As 2015 gives way to 2016, many people will be reflecting on the past and looking to the future; thinking about what was and what might have been. I'm no different. One of the books I've been reading while pondering the past and the future this week is The Servile Mind by Kenneth Minogue. A friend recommended it—he wondered whether the commentary might be applicable to directors and boards. My response, having read half of the book so far, is an unreserved 'yes'! Here's the note on the flyleaf:
One of the grim comedies of the twentieth century was that miserable victims of communist regimes would climb walls, sim rivers, dodge bullets, and find other desperate ways to achieve liberty the West at the same time that progressive intellectuals would sentimentally proclaim that these very regimes were the wave of the future. A similar tragicomedy is playing out in our century: as the victims of despotism and backwardness from Third World nations pour into Western States, academic and intellectuals present Western life as a nightmare of inequality and oppression.
In The Servile Mind: How Democracy Erodes the Moral Life, Kenneth Minogue explores the intelligentsia's love affair with social perfection and reveals how that idealistic dream is destroying exactly what has made the inventive Western world irresistible to the peoples of foreign lands. The Servile Mind looks at how Western morality has evolved into mere "politico-moral" posturing about admired ethical causes—from solving world poverty and creating peace to curing climate change. Today, merely making the correct noises and parading one's essential decency by having the correct opinions has become a substitute for individual moral responsibility.
Instead, Minogue argues, we ask that our governments carry the burden of soling our social—and especially moral—problems for us. The sad and frightening irony is that the more we allow the state to determine our moral order and inner convictions, the more we need to be told how to behave and what to think.
Humbly, I commend this book to all directors who want to govern well and make a difference in 2016.
Thoughts on corporate governance, strategy and the craft of board work; our place in the world; and, other things that catch my attention.