How do we encourage capable people to pursue a life in politics so we don't end up with the idiots that seem to be currently in charge of this world? My nephew is taking a first year course in Philosophy. They are studying The Republic by Plato. In this dialogue Plato describes a system in which children are generally educated until they are 18 years old at which time they are sent to 2 years of intense physical training not unlike a military stint. At this point the best are chosen to study 10 years of Mathematics and the best once again are chosen to study 5 years of dialectic. The best performers yet again are chosen to embark on a 15 year apprenticeship in managing within the political sphere. Those who successfully complete this long journey become the Philosopher Kings and are the ones who then become The Deciders.
Surely there's got to be an easier way. Maybe if we just stopped sifting through every speck of garbage in the past lives of anyone foolish enough to run for office, then maybe more reasonable people would not be afraid to run for office. It's not that the idiots in charge don't have skeletons in their closets it's just that they're idiots so they assume that they'll be able to get away with it.
America seems to have some kind of an allergy to intelligent leaders. Jimmy Carter, John Kerry and Al Gore have all been victims of being perceived to be too smart. As if being smart implied being effete, weak or heaven forbid being French. People seem more comfortable voting for the likes of a Reagan or Dubya because somehow it seems right that the person in charge of the most powerful machine on Earth shouldn't be any more intelligent than the guy who cuts your hair. Bill Clinton was highly intelligent but was able to cleverly hide it with his "aw shucks, I'm just poor folk from Arkansas" shtick.
The average parliamentarian in Canada is not that much more enlightened but it was refreshing to see who ended up on the last ballot of the recent Liberal Party Leadership Convention. We had a PhD Journalist and Political Science Professor from Harvard by way of Oxford going against a PhD Political Science Professor from Quebec against a Rhodes Scholar with degrees in Arts, Law and Philosophy.
It's equally refreshing to see someone like Barack Obama running for President in 2008. He's already hamstrung with the impression that he's an intelligent guy and opponents will surely somehow try to use this against him. It's still too early to tell what this guy's really like but his smarts combined with having experimented with recreational drugs will likely not be the last of an arsenal ready to be levied against him once all of his historical trash has been picked through and analyzed.