In Sickness and in Power: Illnesses in Heads of Government during the Last 100 Years (Hardcover)

In Sickness and in Power: Illnesses in Heads of Government during the Last 100 Years By David Owen Cover Image
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The course of modern world history has been critically shaped by the physical and mental illnesses of heads of state, sometimes in the public eye but usually in secrecy. Democratic politicians as diverse as Woodrow Wilson, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Churchill, Kennedy, Johnson, Nixon, Pompidou, Mitterrand, Blair, George W. Bush, Chirac, and Sharon all lied about their health. Between 1906 and 2008 seven Presidents are judged to have been mentally ill while in office: Theodore Roosevelt (bipolar disorder), Taft (breathing-related sleep disorder), Wilson (major depressive disorder), Coolidge (major depressive disorder), Hoover (major depressive disorder), Johnson (bipolar disorder), and Nixon (alcohol abuse). Many despots-such as Hitler, Stalin, Saddam Hussein, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, and Robert Mugabe-have been branded by the press and public opinion as suffering mental illnesses. Lord Owen argues neither Hitler nor Stalin were mad in any sense the medical profession recognizes (whereas Mussolini and Mao had depression, possibly bipolar disorder).

Something happens to some leaders' mental stability while in power that is captured by Bertrand Russell's phrase, the intoxication of power. Hubristic behavior with excessive self-confidence is almost an occupational hazard for heads of government, as it is for leaders in other fields, such as business and the military, for it feeds on isolation and excessive deference. Owen argues that a medically definable condition called Hubris Syndrome affects some heads of government the longer they stay in office or after a specific triggering event such as 9/11. Recent leaders such as George W. Bush, Tony Blair, and Margaret Thatcher have developed Hubris Syndrome. Symptoms include patterns of reckless behavior, bad judgment, and operational incompetence, often compounded by delusions of personal infallibility and divine exemption from political accountability. Lord Owen makes the cases that democratic societies need to implement new procedures for dealing with illness in their own heads of government, and that they need to empower the United Nations to use new procedures and means for removing despots whose behavior becomes so hubristic as to pose a grave threat to their own people or the world.

About the Author

David Owen (Lord Owen) is Chancellor of the University of Liverpool and sits as a crossbencher in the House of Lords. He was the British Foreign Secretary under Prime Minister James Callaghan from 1977 to 1979. He co-founded the Social Democratic Party in 1981 and led it from 1983 to 1990. As EU negotiator, he collaborated with Cyrus Vance, former US Secretary of State, to put forward the Vance-Owen Peace Plan for Bosnia in 1993. Before entering politics, he practiced as a clinical neurologist and psychiatrist at St. Thomas's Hospital in London. Lord Owen was Minister of State for Health from 1974 to 1976. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and sits on the board of Abbott Laboratories. He is the author of eleven books, including The Hubris Syndrome: Bush, Blair and the Intoxication of Power, In Sickness and in Health: The Politics of Medicine, Face the Future (Praeger Publishers), and A Future That Will Work (Praeger Publishers).

Product Details
ISBN: 9780313360053
ISBN-10: 0313360057
Publisher: Praeger
Publication Date: May 30th, 2008
Pages: 448
Language: English