EXCERPT: LINCOLN ON LEADERSHIP FOR TODAY

FROM THE AUTHOR’S NOTE AT THE BEGINNING OF THE BOOK
    By studying Lincoln’s life, along with his words and actions in the context of history, I believe we can glean meaning from the remarkably moral and ethical life he led. And the lessons learned just might become a model for more effective leadership in our own time. Abraham Lincoln’s example represents the best of the America to which we may aspire. He showed us the kind of people we can be. Not an America that divides, but an America that pulls together. Not a shortsighted America, but an America that sees beyond and deeper. That is the Lincoln of this book. In the end, though, it’s up to each of us individually to determine what part of Lincoln we might use in our own daily lives to help make this world a better place in which to live.

 

FROM CHAPTER 1: A JUST AND GENEROUS AND PROSPEROUS SYSTEM

     The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a surplus with which to buy tools or land for himself, then labors on his own account another while, and at length hires another new beginner to help him.

     This is free labor — the just and generous, and prosperous system, which opens the way for all — gives hope to all, and energy, and progress, and improvement of condition to all.

Abraham Lincoln
September 30, 1859

Handling a Recession

Abraham Lincoln experienced two major recessions during his political career — the Financial Panic of 1837 and the Financial Panic of 1857. The actions he proposed as a state representative to deal with the first recession were not enacted because he did not have enough power or support. But as president, the actions he took to counter the next recession (which were essentially the same as those he had previously proposed) not only worked, but helped to garner victory for the North during the Civil War.

Periodic recessions are a normal part of the modern business cycle, having occurred at an average of one every seven years since World War II. Most recently, the Great Recession of 2007–2009 (the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression of 1929–1933) resulted in unprecedented levels of unemployment, mortgage foreclosures, and global banking credit crises. Its impact was eventually relieved by extraordinary and intense federal government intervention. Major controversy erupted about whether or not to enact forceful new laws to prevent the unscrupulous actions that precipitated the Great Recession, and whether or not to prosecute those who had been involved.

Judging from his views on recessions during his time, I believe Lincoln would have approved of using the power of the federal government to take actions such as saving the automobile industry, bailing out “too big to fail” corporations, and implementing the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP). But he would have deplored the unregulated, greedy, and dishonest practices (such as the subprime mortgage crisis) that helped precipitate the Great Recession in the first place. My sense is that he would propose to Congress and push for tough legislation to prevent such abuses in the future. And Lincoln would prosecute those responsible and advocate harsh prison sentences to send a message so that such abuses should never happen again.