Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How do we get good government?

The terms oligarchy (rule by an elite), plutocracy (rule by the rich), kleptocracy (rule by thieves), geriocracy (rule by the old) and nepotism (hiring and promotion of relatives) are always used to describe bad government, government not run for the general good. What is the preferred alternative to those sorts of bad rule? It is a meritocracy (a system in which people rise to positions of authority and responsibility based on their performance and accomplishments), of course. What other good alternative could there possibly be?

So, if we want a meritocracy, rather than those bad things how do we bring it about? When choosing for whom to vote for president you would make your selection based on the candidate's experience, education and accomplishments, of course. You would not automatically select the next highest ranking person in the governing council like they do in China, the old Soviet Union and the Mormon Church – that would give you an oligarchy. You do not automatically select the richest candidate (or the candidate who represents the richest people) – that would give you a plutocracy. You would not automatically select the best thief, the oldest candidate or the candidate most closely related to the previous ruler.

Of course, your political orientation would determine what type of experience and accomplishments are most relevant and important. You may or may not think that having been a community organizer in one's youth is a plus. You may or may not think that having been held prisoner and tortured is experience we want in our president. But experience and accomplishments are what you would look at in making your choice.

So what are we to make of people who are wary of politicians they suspect may "be looking down on people like me" or may "think they are better than me" because the candidate is very accomplished? What are we to make of suggestions that we select a politician for president that gives us the impression that we could just hang out and share a beer with them? How could choosing our leaders on that basis result in good government? Wouldn't that result in a fratocracy (rule by frat boys)?

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