Friday, April 6, 2012

Democracy, warts and all, still better

Winston Churchill famously said democracy is the worst form of government -- except for all the others. In fact, democracy, defined as government by the people, is only as good as the caliber of the leaders the people elect to run it. That means everything really hinges on the ability of people to discern talent. Now there's a scary thought. The trouble stems from most people voting from the heart instead of their heads. Brains and competence alone are rarely enough to win votes. Ergo, talented leaders must also be charismatic to get elected. On the other hand, telegenic glad-handers are shoe-ins for public office. Their skill at fooling all of the people all of the time negates the need to demonstrate acumen. Since the baby-kissers outnumber the truly talented, the result is the mess we witness daily on Capitol Hill and, across the pond, at Whitehall. And that, alas, is the context for Churchill's woeful quip. It's also why the Last Lion said, "The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter." I'd almost agree, except for all the other alternatives. Better a system with dumb voters than one with no voters at all.

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