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The Problem of Incapacitated Heads of State

by Christopher Chantrill
March 15, 2006 at 4:06 pm

WHAT DO WE do if the President is incapacitated? Or a drunk, or a depressive?

That’s the topic of an interesting essay by David Owen in QJ Med. Lord Owen was British Foreign Secretary in the Labour Government from 1977 to 1979.

We all know that President Wilson was completely incapacitated by a stroke in 1919. But did you know that President Mitterand of France was diagnosed with prostate cancer in 1981 and became almost incapacitated later on in his second term as president? No, you probably don’t because they kept it pretty secret.

And Prime Minister Anthony Eden of Great Britain was fueled with amphetamines throughout the Suez Crisis of 1956.

What should we do about presidential incapacitation, and how much secrecy is acceptable?

Winston Churchill, of course, was a depressive and endured many attacks of the “black dog.” He had a heart attack in the White House in 1941. And what about his drinking?

In May 1953, Churchill as Prime Minister was standing in for Eden as Foreign Secretary weeks before he had a very serious stroke. A diplomat from the Foreign Office records lunching with him and his Private Secretary, ‘The lunch lasted for three and a quarter hours. A varied and noble procession of wines with which I could not keep pace—champagne, port, brandy, cointreau; Winston drank a great deal of all and ended with two glasses of whisky and soda’. It is hard to imagine functioning on such an input, but he had been used to it for over fifty years.

What should be the rules regarding the health of the head of government, and when should we step in and replace them?

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Christopher Chantrill blogs at www.roadtothemiddleclass.com.  His Road to the Middle Class is forthcoming.

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What Liberals Think About Conservatives

[W]hen I asked a liberal longtime editor I know with a mainstream [publishing] house for a candid, shorthand version of the assumptions she and her colleagues make about conservatives, she didn't hesitate. “Racist, sexist, homophobic, anti-choice fascists,” she offered, smiling but meaning it.
Harry Stein, I Can't Believe I'm Sitting Next to a Republican


US Life in 1842

Families helped each other putting up homes and barns. Together, they built churches, schools, and common civic buildings. They collaborated to build roads and bridges. They took pride in being free persons, independent, and self-reliant; but the texture of their lives was cooperative and fraternal.
Michael Novak, The Spirit of Democratic Capitalism


Taking Responsibility

[To make] of each individual member of the army a soldier who, in character, capability, and knowledge, is self-reliant, self-confident, dedicated, and joyful in taking responsibility [verantwortungsfreudig] as a man and a soldier. — Gen. Hans von Seeckt
MacGregor Knox, Williamson Murray, ed., The dynamics of military revolution, 1300-2050


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For [the left] there is only the state and the individual, nothing in between. No family to rely on, no friend to depend on, no community to call on. No neighbourhood to grow in, no faith to share in, no charities to work in. No-one but the Minister, nowhere but Whitehall, no such thing as society - just them, and their laws, and their rules, and their arrogance.
David Cameron, Conference Speech 2008


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Imagining that all order is the result of design, socialists conclude that order must be improvable by better design of some superior mind.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


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Frederick Turner, Beauty: The Value of Values


Responsible Self

[The Axial Age] highlights the conception of a responsible self... [that] promise[s] man for the first time that he can understand the fundamental structure of reality and through salvation participate actively in it.
Robert N Bellah, "Religious Evolution", American Sociological Review, Vol. 29, No. 3.


Religion, Property, and Family

But the only religions that have survived are those which support property and the family. Thus the outlook for communism, which is both anti-property and anti-family, (and also anti-religion), is not promising.
F.A. Hayek, The Fatal Conceit


Racial Discrimination

[T]he way “to achieve a system of determining admission to the public schools on a nonracial basis,” Brown II, 349 U. S., at 300–301, is to stop assigning students on a racial basis. The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race.
Roberts, C.J., Parents Involved in Community Schools vs. Seattle School District


Postmodernism

A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ’merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.
Roger Scruton, Modern Philosophy


Physics, Religion, and Psychology

Paul Dirac: “When I was talking with Lemaître about [the expanding universe] and feeling stimulated by the grandeur of the picture that he has given us, I told him that I thought cosmology was the branch of science that lies closest to religion. However [Georges] Lemaître [Catholic priest, physicist, and inventor of the Big Bang Theory] did not agree with me. After thinking it over he suggested psychology as lying closest to religion.”
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©2007 Christopher Chantrill