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King of the Mountain

King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership

Arnold M. Ludwig
Copyright Date: 2002
Pages: 496
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  • Book Info
    King of the Mountain
    Book Description:

    People may choose to ignore their animal heritage by interpreting their behavior as divinely inspired, socially purposeful, or even self-serving, all of which they attribute to being human, but they masticate, fornicate, and procreate, much as chimps and apes do, so they should have little cause to get upset if they learn that they act like other primates when they politically agitate, debate, abdicate, placate, and administrate, too." -- from the book King of the Mountain presents the startling findings of Arnold M. Ludwig's eighteen-year investigation into why people want to rule. The answer may seem obvious -- power, privilege, and perks -- but any adequate answer also needs to explain why so many rulers cling to power even when they are miserable, trust nobody, feel besieged, and face almost certain death. Ludwig's results suggest that leaders of nations tend to act remarkably like monkeys and apes in the way they come to power, govern, and rule. Profiling every ruler of a recognized country in the twentieth century -- over 1,900 people in all­­, Ludwig establishes how rulers came to power, how they lost power, the dangers they faced, and the odds of their being assassinated, committing suicide, or dying a natural death. Then, concentrating on a smaller sub-set of 377 rulers for whom more extensive personal information was available, he compares six different kinds of leaders, examining their characteristics, their childhoods, and their mental stability or instability to identify the main predictors of later political success. Ludwig's penetrating observations, though presented in a lighthearted and entertaining way, offer important insight into why humans have engaged in war throughout recorded history as well as suggesting how they might live together in peace.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4329-3
    Subjects: Political Science, Psychology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-ix)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. x-x)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. xi-xiv)

    In this book, I present the results of my eighteen-year investigation into why rulers want to rule and what, if anything, distinguishes them from other kinds of people.¹ As part of this investigation, I have examined many aspects of rulers and ruling that never have been studied before. My assorted findings have led me to develop a new theory about why people seek ultimate political power and tend to cling to it as long as possible.

    As it happens, the timing of my project was fortunate since it gave me a chance to approach these issues from afin de...

  5. 1 Why Rulers Rule
    (pp. 1-21)

    Why do people want to rule? You may think the reason is obvious—power, privilege, and perks—but it’s not. Nor does it have anything to do with the more high-minded motives of patriotism, duty, and service. What I hope to show is that all of the usual reasons aspiring rulers give for seeking high office are simply rationalizations by them to do what they are socially and biologically driven to do. Just as the orgastic pleasures associated with sex ensure procreation and contribute to the preservation of the species—regardless of the reasons people give for copulating, such as...

  6. 2 It’s a Man’s World
    (pp. 22-49)

    While being intelligent, competent, well-educated, and emotionally stable does not bar you from holding high office, you also can be the ruler of a nation if you have never read a book, do not know how to make a budget, still count with your fingers, take delight in murdering and torturing people, stay zonked out on drugs or alcohol during cabinet meetings, pay more attention to the imaginary voices in your head than to your advisors, or, simply put, are ignorant, demented, or crazy. With notable exceptions, the one thing you cannot be as a ruler is a woman.


  7. 3 The Perks of Power
    (pp. 50-78)

    Would-be rulers give many highfaluting reasons for seeking high office—to restore democracy, to return power to the people, to unite the country, to overthrow tyranny, to improve the economy, to get rid of corruption in government, and so on—which they may or may not believe and which may or may not be true. But if my thesis about the evolutionary basis of ruling is correct—that unseen natural forces are at work within them to motivate them to vie for ultimate power—then whatever selfish or selfless reasons aspiring leaders give for their ambitions are irrelevant. What is...

  8. 4 A Dangerous Game
    (pp. 79-125)

    King of the Mountain is a game played in some form or another by children throughout the world. The game tests strength, stamina, and cunning. The game requires a hill of rocks, sand, dirt, or ice with room at the top for only one child who is the king. Since all the other children also want to be king, they do everything possible to dislodge the current occupant from his lofty perch. They may try to do this by physical force—grabbing at the king’s ankles, tugging at his arms, and trying to wrestle him down—or they may adopt...

  9. 5 Rearing Rulers
    (pp. 126-169)

    Because they act godlike at times and inspire awe, it is sometimes hard to picture rulers of nations as once having suckled at their mothers’ breasts and having been helpless and dependent as children. Yet they obviously had, although you would have trouble proving it. With notable exceptions, that is because so little biographical information is available about their early lives, and what little information exists comes from self-serving memoirs, which never reveal their failings, or from state-sponsored propaganda materials, which portray them as exceptional children who were never helpless, scared, or wayward. There are many reasons information about their...

  10. 6 Little Acorns into Mighty Oaks
    (pp. 170-220)

    Once many rulers assume power, they begin to suffer from what I call the Louis XIV syndrome of “L’etat, c’est moi.” As a feature of this syndrome, they seem to undergo a peculiar expansion in their personal identity and come to believe that they and their people are one. Like a spirit guide that gives voice through a medium, they often act as if their people give voice through them. Sukarno, for example, often claimed, “I am Indonesia, I am the Revolution.” Charles de Gaulle, showing he had the makings for a ruler, took it upon himself to speak for...

  11. 7 Of Sound Mind??
    (pp. 221-271)

    The fact that many artists, poets, writers, actors, and entertainers drink heavily, use drugs, or suffer from depression or mania is not surprising. What more can you expect from people who live on the social fringe, cultivate their eccentricities, take pride in their nonconformity, and deliberately exploit their emotional difficulties for the purpose of their art? But the expectation for political rulers is different. As symbols of their countries and as spokesmen for their people, they are supposed to be conforming, traditional, and emotionally stable. They are not supposed to hold daily conversations with the voices in their head (as...

  12. 8 The Measure of Political Greatness
    (pp. 272-315)

    One problem in judging the political genius of rulers is knowing what they should get credit for. The situation for rulers is a lot different than for other kinds of professionals. With creative artists, scientists, military commanders, athletes, or surgeons, you have no trouble telling who should get credit for what. Creative artists paint, sculpt, build, and compose works under their own signature. Scientists conduct experiments and publish their results. Athletes compete against others in contests. Military commanders win or lose wars. And surgeons operate on patients and take responsibility for their lives. In contrast, political rulers often rely on...

  13. 9 The Seven Pillars of Greatness
    (pp. 316-353)

    Here is the question: How can you be sure that the activities of any particular ruler really make a difference in the fate of a nation? Because you cannot run the reel of history over again, you never can know for sure if the same outcome would have happened with someone else or even nobody at all at the helm. If any ruler or no ruler can be associated with certain political events, then that suggests social and historical forces brought those events about. To be able to hold a ruler morally responsible for certain political happenings during his reign,...

  14. 10 Warmongers or Peacemakers?
    (pp. 354-378)

    Now it is time to take stock of where we are. In the beginning of the book, I laid out my thesis that the reason men seek to rule and cling to power as long as they can is because they are biologically programmed to do so. Humans may contemplate the heavens and be creatures of God, but they are still primates to the core, albeit extraordinary ones, and remain grounded by their primate heritage. Just like their monkey, chimpanzee, and gorilla kin, they are disposed to compete among themselves to become the reigning member of their society and, once...

  15. Appendix A: Sample of Rulers (N = 377)
    (pp. 379-388)
  16. Appendix B: Methodology
    (pp. 389-398)
  17. Appendix C: Data Collection and Statistics
    (pp. 399-402)
  18. Appendix D: Political Greatness Scale (PGS)
    (pp. 403-408)
  19. Notes
    (pp. 409-432)
  20. Statistical Results
    (pp. 433-462)
  21. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 463-464)
  22. Index
    (pp. 465-475)