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Arnold Ludwig
Arnold Ludwig
King of the Mountain:  The Nature of Political Leadership
ISBN: 0813122333
King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership
—from the publisher's website

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.

King of the Mountain: The Nature of Political Leadership
Program Air Date: September 15, 2002

BRIAN LAMB, HOST: Arnold M. Ludwig, author of "King of the Mountain," what is a professor of psychiatry doing writing about world leaders?
ARNOLD LUDWIG, AUTHOR, "KING OF THE MOUNTAIN: THE NATURE OF POLITICAL LEADERSHIP": Well, actually, that's a good question. The -- even the more pertinent thing is why politics. I think in the book, I state that even though I take a general interest in politics, I've taken pride in never having been elected to any office in my life. And the few times that I have moved up the ladder, they've been more appointments rather than elections. So you're right, why -- why interested in it?

Actually, this book derives from a prior study that I did some years ago having to do with the most creative people in the 20th century. And that book eventually -- well, was published and that was called "The Price of Greatness." I dealt with 18 different professions in that book. Politics was one of them, but there were many other professions -- science, art, musical composition, dance, and so forth.

And even though I looked at a very large number of people in that study, one of the professions that puzzled me the most was politics because there were a number of great leaders there. And after I completed that project, I got wondering more and more what is political greatness. In almost all the other professions, there's something tangible you can go on. A scientist does research. He publishes his work. An artist performs. An athlete performs. A businessman makes money, products, and so forth. What is it that a politician actually does?

And you know, they -- they -- what is the product, the work product? And in many instances, some people will say this political leader is great, and in other instances, they'll say he's terrible. So how do you measure political achievement? What is political greatness? That's how I started the study.

And what I did was to look at all of the world leaders in the 20th century of every single country in the world...
LAMB: That's 1,941?
LUDWIG: Right. Good for you. Yes. And 199 countries.
LAMB: That's 1,941 leaders in the 20th century.
LUDWIG: That's correct.
LAMB: You looked at all of them.
LUDWIG: I looked at all of them, and I collected information on all of them. But what I did was to home in on a sub-group of them, as well, 377 about whom there was much more information available about their personal lives, about their achievements, about how they gained power, how they lost power, about their families, that type of thing. And from that information, the book evolved.
LAMB: Where did you do it from? What -- what -- where are you located?
LUDWIG: The University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, Kentucky.
LAMB: And how long have you been there?
LUDWIG: Oh, my goodness. I can't count that high. I've been there since 1970.
LAMB: And psychiatry -- is that -- are you a doctor of psychiatry?
LUDWIG: Yes. I'm a physician. I'm a professor of psychiatry.
LAMB: Why that field for you? When did you get interested in that?
LUDWIG: Oh, my goodness. I don't know. I started off medical school thinking about surgery and thinking about general practice, and somewhere along the way, maybe in my third year of medical school...
LAMB: Where'd you go, by the way?
LUDWIG: The University of Pennsylvania. I sat in on a lecture, one of my first psychiatry lectures. And it's like falling in love. You just see somebody, and something clicks. And I just knew the field was for me. So that's -- that's how I ended up in psychiatry.
LAMB: What about the cover of this book?
LAMB: What's this -- what's this saying?
LUDWIG: Well, it -- it says that there is a relationship between political leaders and other primates. And this is a particularly whimsical portrait. It's done by Donald Groller Wilson (ph), and it's -- it says, I believe, a lot of some of the conclusions that I came to in the book.
LAMB: Give us a couple.
LUDWIG: Well, before I give them to you, I really need to explain how I came to these conclusions. When I first started this study, I had no idea at all that I would be making a comparison between political leaders and other types of primates -- chimpanzees, baboons, monkeys, so forth. But as I got into my work more and more, a number of questions began emerging that I could not answer, that puzzled me. For example, why was it that there were so few women rulers in the 20th century?
LAMB: How many have there been?
LUDWIG: There were a total of 27 out of 1,941, which the percentage was 1.4 percent. And of those, half of them -- at least half -- were either wives of some famous politician, they'd borrowed their husbands' charisma, or daughters of him. And so that left -- if you look at just women who have made it on their own, that was about .75 percent. So the chances of a woman becoming a ruler in the 20th century were less than 100-to-1 odds, over 100-to-1 odds against it.

That puzzled me. And the reason it puzzled me was there are very many very brilliant, competent women, and surely, many, many more should have been able to have maneuvered themselves into positions of power despite a lot of social constraints and cultural constraints and that type of thing. So that was one thing.

Another thing that puzzled me as I looked at many of the world leaders, and I -- this was a surprising finding -- was that one could become a leader, the most powerful position in the country, not being very bright. Many of them were illiterate. Many of them were frankly crazy. And even a number of them were demented. And by that, I mean brain-damaged.

So here is the most powerful position in the world, in a way, the most powerful position in the nation. How can people get there, and why?

Another interesting finding I came across had to do with how many political leaders prior to coming to power had demonstrated their physical prowess as a way of gaining power. They were involved in wars, coups, rebellions. Along the way, they were jailed for demonstrations, things along these lines. So part of the process of becoming a ruler for many, many countries had to do with demonstrating some type of physical prowess, some type of courage, some type of heroic behavior. Why? Why would that be necessary, rather than wisdom, accomplishments in -- in certain areas, business, the arts?. Why did having military accomplishment -- why was that so important?

Another puzzling finding had to do with -- as I looked at many of the rulers, I was struck in many countries with how many women they consorted with. For example, how many wives they had compared to others, how many children they produced.
LAMB: Who had the most wives?
LUDWIG: Oh, my goodness. Well, let me tell you this, that the Ashanti, because they did not want to distract their leader too much, put a limit, imposed a limit that the king could only have 3,333 wives. Now, that was supposed to -- with just the -- I mean, my goodness, sometimes with one wife or two wives, that is enough to distract most people. But when you put a limit of 3,300 on somebody, that says something.

Another king was King Motessa (ph), I believe, had supposedly 7,000 wives.
LAMB: But on -- on the -- the ones that most people have heard of.
LUDWIG: The ones that most heard of...
LAMB: Yeah.
LUDWIG: Well, during the 20th century -- well, let me -- let me think. There -- well, I'll -- during the 20th century, there's King Sobhuza of Swaziland in the 20th century I believe had wives in the 60s, 70s, something of that nature. I know that he had over 500 children.
LAMB: How did you go about your research on this? And how long did it take you?
LUDWIG: I -- well, I guess, simply put, I looked at every possible source I could. I looked at every bit of biographical information. I looked at -- oh, I think along the way, I read over 1,200 biographies...
LAMB: Over what time? Over...
LUDWIG: Over about an 18-year span. So the study was done over about 18 years.
LAMB: And the University of Kentucky published this.
LUDWIG: The University Press of Kentucky.
LAMB: Yeah, that's what I mean.
LAMB: And was that an agreement you had with them for years, or did you have to complete the study before they would...
LUDWIG: I had it completed before they did it, yes. I did not have any commitment for publication prior to having completed the study and the book.
LAMB: And what was your goal? What do you -- what do you want people to do with this?
LUDWIG: I believe that this is the most comprehensive, complete study on human rulers that have ever -- that's ever been done. It has more information about political leaders than any other book I've encountered. And my hope with it all is, aside from the thesis that I developed to explain a lot of their behavior, that in my last chapter -- my last chapter in the book is titled "Warmongers and Peacemakers." It's my deep hope that people can look at this and study it and look at alternative ways to stop war and stop aggression.

One of the things that struck me along the way was how much aggression, how much violence there's been not only over time, in the 20th century. I've asked other people to make estimates about the numbers of dead. They don't even come close. There have been, as the result of either wars started by these leaders or disastrous social policies initiated by these leaders, over 200 million deaths in the 20th century. That to me is shocking and frightening, and particularly as we develop even more powerful weapons of destruction.
LAMB: You say in your book that it was 1996, the first time in the 20th century or maybe first time, obviously, in history that there are more democratic countries in the world or more people under democratic rule than -- than there are -- that aren't under democratic rule.
LUDWIG: That -- that is correct.
LAMB: This a good sign?
LUDWIG: Yes. I say it's a good sign. However, I do make the caution -- I do in the book talk about different types of democracy. What certain people mean by democracy is not necessarily what you might mean or what I would mean by democracy. I believe it is a good sign. It's a good sign for a number of reasons. What I found in my studies was that dictators, as compared to democratic leaders, were far more likely to be involved in war than democratic leaders. I believe 74 percent of all dictators had been involved in some type of war -- civil rebellion, something -- during their term in office. That's compared to 37 percent of democratic leaders, twice as many. Still too much -- 37 percent is an awful lot. But it's half of -- of what you might find among dictators.
LAMB: So you were there at Lexington, Kentucky, at the University of Kentucky, a doctor, medical doctor with an expertise in psychiatry.
LAMB: Have you retired, by the way, from the school?
LAMB: How long ago?
LUDWIG: About a year-and-a-half.
LAMB: But for 18 years...
LUDWIG: I'm part -- part-time. I do go there occasionally.
LAMB: But for 18 years, you read 1,200 -- during that time, 1,200 biographies.
LAMB: And you came up with the "Political Greatness Scale."
LAMB: Which is in the book. And I may be wrong about this, but I found, in looking through it, that the number one -- looking at all the numbers, the number one leader you found in the 20th century, from your political greatness scale, was Ataturk.
LAMB: Am I right about that?
LAMB: And after him, Mao. Right after him, FDR. They're very close.
LAMB: I mean, on your point scale, Ataturk had 31, Mao 30, FDR 30, Stalin 29, Lenin 28, Ho Chi Minh 27, De Gaulle 27, Deng -- Deng Xioping 27, Tito 25, Suharto 25. I can go on.
LAMB: But why Ataturk?
LUDWIG: Well, let -- first let me put those numbers in context. Those numbers are not engraved in stone. I would say that probably -- that if you wanted to group people, you'd take maybe a 5 to 7-point swing and include them kind of all together. It just so happened that Ataturk did come out first. Why Ataturk? The political greatness scale -- I guess I need to say word about that, if I may, first.
LAMB: Your invention.
LUDWIG: Yes. Yes. I didn't want to invent it. When I first started the study, I was looking for some type of measure to evaluate political greatness. As I mentioned before, I was puzzled about this phenomenon, and I looked to others. I looked to political scientists. I looked -- searched the literature. I could not find any actual scale that measured political greatness cross-culturally. Of course, people rated the American presidents, this kind of thing, but nothing cross-cultural.

So then the question came to me, how do you go about evaluating political -- what is political greatness? And then I had a kind of "Eureka" experience. Well, why not look at those people who are acknowledged by almost everyone as being great political leaders? Who are the famous names in history over time that come to mind when somebody says "Mention a great political leader"? People who come to mind are people like Julius Caesar, Augustus Caesar, Alexander the Great, Bismarck...
LAMB: These are -- the immortals.
LUDWIG: The immortals, the political immortals. Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, people along those lines. And I came up with 26 of those people. OK, these -- I think almost everybody would say these are the political immortals. And then I asked the question, "What do these immortals have in common?" Are there any common denominators? And lo and behold, I found a number of common denominators. Almost every single one of them had these characteristics.

And I then used these characteristics, 11 of them, in developing the political greatness scale and tested the scale in terms of its reliability, in terms of its validity. It was interesting that the scale correlated extremely highly -- extremely highly -- with the amount of words allotted to these individuals in the Encyclopedia Britannica or the Encyclopedia Americana. So it had a validity to it. So this is the political greatness scale, 11 items on it.
LAMB: What are some of the items?
LUDWIG: One item -- unfortunately, several of them have to do with conquests, unfortunately. But this is how people evaluate political greatness. Military victories, more territory, social engineering, changing the very nature of the society, economic prosperity, moral -- being a moral exemplar, in a way -- people like George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, for example.
LAMB: So it doesn't have anything to do with whether you feel warm and fuzzy about somebody.
LUDWIG: No. It has to do with accomplishments, political achievement.
LAMB: Is there any comparison with what you've done with political greatness scale to the "Time" magazine "Person of the Year," where people get outraged when they see Hitler on the -- on the cover, and they think that they're naming him a great person?
LUDWIG: Yes. I think that's an excellent kind of comparison. By "greatness" I mean nothing about how you feel toward the -- you know, do you admire this person? I mean, some of these people are despicable. They're horrible people. However, their achievements, political achievements, are monumental.
LAMB: Let me just show -- we'll put this on the screen, and I'll read down the American presidents, so people can see how you fit on the scale. If 31 was the top at Ataturk, and FDR was the top of all American presidents. You then have Truman at 23 points, Theodore Roosevelt 23, Ronald Reagan 22, William McKinley 20, Dwight Eisenhower 18, LBJ 18, George Bush the first 15, John F. Kennedy 15, Bill Clinton 15, Jimmy Carter 14, Calvin Coolidge 14, William Howard Taft 12, Gerald Ford 11, Herbert Hoover 10 and Warren Harding 9. Those are presidents in the 20th century.

I want to ask you quickly, though, about one of them. Why William McKinley so high?
LUDWIG: Why William McKinley? A lot of people don't realize that William McKinley was quite an activist president. He was -- he secured the Philippines for the Americans. He liberated -- helped liberate Cuba. There were many things that he did that actually, on this political greatness scale, scored him -- gave him higher points than some of the other kind of presidents.

I might mention, too, that as you rank them -- if you were to look at those rankings compared to some of the rankings that have been given for presidents in the 20th century, you would find a very high correlation. It's surprising how close that is to what others have independently come up with on I don't know what kind of measures.
LAMB: But then on the other end of the scale, I mean, the one that got the least number of points is somebody -- and I'm not sure I'm pronouncing it right -- named Steyn, who was with the Orange Free State starting in power in 1899.
LAMB: You know who that was?
LUDWIG: Well, he just simply accomplished nothing. (LAUGHTER)
LAMB: He got a 2. And Arias of Panama got 3. And Joseph Cook of Australia in 1941 got 5. Samuel Doe of Liberia got -- 1980 -- got 5. And then you have somebody named Quisling, I believe...
LAMB: ... got 5. Somoza -- you got the Somoza father and son.
LAMB: Juan Bosch. Kim Campbell, Canadian...
LAMB: ... above us there -- only got a 6 from 1993.
LUDWIG: Sorry!
LAMB: Does it mean, basically, that nothing happened on their watch?
LUDWIG: It means not only did nothing happen, it means that there was corruption. They often ended their time in disgrace.
LAMB: Could they be there for a short time? Like, Kim Campbell was there a very short time.
LUDWIG: A very short while. Yes. Yes. And that's another criterion. How long are they in office, in terms of -- as to whether or not they will achieve greatness -- how -- how they'll score on this political greatness scale.
LAMB: Go back to why Ataturk on top of all these people.
LUDWIG: OK. Let's look at what Ataturk did. And again, mind you, take this in the context of some of the other great leaders that -- some of the immortals I've mentioned. Ataturk created -- started Turkey. He dismantled the Ottoman empire, which was in existence at the time. He not only was the founder of the country, creating a country, but he caused a profound social change in Turkey. He introduced democracy into Turkey, somewhat a militant type of democracy, but a democracy nonetheless. He separated -- he was one of the -- first time in history to kind of separate church and state. In fact, even though it is predominantly a Muslim country, it's one of the few ones where certain types of freedoms are permitted. And in fact, the military is obliged to intervene if there's any threat to the democracy in any way. So at every single level, Ataturk had an incredible effect, and his achievements were remarkable.
LAMB: You seem to enjoy writing about this man right here. We'll get a close-up of him, King Farouk of Egypt. When was he king?
LUDWIG: Oh, about 1950 -- up till about 1950, something like that.
LAMB: What do you see in this picture? He's 330 pounds, you say.
LUDWIG: Well, I introduce it -- I -- I do try to introduce a bit of humor throughout the book to make the facts a lot more palatable. I said that people are supposed to grow in office, and certainly, King Farouk did, in every way. And...
LAMB: You call him "Little Farouky."
LUDWIG: I called him -- I -- "Little Farouky." He was a brat and pampered. And I might say here is a leader of a country, and he is supposed to uphold the faith in the country. From my information, he never really read the Quran. He never read a newspaper. He never read a book. He almost had people go to school for him to digest the information beforehand. And I guess I introduced him for the reason -- I am not overall too fond of the kings that I have encountered in the 20th century, and...
LAMB: Who served the longest of all your leaders? And you -- you feature him in the book.
LUDWIG: Yes. The -- oh, gosh! Austria, Hapsburg...
LAMB: Franz Joseph.
LUDWIG: Franz Joseph, 68 years. Thank you -- 68 years.
LAMB: How did he stay in power for 68 years?
LUDWIG: That is an excellent question. Persistence. He was a very unimaginative person. I do mention that he had a rather unique political and military strategy to -- when he went to war, and he went to war a number of times. He would usually concede or give up before his country lost, and then once he gave up, he would then try to start rebellions. It just -- I mean, it -- there are all kinds of weird things with him.
LAMB: You break folks down into categories, the leaders, of monarchs, tyrants, visionaries, authoritarians, transitionals and democrats. Are those your categories?
LAMB: What would a -- what would a tyrant have been?
LUDWIG: A tyrant was somebody who went into office and essentially ruled the country for power and perks predominantly, usually military rule, oppression.
LAMB: Can you name one?
LUDWIG: Oh, gosh. I can name a number. Duvalier in Haiti, Papa Doc Duvalier. I think we have one now in the Middle East in Iraq.
LAMB: Saddam Hussein?
LAMB: What a -- what's a visionary?
LUDWIG: A visionary is someone who -- whose ostensible reason in office or in being a leader is to transform the country according to his vision. And I say "his" because they're all men here. And for example, Mao transformed an entire nation into this communist image and his own notion of communism. Stalin did that. He was a visionary.
LAMB: What about an authoritarian?
LUDWIG: Authoritarian would be someone who is not necessarily holding office for his own gains, but who believes in law and order, who believes in the country. Juan Peron, for example, would have been an authoritarian leader.
Copyright National Cable Satellite Corporation 2002. Personal, noncommercial use of this transcript is permitted. No commercial, political or other use may be made of this transcript without the express permission of National Cable Satellite Corporation.