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April 30, 2004

two interesting meetings

I actually had several interesting conversations today, but I'd like to mention two. First, I met Dr. Laxmi Ramasubramanian of the University of Illinois at Chicago. She helps to create exciting projects that involve residents--including young people--in mapping their communities and creating visions for the future. See, for instance, these Character Plans for the City of Oak Park. This is the kind of work that we're gradually building toward with our own high school students in Prince George's County, MD.

In the afternoon, I heard a good presentation by Hellmut Lotz (available here). Lotz argues that tyrants always have reason to fear for their lives. Others are afraid of them and may try to kill them in self-defense or to usurp their power. A ruler may be sure that he can ward off challengers, but sooner or later he will want to retire or to guarantee his children's safety after his death. But even if he says that he no longer desires power, others have no reason to believe him. The dictator (and his children) are always potential rivals to any new rulers. For this reason, there are very few examples of safely retired dictators. In constitutional systems, however, leaders routinely retire to comfort and safety. Absolute power plus personal security would be best, but it is impossible. A constitution gives rulers limited power plus safety, and is therefore in the interest of rulers. And that is why we have a Constitution, according to Lotz.

April 30, 2004 9:37 PM | category: none

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