Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Losing the Mandate of Heaven

The Mandate of Heaven (天命 Pīnyīn: Tiānmìng) is a traditional Chinese philosophical concept concerning the legitimacy of rulers. Heaven would bless the authority of a just ruler, but would be displeased with a despotic ruler and would withdraw its mandate. The Mandate of Heaven would then transfer to those who would rule best.

The Mandate of Heaven had no time limitations, but instead depended on the just performance of the ruler. The Mandate does not require that a legitimate emperor be of noble birth, and in fact, dynasties were often founded by people of modest birth (such as the Han dynasty and Ming dynasty). The concept of the Mandate of Heaven was first used to support the rule of the kings of the Zhou Dynasty and later the Emperors of China. Wikipedia

Sometimes, as Lehman CEO Richard Fuld recently discovered, the Mandate of Heaven is removed suddenly.

Mr Fuld, who has been testifying on the financial crisis before the US House Oversight Committee, was attacked on a Sunday shortly after it was announced that the banking giant was bankrupt.

Following rumours that the incident had occurred, Vicki Ward, a US journalist, said "two very senior sources - one incredibly senior source" had confirmed it to her. "He went to the gym after ... Lehman was announced as going under," she told CNBC. "He was on a treadmill with a heart monitor on. Someone was in the corner, pumping iron and he walked over and he knocked him out cold.

"And frankly after having watched [Mr Fuld's testimony to the committee], I'd have done the same too."

"I thought he was shameless ... I thought it was appalling. He blamed everyone ... He blamed everybody but himself."

But one week earlier, I suspect that same person would have been quite eager to get Mr. Fuld a towel.