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Madmen
Posted: 09 July 2007 10:09 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Something occurred to me, and I’m not sure if it’s correct, or if it is, what the reasons for it are.

Historically, it seems that a surprising fraction of heads of state in various countries and other large groups have been, what I would deem, clinically insane. 

Do you feel this is or is not the case?

If so, why?

Occam

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Posted: 09 July 2007 10:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I don’t know. Was Nero insane because he commended to burn Rome? Probably. He was said to play his lyre while the city was burning. Was Hitler insane? We might (and we do) think that today but people back in the thirties probably thought he was only wrong. I don’t think he was unique among the rest to feel the way he did. The same might apply to Stalin or Hussein as I am sure there were many other potential “madmen” in line to commit the monstrosities. I heard that the kings in France still in the fifteenth century used to burn cats alive for entertainment. Do it today and you are a madman; back then it was probably “really funny”...

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Posted: 10 July 2007 02:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I don’t know if it’s that these certain personality types that tend towards extremes, or madness are the ones that will fight for power, or if the power corrupts.  Probably a combination of the two.  Here are some I came across (taken directly from http://worldnews.about.com/od/profilesofthenotorious/tp/leaders.htm - am I allowed to do that?  Quote other websites here?)  These are current, or fairly recent leaders.  Are they ignorant?  Or mad?  interesting topic.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (Iran)
Most notorious for: Denying the Holocaust, calling for Israel to be wiped off the map, and defending Iran’s claim to nuclear technology.

Kim Jong Il (North Korea)
Current leader of the “Hermit Kingdom,” Kim came to power in 1994 upon the death of his father, Kim Il-Sung. Like his father before him, Kim has advanced policies of state-control of industry, extreme isolation, and total political repression. Most notorious for: Ensuring the continued stability of his own regime by pursuing policies that keep his people in abject poverty and periodic famine, and a continued refusal to abandon the country’s nuclear weapons program.

George Bush (United States)
This pick will be to many Western readers, highly controversial. However, from the perspective of a large part of the world, Bush’s presidency has been a disaster. Most notorious for: Starting a 3-year war in Iraq during which over 2,000 U.S. soldiers and at least 34,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed.

Hugo Chavez (Venezuela)
Hugo Chavez would like to think of himself as a man of the people. The United States see him as one of the most threatening men in Latin America. Others say he is an egotistical blowhard. While he may not be a “threat” in the manner of many other leaders who made this list, his colorful reputation has earned him a spot. Most notorious for: Giving away millions of barrels in free oil to the poor and accusing the United States of trying to assasinate him.

Saddam Hussein (formerly, Iraq)
Most notorious for: Leading a repressive regime responsible for the torture massacre of thousands of Kurds, Shiites, and political enemies of every creed

Charles Taylor (formely, Liberia)
Currently on trial in Sierra Leone for his role in fueling that country’s bloody civil war. Most notorious for: Starting/sustaining civil wars in his country of Liberia and in neighboring Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire. Little known facts: Before becoming West Africa’s most notorious war lord, Taylor sawed himself out of a Massachusetts jail and engaged in shady business dealings with American televangelist, Pat Robertson

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Posted: 10 July 2007 02:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I guess the list would be very long indeed: Caligula, Ivan the Terrible, Henry VIII, Napoleon, Franco, Mussolini,...and on, and on, and on, .... It might be more difficult to find the “sane” ones. My favourite are Marcus Aurelius whose Meditations is just adorable and Havel who used to walk (!) from the castle in Prague to a local pub, wearing jeans and leather jacket.

[ Edited: 10 July 2007 03:29 PM by George ]
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Posted: 10 July 2007 03:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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It would seem to me that some characteristics of the leader of a country would be:  Intelligence, humanity (that is, doing what’s best for everyone while minimizing pain to anyone), reasonableness (recognizing the value of compromise), long view (rather than doing what will get him/her re-elected even if it hurts in the future), willingness to change in the light of new information, creativity (ability to come up with novel solutions to societal problems), awareness of the consequences of his/her actions. 

These seem important, but not exhaustive, and also seem to describe a well-adjusted person. 

Why do the citizens ignore candidates with these attributes and choose people like those listed in the above posts?

Occam

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Posted: 10 July 2007 04:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Occam - 10 July 2007 03:32 PM

Why do the citizens ignore candidates with these attributes and choose people like those listed in the above posts?

Maybe they know that somebody like that would probably end up getting killed just like JFK or his brother. Or maybe they feel that people with these positive characteristics must be very lucky individuals to possess such qualities and hence decide not to make them even “more successful”. We are after all a jealous and an envious bunch…

[ Edited: 10 July 2007 04:28 PM by George ]
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Posted: 10 July 2007 04:50 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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There’s something about power. Anyone recall The Stanford Prison Experiment?

I can’t help thinking, we need more stoics in politics. Is that asking for too much?

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Posted: 10 July 2007 05:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Excellent question, T. Ruth ... that experiment demonstrates how normal, healthy adult humans can turn into monsters if given the wrong incentives ...

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Posted: 10 July 2007 05:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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A few points on things I’ve noticed in this thread:
1. Nero did his best to put out the fires in Rome, the reason he got his reputation for “fiddling while Rome burned” was because he didn’t open up his private gardens to allow the citizens to escape the fires early enough in their opinion and because his subsequent rule of the empire in decline was somewhat laissez-faire.
2. The Kims of North Korea are more notorious for their continued experiments into the effects of poison gases on dissident families, for which they have allegedly have a research centre with a sealed transparent walled room.  I got this piece of information from a documentary in which one of the guys who claimed he was employed to observe and write down what he saw was interviewed.
3. I think the pressures of such a job mean that most people who go into it do so (at least partly) out of a spirit of public service or a desire to make things run better (as they see it).
4. There are plenty of nice ones; Bertie Ahern (Ireland), Tony Blair/Gordon Brown (Britain), Fredrik Reinfeldt (Sweden), Paul Keating (Australia - before the present incumbent), Helen Clark (New Zealand) to name a few.
5. The reason people ignore the sane ones in the united states is (IMO) a susceptibility to hype - the more money a campaign has, the more likely it is to succeed; it’s as simple as that.  There ought to be a cap on party donations from private individuals and interest groups and another on campaign spending, but nobody as far as I can see has ever proposed that over there

[ Edited: 10 July 2007 05:58 PM by narwhol ]
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Posted: 10 July 2007 06:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Occam - 10 July 2007 03:32 PM

Why do the citizens ignore candidates with these attributes and choose people like those listed in the above posts?

Well, as Narwhol sayd, we don’t ignore them allways.

Of course, we ignore them often enough to have problems. Sometimes, we don’t have the opportunity to choose ( although there is some evidence to think that a important portion of the people ussually back their dictator ).

But, sometimes we choose people with no one of the characteristic you mention. Why? I guess it’s because they promise quick and easy solutions, and, sadly, we love quick and easy solutions, no matter what happened in the past with this kind of solutions. We love to listen a person who says he or she has the right solutions to our problems, specially if this solution is easy (kill the jewish, kill the comunist, confiscate the private property or whatever)

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Posted: 10 July 2007 06:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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but nobody as far as I can see has ever proposed that over there

WRONG.  We’ve been trying to get that done in various states.  Arizona and one of the New England states already have “Clean Money” laws that are working very well.  The large organizations have been lobbying strongly against these in other states, but I think they will come about more generally.  Two additional reforms that would help greatly are prevention of gerrymandering districts, and allowing the “instant run-off” system of voting.  Both are beginning to be considered.

Occam

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Posted: 10 July 2007 06:25 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Caps on campaign spending specifically have been tried and found an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of speech per the (hm, conservative?) Supreme Court.

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Posted: 10 July 2007 06:38 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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yes, I suppose the campaign spending one is a bridge too far even over here (although it has been mooted and with campaign moneys coming direct from taxes - might not be a bad idea).  I didn’t realise that US states had tried the party donations capping, but it looks then as if it’s moving in the right direction.  Also, I forgot to mention Bill Clinton in the list of nice premiers.

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Posted: 10 July 2007 06:45 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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narwhol - 10 July 2007 05:54 PM

Nero did his best to put out the fires in Rome

I had no idea. Thanks, Narwhol!

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Posted: 11 July 2007 01:46 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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The Arizona Clean Money law is constitutional because it doesn’t put a cap on spending.  It gives the candidates the option of agreeing to take no greater than $20 contributions from anyone, and each candidate gets a certain amount of money from state taxes on corporations.  However, if one candidate doesn’t agree, he can get all the money he can from any source.  However, he has to declare it, and the candidates who did sign the agreement will get matching money from the state fund.  This evens the playing field. 

Occam

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Posted: 28 July 2007 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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cheese I know this post is old but I had to comment on it. Of all of the president the US has had I think our present president; Bush is mad. But it seems I am not the only one thinking that way as thousands think that way, perhaps even millions. Everything about his demeanor implies he is insane, mad and totally absent from reality. I know of several Christian friends who have said; “Bush is a madman, a lunatic and the worse president we have ever had.” Another close Christian friend told me just two weeks ago, “It is a wonder no one has tried to assassinate him as he is completely insane and a devil.” And these are Christians speaking this way.

Yes I do believe Bush is insane. I believe Stalin and Hitler were. In fact a long list of leaders in just the past thirty years from around the world may have been. But mentality as in mental illness or defect insane? I am not a doctor so I can not say for sure as to rather they were or are ill as in a disease of the brain or were or are insane as in the use of drugs, brainwashing or alcoholic induced or mad as in egotistic madness.

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