Monday, February 7, 2011

Are We So Sure Democracy is the Best Way?

As we hear nearly universal calls for democracy in the new Egyptian regime, I wonder if we too uncritically accept that democracy is the wisest form of government. Is it so clear that we wouldn't be better-led with some other approach to selecting our leaders?

For example, might this lead to wiser leadership: The country would be led by a 10-person team selected using passive criteria, the way stocks are selected to form an index fund. For example, it might include the most newly retired CEO from one of the 10 largest nonprofits, a randomly selected CEO from the S&P Midcap 400, the most award-winning scientist who completed his PhD in the last ten years, the American Philosophical Association Teacher of the Year, the winner of the American Police Officer's Association Cop of the Year, the National Elementary School Administrator of the Year, plus a few people chosen at random.

Especially when we see how, to get elected in a democratic system, requires so much flesh-pressing of and becoming beholden to special interests, four years of campaigning that requires disingenuousness to be elected, and in which the callow electorate is so manipulated by the ever more sophisticated Madison-Avenue "influencing" techniques, is it so clear that democracy is the best way to elect our leaders?

Your thoughts?


Seraphim said...

I agree we should let the Egyptians choose their own form of government, even if we don't like their choice. Self-determination, is, after all, self-determination.

But regarding your proposed valedictocracy:

Who would elect the people who write and/or approve the passive criteria?

Who would then make sure nobody games the system to get a position of power?

Seraphim said...

Cited from relevant article, "Rule of the Wise":

"The late William F. Buckley, Jr., himself a graduate of Yale, once famously remarked that he would prefer a government of the first 400 names in the Boston phone book to that of the Harvard faculty. Ancient collegiate rivalries aside, Buckley’s sentiment abides."

Marty Nemko said...

Seraphim, the perfect is the enemy of the good. While not perfect, I'd argue that a relatively neutral entity such as CSPAN or Consumer Reports, etc would select the criteria. And there will always be gaming the system, but the proposed system is far less gameable than our current electoral system, for the reasons I outline in my post.

Marty Nemko said...

Actually, I believe the list of passive criteria I've listed would, I believe gather wide support from all quarters of the political spectrum.

Seraphim said...

"a relatively neutral entity such as CSPAN or Consumer Reports, etc would select the criteria"

How long do you think they'd remain "relatively neutral"?

How would it even be possible to tell?

Seraphim said...

"I believe the list of passive criteria I've listed would gather wide support from all quarters of the political spectrum."

Good luck with that.

Marty Nemko said...

Remember, Seraphim that the goal is not perfection. That's impossible. If you shoot down anything that's not perfect, you're stuck with the far-worse status quo. The goal is to come up with a plan that will significantly improve the system. Remember, the perfect is the enemy of the good.

Anonymous said...

I think Buckley was referring to Kennedy's "wise men" style of government at the time he said that.

Kennedy faced down his wise men during the Cuban missile crisis, and chose - against their advice - to directly negotiate with the Soviets.

Kennedy's wise men also guided the Southeast Asia policy into ever-deeper involvement in managing the affairs of South Vietnam and some of the low points in our Latin America policy, setting in train the dictatorships in Brazil and Argentina, two of the largest and wealthiest Latin American nations.

McNamara - a well-respected manager, just appointed President of Ford Motor before being tapped by Kennedy - used well-established management tools to drive us inexorably into a civil war against people who were, at the outset, quoting the democratic training our CIA officers had given them in the late 40s.

The real problem is that the US has such an enormous footprint that few people, and no sane ones, appear interested in leading it. I think the best candidates in the proposed model would say "no," even as now many well-qualified people don't run for Congress, let alone higher office.

Jason Johnson said...

The problem in Egypt is not lack of democracy, it's a lack of economic prosperity for the average Egyptian.

What caused the riots in the streets of Cairo was the fact that bread prices have gone through the roof out of reach of the average Egyptian who only makes about US$2.00 per day. Bread is a major food staple in Egypt.

What Egypt needs is a visionary like Singapore's Lee Kwan Yew to lay the foundation for economic prosperity. Once Egyptians make enough to afford bread, they won't be protesting for democratic change.

What can democracy do for you when you can't feed yourself or your family?

Democracy is a passing fad in the Western world because the people have become apathetic and do not care anymore. What people care about is making money to survive.

For a nation to go from poverty to prosperity, it must travel from stability to order and then from order to progress. Just like Lee Kwan Yew did in Singapore.

Marty Nemko said...

I believe the main reason top people don't seek public office is because currently, it requires a four-year disingenuous press-and-be-beholden-to-special-interest flesh campaign. In the model of leader selection I propose, I believe top people would eagerly serve.