“It is accepted that the state is the representative of God. Therefore the state's first business is to make citizens God-conscious. That is the state's first business. Any state who is neglecting this duty, he immediately becomes unqualified to hold the state office, either he may be president or the king.” (Shrila Prabhupada)
A hot topic in the news a few months back was the collapse of the housing market. Five or six years ago, the government encouraged people to buy homes instead of just renting apartments. Even if people couldn’t afford to buy a new house, the government offered incentives to allow them to “live the American dream.” Congress forced regulated mortgage companies like Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to lend money to people who weren’t qualified to receive the loans. The motive behind the move was to increase fairness and provide affordable housing. While their intentions may have been noble, the result was a complete collapse of the banking industry due to the nonpayment of these loans.
Beginning with the last president and continuing with the new one, the government’s policy is now to bail out these ailing banks by providing them money for their sustainability. As part of the process, the government is subsidizing the failed mortgages for the people who couldn’t afford to pay them. A well known stock trader, Rick Santelli, lashed out at the president on cable television.
“The government is promoting bad behavior! How this, president and new administration, why didn't you put up a website to have people vote on the Internet as a referendum to see if we really want to subsidize the losers' mortgages or would we like to at least buy cars and buy houses in foreclosure and give 'em to people that might have a chance to actually prosper down the road and reward people that could carry the water instead of drink the water. This is America! How many of you people want to pay for your neighbor's mortgage that has an extra bathroom and can't pay their bills? Raise their hand. (boos) President Obama, are you listening?”
News quickly spread about Santelli’s rant, and word finally reached the Obama Administration. The president’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, told reporters that the president and others were laughing at Santelli’s anger and rage. Gibbs went on to say, “I think we left a few months ago the adage that if it was good for a derivatives trader, that it was good for Main Street. I think the verdict is in on that."
Herein lies the flaw with today’s government and society in general. Rick Santelli and other derivatives traders are citizens just like everybody else. They have an equal right to the protections afforded by government. Most of today’s leaders, including President Obama, look at society in groups. They pit classes of people against each other by favoring one group at the expense of another. The law-abiding tax payers of the country did nothing wrong, and they have a legitimate gripe when they see their tax dollars transferred to people who made bad decisions.
According to Vedic philosophy, one should not be a king, a spiritual master, or a father, unless they can release their dependents from the cycle of birth and death. A leader’s job is to provide protection to all the people, and to impart spiritual knowledge on them. Protection should be provided to all the citizens equally, without favoring anyone. During Vedic times, the brahmanas were the only group that enjoyed preferential treatment. The priestly class of men were involved in pious activity, studying the Vedas, and performing sacrifices for the benefit of society as a whole. Voluntarily accepting an austere lifestyle, the kings would regularly give in charity to them, for a society requires an intelligentsia which can provide spiritual guidance. Aside from the brahmanas, a leader’s role is to administer justice fairly and equally.
"Obliged we have been, since good Rama capable of reading character, will be the lord of earth, and our protector. He is of a heart devoid of arrogance, and is learned, and righteous-souled, and affectionate to his brothers. Raghava loves us even as he does his own brothers." (citizens of Ayodhya, Valmiki Ramayana, Ayodhya Kanda, Sec 6)
Lord Rama, an incarnation of Lord Krishna during the Treta Yuga, was set to be installed as the new king of Ayodhya by His father Maharaja Dashratha. The citizens of the town heard about this news and were greatly excited. They all loved Rama very much and they knew that He cared for everyone equally. A good leader provides protection for everyone and doesn’t play favorites. Since He was God Himself, He had perfect qualifications for becoming a monarch. Lord Rama specifically incarnated to show us the proper path of dharma, and to bestow His mercy upon all the people of the world.
Not only Rama, but all the kings descending from Maharaja Ikshvaku exhibited similar behavior. A leader’s duty is to create an atmosphere conducive to the cultivation of spiritual knowledge. Leaders today are themselves karmis, so they view artha, or economic development, as the primary mission in life. According to Vedic injunctions, the king, or leader of a country, is God’s representative in matters of administering justice and providing protection. Whether someone owns their own home, rents, or lives with family members, they are all equally entitled to the mercy of the Lord delivered through His representatives.
Lord Rama would regularly hold town hall meetings where people could question Him directly. No one was laughed at, and all the people were treated fairly. They knew He loved all of them, and they were loyal to Him in return. Today’s leaders would be well advised to learn from God’s example.