Bill Bonner

Poor Chuck Hagel. Every day, The Wall Street Journal wallops the fellow. He is whacked for not knowing what he is doing…smacked for not appreciating the threat of a nuclear Iran…and slapped hard for not bending over quickly enough to kiss neo-con butts.

John McCain and Lindsay Graham went to work on him in the Senate. They went at it clumsily and disgracefully — like a pair of goons with lead pipes. And then, in the WSJ, Dorothy Rabinowitz hammered him last Monday; she was so hysterical we couldn’t follow what she was talking about. Then, on Tuesday, Brett Stephens took over…and began pounding away in a more usual, ham-fisted way.

We’re enjoying the show. McCain and Graham acted like thugs. Still, it’s amusing and gratifying to watch a man like Hagel get beaten up. Too bad we couldn’t watch the same sport when Hillary Clinton was put up for the job! Hillary actually deserved it.

Those who would presume to meddle should have their own mettle tested first. In addition to getting roughly handled by the press and the politicians, candidates for any post — elected or appointed — leaders should have to bear certain ordeals, to test their courage and their resolve. These should be designed not to reveal weaknesses or shortcomings, but merely to allow the man (or woman) to demean himself in petty and irrelevant ways. For example, a candidate for the Secretary of Treasury might have to fish a wedding ring from the bottom of a Manhattan sewer. A mayoral candidate might be locked out of his house…stark naked…just to see how he handled the situation.

This actually happened to our old friend and colleague Dan Denning. He had just moved to Paris. Somehow he got locked out of his apartment, with just a towel around his waist. He had no phone. No money. And he didn’t even speak French. All he knew was that there was another set of keys on the other side of the city.

Situations like that build character. But that is not why we propose them for prospective leaders. Instead, we just want to humiliate and discourage them. Maybe they’ll think twice before offering leadership. These otherwise pointless ordeals will also help to eliminate candidates. Anyone with so little dignity as to submit to them isn’t worthy of the office. And if he refuses, he should be denied the office too; because he hasn’t been willing to comply with the requirements.

The point is, the world needs a lot fewer leaders than it has. Most of the time, people go about their business with no need for the expense and distraction of leadership. That is true in businesses as well as government. A leader just gets in the way, wasting everyone’s time and energy.

Think about what you really want. To fix the crack in the swimming pool before warm weather. To get your father-in-law into a rest home or a casket. You want to figure out how to play “All of Me” on the guitar and how to make beef bourguignon in the oven. None of this requires leadership.

Most businesses work best without leadership. People dope out how to get things done. They don’t need interference from the top. Besides, the ‘leaders’ often have no idea how the business really works. This is especially true of celebrity CEOs whose real job it is to goose up the stock price. Often, a business will go along plausibly well, with the lower- and middle-level employees innovating as necessary. Then, a strong leader will take over, pulling the whole business down some dead-end road, typically by grandstanding a large merger or acquisition. The CEO gets headline fame; later, the business goes broke.

The Secretary of State is meant to lead America’s foreign policy. But what need is there? Who needs him? Each American can perfectly well decide for himself where he will travel and with whom he will trade. He needs no leadership. Many of the bruises on Chuck Hagel’s face come from his claim that Iran’s government is ‘legitimate.’ But who cares? Everyone knows perfectly well that Iran’s government is as legitimate as any other, including the government of the United States of America. All democratic governments owe their legitimacy to the same thing — the decision of delusional voters, based on fraudulent representations by dishonest leaders.

Another point that brought the blows down on Hagel was his comment years ago about a powerful “Jewish lobby.” There isn’t supposed to be a ‘Jewish lobby.” And the one there isn’t supposed to be isn’t supposed to be powerful. Of course, everyone knows there is a very powerful lobby, composed largely of Jews, whose main focus is to protect the interests, as they see them, of a foreign nation — Israel. Leaders are just not supposed to say so. Everyone else can speak the truth; but leaders should only open their mouths to lie. That’s what people expect of them. Which was Hagel’s big mistake. He slipped up.

That’s what leadership is all about — solemn and pompous lying. The greatest leaders are those who do it most grandly. Abraham Lincoln, for example. Without his leadership, the US would have probably split apart, which is to say the southern states would have been permitted to exercise the right laid out for them in the Declaration of Independence. They merely demanded to do what the 13 colonies had done before them — to misgovern themselves rather than have it imposed on them by others.

Lincoln — at Gettysburg — told the biggest lie in American history. He said they were fighting to preserve the promise of the revolution, and that the war was a test of whether “any nation, so conceived…can long endure.” In the end, his generals, Grant and Sherman, decided the matter in the negative.

The next greatest leadership debacle came in 1917. That was when Woodrow Wilson launched the US into someone else’s war on the basis of a breathtaking deceit. It was a “war to make the world safe for democracy,” he said. But if that were so, the US went in on the wrong side. Specifically, Britain and France ruled hundreds of millions of people — in Africa, Ireland, India, Southeast Asia — with no votes allowed! Germany, in comparison, was a model of democratic humbug.

Leaders lie. And their leadership — founded on lies — typically brings disasters. WWI was a disaster. Then came an economic disaster — the Great Depression. In the previous depression, 1920-1921, US president Warren Harding and Treasury Secretary Andrew Mellon, simply ignored it. No leadership was provided. Two years later the depression was over.

When the next depression came — in ’29 — Herbert Hoover, and then, Franklin Roosevelt met it with aggressive leadership. Giving out the lie that they knew better than business people and investors, they promised to mitigate the depression with ‘counter-cyclical policies.’ They blocked the markets from making necessary (but painful) adjustments, thereby stretching out the depression for almost an entire decade.

It’s not that leaders are always a waste of time. It’s just that leadership is subject to the law of declining marginal utility — just like everything else. A little, occasionally, may be useful. Any more, and you’re headed for trouble.

Recently, the US has been the victim of two leadership whoppers. After terrorists brought down the World Trade Towers in 2001, George W. Bush led the country in an attack on Iraq, based on the fraud of ‘weapons of mass destruction,’ which a team of inspectors said the Iraqis didn’t have.

Then, after the crisis of ’08-’09, the Obama team provided leadership, with the now-familiar lie that bankrupt institutions need to be kept alive at all costs and that a slowdown caused by too much debt could be remedied by adding even more debt.

If George W. Bush had shown a little less leadership in military matters, the US would have saved 157,000 lives…and as much as $6 trillion dollars.

If Barack Obama had shown a little less leadership in economic matters, the liquidity crisis would have swept away incompetent managers, bad debts would have been flushed out quickly, and the economic crisis would have ended 3 years ago.

Not that lies are always bad. There are probably times when a lie is just what a group needs to stiffen its backbone or calm its nerves. Occasionally, a gifted leader can help guide a business or even a government. But those occasions are rare. Considering the damage leaders do, the world is better off without them.


Bill Bonner
for The Daily Reckoning

Bill Bonner

Since founding Agora Inc. in 1979, Bill Bonner has found success in numerous industries. His unique writing style, philanthropic undertakings and preservationist activities have been recognized by some of America's most respected authorities. With his friend and colleague Addison Wiggin, he co-founded The Daily Reckoning in 1999, and together they co-wrote the New York Times best-selling books Financial Reckoning Day and Empire of Debt. His other works include Mobs, Messiahs and Markets (with Lila Rajiva), Dice Have No Memory, and most recently, Hormegeddon: How Too Much of a Good Thing Leads to Disaster. His most recent project is The Bill Bonner Letter.

  • blakbart

    I believe Bill Bonner is absolutely right on each argument, from the Isreal to 1917.
    Well done!!!!!

  • longnine009

    Praise the lies and pass the Prosac. Americans want to be lie to. But they have to be happy
    lies. Political “leaders” and corporate “talent” are just supplying demand. Other than
    that, neither could lead a cockroach around a pebble without screwing it up.

  • Wags

    I always enjoy Bill’s articles.

  • Thad Thurston Thistlethwaite

    “Terrorists brought down the Twin Towers…” Agreed but I’ve never seen any evidence that they were jihadists from the Middle East. And who was responsible for the collapse of WTC 7, the third building you’re not supposed to know about? Terrorists! Some of whom were US government officials. Some black ops in there, too, no doubt.

  • maxim


  • Gnomey

    Regarding WTC 7 collapse, you really think “black ops” is more plausible than the very nearby collapse of two absolutely massive structures severely weakening its foundation?? Not to mention widespread fire damage from raining flaming debris?

  • Gnomey

    Bonner remarked that Hoover and FDR’s interventions “blocked the markets from making the necessary (but painful) adjustments, thereby stretching out the depression for almost an entire decade”. I question whether the interventions made much of a difference either way considering how relatively microscopic they were relative to the amounts spent during the war that actually restarted the economic engine. Furthermore, not intervening does not necessarily assure a speedy adjustment and recovery. Just consider the lengthy depression during the late 19th century (circa 1873 to 1896) during the laissez faire era.

  • Gnomey

    One other point of contention with Bonner. He wrote regarding WW1, that “Germany, in comparison, was a model of democratic humbug”. However, it had its colonies and imperial aspirations as well. And in many ways its political culture was much more reactionary. I do not think there was a huge difference overall between the sides though. I am reminded of a personal anecdote. I recall as a kid having once watched a documentary on the two world wars but still not being entirely clear on WW1. So I asked an elderly and wise neighbour. I told him that it was clear to me that during WW2 we fought against the fascists. But I did not understand the sides during WW1. They were all essentially fascists he responded.

  • Ben the Layabout

    The wonderful 1980s comic “Bloom County” once shared this quip: “A statesman is a dead politician. The world needs more statesmen.” Not advocating assassinations, just less politicians! The rest of them can retire to their hobby farm and write their memoirs.

  • Chris Caldwell

    Government, all government, is a criminal organization. The US government is also rogue, outside its Constitutional box, and therefore treasonous.

    Government “leaders” do not lead the people/sheeple but the criminal organization–like dons and capos in the mob.

    To refer to them as “leaders” marks one as naive or a member of the organization itself.


  • David Horace

    Uh, you need to watch the video of WTC-7 — and stop drinking the Kool-Aid.
    Bldgs come down all the time without causing nearby bldgs to weaken & collapse.
    Steel-frame & masonry bldgs burn for DAYS and never collapse. Wake up.

  • shawnallen

    Bill is in his finest form here. I have to agree, most of the biggest accomplishments of my life did not involve much leadership at all.

  • Gnomey

    I have seen the video, including from the perspective of the collapse damaged side showing widespread fires inside caused by raining flaming debris. I am not drinking any “Kool-Aid”, I am just applying rational thought and refraining from uncritically believing far-fetched conspiracy theories. As for buildings coming down all the time without causing adjacent damage, how many were even remotely close to the size and magnitude of WTC 1 & 2 ?? As for buildings burning for days, I know of two that only lasted for just over an hour… WTC 1 & 2. Of course they were severely structurally damaged by the enormous kinetic energy of the initial impact of massive projectiles travelling at high speed (jet planes), and further weakened by the considerable heat energy of enough jet fuel to take a large plane across the continent. You really find a specious and convoluted conspiracy theory to be a more plausible explanation?

  • Stephen N. Jacobs

    For the first time in my lifetime, the United States is striking-out in a new direction, and that direction is not anti-semitism nor is it a variation of the same old Southern conservatism of going around in circles for decades going no-where and lying to kids in public schools about America’s supposed freedom and inventing rich histories about China and Russia and Eastern Europe that never exactly existed, and then ( of all things ) propagandizing American kids in its public schools about such invented histories across the nation.

    I first noticed that the U.S.public school curriculum in social studies about Stalin in 1945 in Poland didn’t quite mesh with the letter that my grandfather had in his underwear and socks drawer in Duluth, and Stalin for our Jewish family was a saviour and a liberator. I also noticed that after WWII was over, King George VI presented Joseph Stalin with The Sword of Honour.

    And the U.S. public school curriculum proclaimed and propagandized that Joseph Stalin was a mass murderer and a second Adolf Hitler, a dictator, etc…… It didn’t mesh.

    Finally, with the election of President Obama, for the first time in my lifetime of almost sixty-five years, we are going to take a critical look at how everything in America is being run. Maybe we can get a few things changed for the better.

    Under Franklin Delano Roosevelt — the guy on the dime — this was called his “New Deal” in the 1930s when exactly the same thing happened and a number of reforms such as Social Security were passed. Perhaps now, with these tough times, under this Great Recession, we might be able to “Lean Forward” and press for the passage of a number of new reforms once again and move America out of its slump.

  • Stephen N. Jacobs

    And speaking about the bologna sausage that was told to American students in K-12 public schools in America, the so-called “gulag” of Stalin’s was never found in Russia, not even in Siberia.

  • Stephen N. Jacobs

    Some of the progressive reforms we might enact during this second Obama term: 1.) a building on Obama Care so that it blossoms into a full national health insurance programme just like Social Security, but now for everyone of all ages, much like Canada’s Medicare programme is now, and all other countries’ medicare programmes are now; 2.) an updating and critical examination of the nation’s obsolete public school curriculum; 3.) a shifting of the power plan of the Energy Department to atomic energy, fraking of the continent’s vast oil-rich shales and up-grading heavy oils, and developing natural-gas operations, mining/developing clean coal sites, construction of hydro-electric dams, and the development of wind-farms along the Rocky Mountain Front Range and in adjacent areas of the High Plains; 4.) an economic revolution would occur as America increases its trade surplus because its oil exports would be driven higher with a proper energy plan being put into place right now (2013) from the Energy Department.

  • Stephen N. Jacobs

    Social Security on line 3 below is supposed to read Medicare, not Social Security. SS is a monthly cheque. Medicare is an insurance.

  • Stephen N. Jacobs

    Back to that letter in Grandpa’s sock & underwear drawer, he had it translated. Our family from Poland, what was left of it that hadn’t gotten out of Poland and come to America or the UK or Canada before WWII, was exterminated just like all of the other six millions in the death camps nearby. This bunch, the bunch that wrote to my grandpa and grandma in Duluth-Superior were next on Hitler’s list. They were to be shipped by rail to the extermination centre south of their city. Happy for them, Stalin’s Red Army arrived first and liberated Poland in 1945, moving east to west….. The rest of the Allies, the Americans, the British, the French and the Canadians moved west to east and stopped when they met-up with Stalin’s Red Army in what is now Germany on VE Day in late 1945. But it was Stalin’s Red Army that liberated Poland and saved our family’s lives from the Nazis.

    And what was taught at Lakeside Elementary School when I was there in Duluth? — that Stalin was a dictator and a mass murderer like Hitler, and that he ran a gulag that began in Moscow and extended eastward into Siberia where anyone could be sent, and you might work on anything from light-bulbs to license plates to hydro-electric dams for the rest of your life. If you said anything wrong or ate your broccoli too slowly in Russia, you could be sent to the gulag, or so we were told, and everyone believed it.

    After Stalin died, the Cold War began in earnest. All of the waste of money between former allies, China and the U.S, began in earnest. The Korean War was a waste of money in my view and so was the Vietnam War, and all of this waste can be traced back to a Cold War mentality and that back to the West’s strange hatred for Joseph Stalin, literally in the United States just one sunset after WWII.

  • Stephen N. Jacobs

    Kids: an absolute must to review here on your computer and make prints of for your classroom and your school. These will really upset your State Board of Education, especially in the South and nowhere more so than Alabama. What fun! And it will be a learning experience for everyone.

    An important question to ask and a question which I have often asked: “Why did Stalin win the Sword of Honour, and is it true that he indeed did win it?” And the answer can be found on page 97 in the book, Why the Allies Won [italics] by Richard Overy published in the UK in 1995 and published in America in 1996….. The London Sunday Times called the question of, “Why the allies won?” to be one of the greatest questions of the 20th C.

    Stalin is presented with the Sword of Honour by Winston Churchill as a gift from King George VI in the name of the people of Britain in the presence of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt of the United States. Stalin accepts the Sword of Honour and kisses the gleaming treasure for the people of Russia and the Red Army.

  • Stephen N. Jacobs

    Why was Stalin presented with the Sword of Honour at Baku, USSR (Russia) on November 28, 1943 and the answer is that Stalin’s Red Army won the Battle of Stalingrad and reversed the tide of battle in WWII between the Allies and the Axis. Stalin now took responsibility to command the Red Army with Marshall Zuchov to advance forward and westward into Eastern Europe to liberate Europe from the Soviet Union and move toward Germany to meet-up with the Allied forces moving-in from the west. But the presentation of the Sword of Honour to Stalin was in recognition not just for the help and the service in WWII that Stalin rendered but obviously for his Red Army helping to save the lives of millions of people throughout Eastern Europe and Russia.

    The saving of the lives of those in our family who did survive the Holocaust in 1945 owe their lives to Joseph Stalin and his Red Army in Poland. That’s what my grandfather’s letter in his sock and underwear drawer was all about in Duluth, Minnesota.

    Stephen Naymark Jacobs

  • Stephen N. Jacobs

    How fast Joseph Stalin was converted from a Saint into a second Hitler in the United States after WWII ended and why so, is an important mystery. And the same thing was done with Mao Tse Tung. It happened within days or maybe weeks. Why? The remainder of the 20th Century and the 21st C. could have been prosperous for everyone in the world, but America oddly chose a different course. Who benefited?

  • Gnomey

    I do not know what Stalin has to do with the original article written by Tucker, but you raise an interesting point. The American education system, political/business leaders, and mass media do not hesitate to demonize Stalin and highlight his atrocities. Of course you would expect this from American ruling elites hostile to anti-capitalist threats, especially at the height of the cold war. However, in all fairness, they usually fail to acknowledge that Stalin, or at least the Red Army, also saved many millions of lives, including your grandfather, by stopping the Nazis and liberating the death camps. The Russians bore the overwhelming brunt of the fighting in WW2 after all.

    Furthermore, we will never know for certain, but it is highly likely that he probably even saved many more millions than he butchered. The Nazis considered the Slavs to be subhuman and it is believed sought to depopulate Eastern Europe for Lebensraum/“living space”.

    Never the less, significantly temper any praise for Stalin because he does have a LOT (several million) of blood on his hands. Consider the Ukrainian Holodomor, Soviet gulags, mistreatment of German prisoners of war, massacre of military officers in occupied Poland, etc. (Not to mention the misery of living under the repressive and underproductive Soviet political/economic system.) And even what good he may have done was not necessarily out of the kindness of his heart; he seems to have been primarily motivated by self-preservation and opportunism.

  • Gnomey

    Oops, I meant to say the original article written by Bonner, not Tucker. Sorry.

  • PaulTheCabDriver

    The war did not get the USA out of the Depression. That is a very common, and wrong, myth. Robert Higgs demolishes this argument.

  • Gnomey

    …never heard of Robert Higgs so consulted Wikipedia for a concise summary. The fact that he is an adherent of the Austrian School of economics raises a red flag, suggesting an anti-Keynesian revisionist agenda. “Austrian School” is a euphemism for laissez faire oriented economics which has its own inherent serious problems as history reveals; refer to the 19th century up to the Great Depression.

    Higgs does not demolish anything. He seems to focus on investment, which was only one part of the problem. The main problem was a collapse in consumer demand, which investors were arguably more concerned about than government policies. The root cause of this collapse in consumer demand was a decades long disproportionate usurpation of wealth by capital at the expense of labor, leaving the economy vulnerable and without a robust consumer base to fall back on. This culminated in economic collapse when the reckless speculative excesses of the 1920s helped bring down the banking/financial system and countless jobs/businesses, starting a vicious self-reinforcing negative feedback loop.

    Only a parochial or deluded ideologue, or one with an agenda, would deny that the massive and widely distributed wartime expenditures put significant amounts of money back in people’s pockets, in the process also breaking the pervasive pessimistic psychological mood. This apparently restored “critical mass” to the consumer base and restarted the economic engine. Rebuilding destroyed productive capacity in Europe also helped. The economic statistics from the time certainly seem to bear all this out. Therefore, almost certainly fact, not myth, that WW2 helped pull the US out of the Depression.

  • !!!
  • !!!

    Some should see abt Opium wars.
    cia is russian product.
    exp. psyck. too.
    why french publish that 4 or 5 yrs ago putin said
    that somb. from space contacted them?

  • !!!

    biotech, mobile phones, security,
    niche business, automation,
    health care, robots, outsourcing,
    storage systems..
    1. is there a subst. market?
    2. what is the competitive landscape?
    3.can you develop a profitable business models?
    4. can you scale quickly?
    ( 10-11, markets and marketing, according to kotler,2005.)

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