This past weekend we had an opportunity to chat with Earl Hodges and Baron Floyd at some length as well as meet with 10-12 more citizens. During a conversation I heard two citizens speaking when one, obviously unaware we could overhear, said,
"Oh, no. I can't mention that to the king."Her companion pressed her to speak to us leading the first to say,
"If he were involved he might have to do something. It is best if I deal with it and take it to the baron if I must."We did not press for details when we spoke to the citizens later.
We were very gratified by this discussion. The speaker showed no fear or awe of the royal office, she simply did not feel it was appropriate. This is very directly true - her baron has the duty and right to be her first recourse. More critically, she was obviously determined to resolve the issue on her own. This is a core Distributist concept - solve an issue within a family and if you cannot go then to the community, then the most local authority, etc. This is one of the reasons we have pointed out before that Monarchy is inherently Distributist.
Just as critically, the citizen was aware of a key point - if we felt compelled to act or make a decision, then our decision is final. Remember, here is no one to appeal to once the king has ruled. While not as final, this responsibility adheres to any noble within the Kingdom - any legal or political or leadership decision they make is at least potentially final. While to an elected official in a transient position or even to a bureaucrat far removed from accountability this can seem like a perk of position, to an aristocrat who both holds a position for life and has a personal relationship to the people he leads this imposes a greater burden.
Because of this we recommend that leaders approach problems with a series of questions:
Who has authority?- this is straightforward - if you do not have authority over a particular event, concern, etc. you cannot directly lead but rather need to defer to proper authority. For example, a baron has no authority to order a parish priest to avoid certain topics in his homilies.
Or else what?- Is the considered action or change better than doing nothing? If it isn't better than doing nothing it might be best to do nothing. While a baron may well have the authority to demand that the commons of his village be managed a certain way, if his citizens are managing it well and to their own satisfaction his intercession may be superfluous or even detrimental.
Compared to what? All actions considered should be compared to other alternatives and the various risks, costs, etc. to make sure the decided action or change is the best one possible. If the baron was considering regulating the use of the village commons because he is concerned local agriculture is too narrowly focused and realizes a single bad season could impoverish his poorest citizens is the best solution regulation? Perhaps agricultural training would be better? Subsidized seeds for alternate crops? Simply storing food against future famine?
And then what?- What are the foreseeable consequences of the various options? If the baron subsidized alternate agriculture will the alternative remain dependent on subsidies to continue?
To what end?- What is the ultimate goal of the change or action? Does the proposed change or action actually lead to that end? If the alternative solutions are susceptible to the same potential disasters as the status quo are they truly viable solutions?
Can this be done by someone closer to the issue?- All problems should be addressed by the closest/lowest-ranking/most proximate authority whenever possible. In the example, the baron should probably begin by simply meeting with the various farmers, explaining his concerns, and asking them to solve the problem for themselves thereby taking on the role of mentor and collaborator to the farmers' growth. If the citizens need assistance or cannot solve the issue alone then the baron's actions will be expected and welcome.
The last bit of advice we have for leaders is simple - when you decide that you do need to act, act with speed and resolve.