Tuesday, March 06, 2012
Here is a recent study that discovers an idea nearly 3,000 years old. That idea? People aren't smart enough for democracy. They can't recognize the best political candidates when they see them. Incompetent people can't judge competence. Greek philosophers called for an educated elite to rule the mob, which presumably could not rule itself because the common citizen wasn't capable The problem with the idea is that the elite can't recognize competence either. Their arrogance becomes self-selecting and narrowly focused. They end by choosing people just like themselves even though the dynamic of the world changes constantly. Mandarins in China kept the political system running for a long time but eventually it imploded because it was out of touch. Democracy is an ugly and frequently stupid process, but it muddles through. It recognizes that life isn't a series of neatly rationalized boxes. Idiots will get into office and intelligent people too. They rub against one another in the process of legislating and maintain a sense of reality. The research is a reminder to PR practitioners to remain skeptical of science as much as anything else.