Truth or Consequences

September 2005


One point that is agreed upon by those on the far right and far left of the political spectrum (and most everybody in between) is that government leaders ought to be held accountable for what they do. And yet, we are failing to do this today, which is the worst crime against democracy.

Once upon a time, there was a rich and glorious nation, whose people decided that old people should be revered and given a rest in their old age. These wise and caring people made a promise to their elderly and created a program to make sure that elderly and infirm people could have a break at the far end of their lives

Many years later, a handsome prince became king and left the running of his kingdom to men he appointed to positions of power. Then the king slept. These men of power were not reckless, they were careful. They believed that the people would rise up in indignation and cast them out if they were too impatient or too greedy. They found the great store of treasure that had been set aside for the elderly. One of them had an idea: what if we add this treasure to the king's treasury -- then, when we put the nation in debt, the debt won't seem as large. The others thought this a capital idea. Very quietly, they did it. And nobody said a word about it. The king slept on.

The men in power grew bolder and put the nation deeper and deeper into debt -- always citing an imaginary enemy, so they'd never actually have to fight, and win or lose a battle.

Then the old king left his throne to his deputy, who had been ruling as regent for the old king while he slept. The men of power were glad and went forth anew with even more vigor, but the new king told them "this far and no further," for he feared to be remembered by posterity as a tyrant king. When it came time for his rule to be confirmed by the people, he was not chosen.

A new king was crowned and the men of power were banished to wander in the wilderness for eight years. The new king was full of promises, but was not a strong king and was by habit and inclination a coward -- he was afraid to do enough, lest he do too much. And the friends of the old king often attacked him. He was even put on trial before the nation. In the end he was neither convicted nor exonerated. He stepped down.

Those men in power had not been idle. In their banishment, they had perfected their statecraft and grown bold in their desire to run things their own way. They chose a new king, a son of the elder king, and made sure that he would do as they wanted. There were some that cried that the new king was false, but they were quickly silenced.

In power again, these men were bold and confident. They lied to the people and made war for their own profit. They put the government of the nation in such deep debt that it might never become free of debt again. Children of the nation died and the people became polarized into two camps. One screaming "wrong" and the other screaming "right."

But the strangest lesson of this tale is what these bold men of power had learned: that they could do anything, with impunity. It didn't matter what they did; there would be no consequences. No one would go to jail. If there were fines, they would be a small portion of the profit. They could do as they liked.

And when the next king came to be crowned, he ruled not for four years but for eighteen. And he was not elected by the people, but appointed by the men of power. For they had so frightened the people that the people did not rise up in indignation and cast the wrongdoers out for being too greedy. The nation had the same name. Democracy was still the creed taught in schools. But it was gone from the face of the nation, and it was the nation that slept while the leaders were ever busy.

Moral: If you make the people afraid enough, then the leaders need fear nothing, except revolution.

Valid XHTML 1.0 Transitional Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 Unported License.