Sunday, October 6, 2013

Stein Ringen's "Nation of Devils"

Stein Ringen is professor emeritus of sociology and social policy at Oxford University.

He applied the “Page 99 Test” to his latest book, Nation of Devils: Democratic Leadership and the Problem of Obedience, and reported the following:
The middle of page 99 has this heading: Why Things Go Wrong. ‘You might think it a truism to advise governments to make good decisions,’ I write. But, sadly, in governance things will go wrong if proper procedures are not in place to prevent it. ‘Political decision making is human decision making, and in human decision making we are prone to mistakes. Our brains play tricks on us. Also, political decision making is a group activity, and in groups people play tricks on each other.’ Therefore, political leaders need the protection of procedure. ‘Even competent managers manage badly if their systems don’t work.’

The chapter then goes on to discuss procedure and system under three headings: the smartness of slowness, the blessing of the back room, and the security of scrutiny. All this is central to my argument that governance is notoriously difficult and that leaders don’t get far with good intentions.
Learn more about Nation of Devils at the Yale University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue