Who Should Have Power? Who Will Have Power?
by David Sims
THERE ARE NOTIONS, popular with the luminaries of the American Revolution, that I would dispute. One of them was put forth by Thomas Jefferson, an otherwise sensible fellow who became fond of the silly idea that the common man represented a reservoir of wisdom that would nudge the country back into its true course, if it were to stray from it. Which is nonsense. Common folk are no such resource, and their votes constitute no such restoring force. You don’t get wisdom by summing mediocrities, and most people throughout all the ages have been mediocrities.
Democracy is a stupid idea for the simple reason that the wisest people are always outvoted. It really is possible for millions of people, each voting in accordance with his own interests, to drive their national vehicle off the cliff of hard reality, so that they and their country die.
Imagine that you took apart two old-fashioned pocket watches and scattered their parts across a pair of tables. To one of the tables, you invited a hundred people, randomly picked off the street, and told them to vote democratically on how to put the pieces back together again. To the other table, you invited a watch-maker. At which table would a working watch most likely be reassembled first?
However, there’s a come-back argument. For a system of government other than democracy, who chooses the leader? That is, who ensures that a statesman is invited to assemble policy at the national table, and not some blowhard politician whose only talent is talking magnificently about himself?
No, not the common people. They aren’t wise — and are no proper judges of wisdom in others. If you leave the choice of leadership to them, they’ll pick blowhard politicians almost every time. That would be true even if blowhard politicians and wise statesmen occurred among the candidates for high office in equal numbers. Of course, the real situation is even worse, since for every wise statesman who comes along, there are about a thousand blowhard politicians.
I think that conflict might determine which countries were the best ruled, with victory going to the more wisely led countries most of the time. People would sooner or later learn their lesson regarding the pursuit of power by those wannabe leaders who are ambitious but unworthy. Or, rather, the people who survived would learn that lesson.
From a divine point of view, it isn’t all that important how many countries don’t learn it in time, and fall as a consequence. From a cosmic perspective, it isn’t important how many people are enslaved or exterminated. What matters is that natural selection would tend to preserve those countries that did learn rapidly enough, and the arrangements that those countries had made for the marriage of wisdom and power would be preserved along with them.
I could speculate about what those arrangements would be, but I would only be guessing. But that’s why liberals are foolish to sneer at tradition. Traditional mores and culture are usually well-culled adaptations for the people among whom they evolved. What even the greatest minds would be hard put to contrive through planning, Nature brings forth by the processes of natural selection. Including war.
For anyone interested in betting with the odds on his own survival and that of his country, I’d give this advice: If you want to be on the side that wins in the long run, you must first recognize that what decides struggles is power and the skill with which it is put to use.
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