[Welcome Professor Arnold Ludwig, and Host eCAHNnomics.]

King of the Mountain—The Nature of Political Leadership

The Nature of Political Leadership.” Think about what that means. Have you ever asked yourself what the fundamental nature of political leadership is? Prof. Ludwig is a psychiatrist, a student of human nature, not a political scientist.

The short-short-version is alpha male. Humans try to create post evolutionary times, but with bodies, limbic, and other systems that are stuck in evolutionary times.

You don’t need to ‘believe’ that conclusion. Because Prof. Ludwig did not just sit in his ivory tower at the University of Kentucky and think about it. What is so valuable about this book is that it is empirical. Evidence—imagine that!

Professor Ludwig’s study involved all leaders of all countries in the 20th century. Eighteen years in preparation, the study included 1,941 rulers of 199 countries. There were enough biographical data to do in-depth analysis for a robust subset of 377 of them. The intense amount of empirical data not only makes conclusions highly supportable, but provides ongoing opportunities for study and learning.

This book should be especially valuable for the FDL community. We have high expectations for leaders, especially for the U.S. president, and endlessly discuss his shortcomings. Our expectations turn out to be completely unreasonable according to Prof. Ludwig’s findings. No identifiable form of intelligence, talent, genius or experience are necessary for ruling a country, only an intense desire to get to the top coupled with the wiliness and other skills to make it happen. Any jerk can make it, and Ludwig’s book is peppered with many wry, amusing, disappointing anecdotes to prove that point, including among 20th century U.S. presidents.

The book is not a dry tome. It is written for a general audience, and easily accessible. The just-mentioned anecdotes are examples of the lively, interesting writing.

Returning to the alpha-male concept, of all leaders, a mere 1.4% were women. Of the 377 studied in detail, 2.4% were women, and only 0.8% were NOT widows-of or daughters-of. The Margaret Thatchers and Golda Meirs are rare indeed, and are often described with metallic words (‘steely’), what I’ll refer to as alpha-females. Anyone expecting a different tone of leadership from a female leader should abandon that hope; the only way she can get the job is to be just like the guys, or probably more so. It was when I first read this book in 2002 that I understood why it is so frustratingly difficult for women to get to the top. I don’t like the explanation, because the uphill battle for women is all the greater within the context of this discouraging model. But there you have it, and there’s not much to be done about it. Easy to see how the ‘first’ turned out to be an African-American man, rather than a white woman, even though she is a ‘wife-of.’

Some meat on the bones. Ludwig categorizes leaders into six types: democrats (47%), monarchs (10%), tyrants (6%), visionaries (7%), authoritarians (18%), and transitionals (12%). Most are easy to understand but a few clarifications. Tyrants impose their will on their societies with whatever means it takes, including chaos; authoritarians are interested in an orderly society. Transitionals, of whom there were many in the 20th century owing to the deaths of empires and monarchies, often referred to as ‘fathers’ of their countries, guide those countries toward democracy, but themselves are more like authoritarians. Visionaries change the entire nature of their country while they are rulers—most for the worst, a few for the better. Hitler and Pol Pot are among the notorious examples, Atatürk would be regarded as an admiral example, and many are controversial with mixed positive/negative accomplishments, like Mao Zedong.

Those six categories contain large differences in how hard-wired alpha male behavior is and much of the book concerns the extent to which these categories rank by alpha-maleness, and why.

What are the alpha male characteristics, judging from primates?

* A single ruler; the model extends all the way down to family unit, perhaps owing to the vulnerable state of primate infants, especially humans
* Breeding advantage, which includes the well known sexual behaviors
* Physical prowess.

Other forms of societal organization that do not include these features are found in the animal kingdom, so it is not the only evolutionary model; but it is the primate model.

How does the system work? Perks of power, like greater access to women, more children, greater power and wealth, and deference by subjects, draw in more candidates than can win. It’s a dangerous game. Prominent rulers spent time in jail before gaining their objective, like Hitler, Mandela. Coup initiators. War heroes. Assassinations or attempts.

There is material on how they have been raised, formative experiences and mental and emotional stability (ranges the gamut), but I’ll skip ahead and finish with the political greatness scale (PGS). These measures characterize the lives of the immortal greats, like Caesar, Napoleon, Darius, Alexander the Great, Washington, Lincoln and others of their historic status. Do not confuse the term ‘great leader’ with a leader considered to be good for his country. Eleven scalable (usually 0 to 3) factors are included (pp. 276-77): Something from Nothing; More Than Before; Staying Power; Military Prowess; Social Engineering; Economics; Statesmanship; Ideology; Moral Exemplar; Political Legacy; Population of Country.

And the winners are:

1 Atatürk 31 Visionary
2 Mao Zedong 30 Visionary
3 Franklin Delano Roosevelt 30 Democrat
4 Josef Stalin 29 Visionary
5 Vladimir Lenin 28 Visionary
6 Ho Chi Minh 27 Visionary
7 Charles de Gaulle 27 Democrat
8 Deng Xiaoping 27 Authoritarian
9 Benito Mussolini 26 Visionary
10 Adolf Hitler 25 Visionary
11 Jawaharlal Nehru 25 Transitional
12 Ibn Saud 25 Monarch
13 Suharto 25 Authoritarian
14 Josip Broz Tito 25 Authoritarian

The number is the PGS total. Note the preponderance of visionaries, who changed their whole society while they were in power. Democrats, while half the sample, have only two entries in the top 14 (top 10 with a five-way tie for 10th), handicapped by their limited terms in office, of whom FDR was a notable exception.

Well, that gives you a taste of the endless topics of discussion and depth and breadth of information in this marvelous book.

Have at it in the comments!