lives, with regard to how to live, how to live with each other, and how to act in society? This can be influenced through leadership.
In a democratic society a politician is not the leader, the way they are in a totalitarian society. But a politician could be aleader, one of many. At one time, in addition to elected officials, Americans looked to poets, preachers and priests, philoseophers and artists for direction. At one time even architects and city planners aspired to leadership, creating buildings and communities that facilitated a certain lifestyle and society. And then there were parents and grandparents, aunts and uncles, back when more people spent their lives nestled in a large web of family relationships. Not anymore.
But that doesn’t mean that people, most of whom don’t really figure things out for themselves, aren’t being led and influenced. Celebrities and paid influencers have taken the place of the prior sources of leadership. Who is providing meaning and direction in people’s lives? Who is deciding what it means to live a good life, or to be a good community? The advertising industry, which means that a good life ends up costing more and more and more for people who have (in inflation-adjusted dollars) been paid less and less, generation by generation. Did Governor Cuomo and Mayor DeBlasio try provide an alternative? Not really.Continue reading