During a site seeing tour, I learned that the Palazzo Vecchio, was the political center of Florence, centuries ago. Looking at the building, I was puzzled. It didn’t look like a government center at all; there was nothing ornate about it. In fact, it looked more like a prison with barricades. Then, I learned why.
Long ago, Florentine citizens had already figured human nature out. Leaders tend to fall in love with power; they tend to be persuaded by things other than the common good and their motives are not always pure. (Is that an understatement or what?)
This building held four government officials. It was barricaded to keep the rich class from entering and lobbying for their special interests, then paying off the politicians. The government officials only stayed in power for two months, since they were only making decisions for the local area, and wouldn’t need more time to gather information. Once their brief term of office was over, the bureaucrats returned to their jobs, as citizens. This kept their motives pure and their perspective on the common good of all the people.
Hmmm. Great lessons to be learned for us today. I believe America got into trouble when “politics” became a life long career. Over time, elected officials became more concerned with getting re-elected than serving the people.
Understanding human nature doesn’t require us to be cynics. We can still see the good in all people. For the Florentines, it simply meant putting guardrails in place so that the “good” could surface and selfish interests would be held in check.
Oh boy, could we use some of these guardrails today.