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What is power without goodess?

Philosophy, when applied, shows us just how much values and ideas matter. In a world obsessed with individualism and greed, even Machiavellian beliefs have found their way into City Halls and the public square, undermining principles of good governance, civic trust, social well-being and democracy.

A student of philosophy, however, would know that better, more sustainable, and effective models of civic leadership exist. Rather than follow Machiavelli’s historically condemned advice to civic leaders to pursue “criminal virtues” (cruel and immoral deeds such as the ruthless elimination of political rivals through deception) and to seek power for power’s sake, there were other even more prominent Renaissance thinkers who understood the lasting damage to societies and civilizations of such short-sighted opportunism.

One such thinker was the Dutch philosopher Erasmus who wrote influential manuals to civic leaders that rooted civic action in values such as benevolence, honour and justice.

“Power without goodness,” Erasmus wrote, “is unmitigated tyranny, and without wisdom it is destruction, not government.”

How many civic leaders would benefit from the reminder of the Renaissance philosopher and statesman Sir Thomas More, that civic leaders ought to be servant leaders

“just as a shepherd’s job, strictly speaking, is to feed his sheep, not himself”?

For more on servant leadership and wisdom in civic governance, read full post here.


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