Elections chose for ability to win Elections

So I was reading about the building of the trans-continental railroad (and Napoleon) and wondering to myself why so many of our politicians seem utterly lacking in leadership skills like actual competence or ability to get things done.

Napoleon rose to the top of the French Military (as far as I know,) by winning battles. Railroad tycoons got to be railroad tycoons by building railroads. Steve Jobs got to be famous by … innovating in product design? Thomas Edison invented the lightbulb and understood the necessity of building a universal power grid so he could sell them to everyone.

George Washington was a leader, not a politician. He got into office because everyone involved decided, based on the job he’d done leading the army during the Revolutionary War, that he’d be a good national leader in peacetime.

But systems have unexpected consequences–you get what you select for, not what you intend to select for. The founders wanted voters to simply come to a rational agreement about who would be the country’s best leader. Since then, we have accrued dozens of layers of complications–political parties and primary votes; super pacs and campaign ads. I have no doubt the founders would have despised it all.

In our case, the electoral system now selects for people who are good at winning elections.



5 thoughts on “Elections chose for ability to win Elections

  1. The main advantage of democracy isn’t that we can pick good leaders, it is that we can peacefully remove bad ones. I wish some developing countries and micro-states would try out modified versions of democracy so that we could see if there’s a better way of doing things.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some do we just don’t recognise and view there experiences as applicable to other nations. For instance most of the remaining bits of British clay both in Europe and in the Caribbean have basically an apointed governor with executive powers residing over a popularly elected legislature while defense and foreign policy is taken care of by the UK. Hong Kong has an interesting system which is similar to previous examples but has the parliment filled by representatives choosen by career bodies as well as sufferage. Malaysia is an elective monarchy federal state with some constituent parts (Sabah & Sarawak) having their own immigration policies and significant autonomy. Perhaps these are just remanents of an era that was more tolerant to other forms of government, the prestige of the British empire or even just their status as tax havens.


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