NEWLN: MARK R. HOROWITZ for United Press International
The powers invested in the leader of a modern nation represent an interesting array of responsibilities: control of the armed forces, economic policy, foreign affairs.
People demand a leader who can takes charge of a country's destiny. Today the litmus test of leadership is economic policy.
Whether Boris Yeltsin survives as president of Russia or is toppled may depend largely on whether his economic reforms work or fail.
The U.S. presidential election may hinge on which candidate the voters believe can move the nation out of the economic doldrums.
Since when have people demanded leaders take a hand in every aspect of national life, including commerce, and responsibility for seeing all is well?
That concept of leadership began to take shape around 1300.
Much of the ancient and medieval world was preoccupied with warfare, civil strife and political intrigues.
This is not to say strong rulers failed to appear. They did. But it was not unusual in those times to see nobles and merchants running their own shows and territories. Leaders came and went, but the merchant class went on.
Following the era of strong popes, who sought to increase their temporal control over kings and nations, monarchs moved to assert their royal authority.
From 1300 on, strong kings were able to bring some semblance of stability to a troubled world.
Feudal soldiers beholden to nobles were transformed into national armies. Administration became centralized and rulers turned their thoughts to economic policies.
'The power once distributed throughout the feudal pyramid was concentrated in the hands of the ruler,' one historian noted.
And a theory was postulated to justify the shift from local power to central rule.
Jean Bodin, a 16th-century French lawyer and academician, championed absolute monarchy and the 'unlimited power over citizens and subjects, unrestrained by law.'
The theory was that kings ruled by the grace of God, need answer only to God for their actions. That left a monarch's detractors no legal ground in this world.
With his army, his loyal court supporters, and revenue from lands once held by rivals and independent nobles, the king was free to wage war, set economic policies and control every aspect of the state.
Charles VIII of France (1483-1498), Henry VIII of England (1509- 1547), and Ferdinand V of Spain (1452-1516) all were beneficiaries of the change from a system of powerful nobles and autonomous dukedoms to centralized power.
Their control varied, depending on the political makeup of their countries. Henry VIII had to answer, in part, to a parliament. Charles VIII and Ferdinand barely answered to their assemblies at all.
But even if they paid occasional lip service to token national assemblies, it was accepted that the monarch set national policy and was responsible for the fortunes of the country.
President Bush and his peers around the world are players in what has become a very old game: leadership. The rules are simple. Those who can persuade the people they have the ability to take charge will receive a vote of confidence. Those found lacking will be turned out.NEWLN: ------
(Mark R. Horowitz is the author of 'Stonehenge to Star Wars: Discovering the Present by Exploring the Past.') NEWLN: NEWLN: