Let's Choose Our Leaders
In Western countries it's almost impossible to field and elect competent representatives because the qualifications for election are unrelated to competence. Especially in the US, the only apparent qualification (other than money) is how things look on TV.
Canada, the US, the UK and other democracies, have a long and famous rogue's gallery of presidents, prime ministers and a host of premiers, senators, governors and representatives who are remarkable primarily for their simple-minded incompetence.
Certainly no corporation would accept such a record, nor would any hospital or school system.
For a candidate in a Western democracy, the requirements are smoothness, a bit of charisma, the ability to look good on TV, an appropriate choice of (coached) politically correct statements and good sound bytes, and of course money to fund a campaign.
It is surely a serious indictment of the democratic system that even the manager of a 7-11 must have minimum credentials of some nature, but the leader of a political party - and the Prime Minister of Canada or a US President - need have none whatsoever.
The heads of many of the world's large multi-national corporations are paid salaries in the millions of dollars, while the Prime Minister of Canada earns a bit over $300,000 and the President of the US earns $400,000. Is it true that we get what we pay for?
Why would anyone who was actually competent to be the CEO of an entire country, accept such immense responsibility in return for such a paltry sum? Perhaps more to the point, do we pay such low salaries because we know in advance what we will get?
Ideological supporters of democracy seem to believe we should draw our national leaders from "the common people", where ignorance and simple-mindedness are treasured virtues.
That would explain Sarah Palin's apparently excellent chance to have become the next "Leader of the Free World". By the way, Sarah, Africa is a continent, not a country.
In a multi-party system anyone can 'try his hand' at running the country. If he fails, the country or the economy may suffer, millions may lose their jobs or their homes (or their lives), but he loses nothing.
In no other part of life (except that of an Evangelical Christian Minister) is it possible to have so much power and take on so much responsibility with so few consequences for incompetence or bad judgment.
There is something very wrong here that Westerners appear unable and unwilling to face. How is it possible for us as intelligent people, to tell ourselves this is the best of all systems?
It cannot possibly be the best of anything; all indications are that it could well be the worst.
There is something disturbingly perverse here, an attitude suggesting that schools, hospitals, corporations, even charities, are somehow 'real' things with real purposes and with potentially serious consequences if mismanaged, but that government in some perverted way is not real, but a game where participation has neither requirements nor consequences.
Government - the strategic managing of an entire country - is treated like some kind of team sport where gross incompetence is not normally a determining factor in the loss of political position.
This all reminds one, too closely for comfort, of the teenage gangs that used to be common in the US in the 1950s (and are still common today in some cities). Groups of misguided adolescents engaging in turf wars.
Consider the dirty tricks, the dishonest advertising, the gerrymandering, the constant (and constitutionally-protected) slander and libel, the necessary sacrificing of principles, the shameful eagerness to destroy reputations. Would we tolerate this in our corporations or our school systems?
Let's try to make something clear: managing a country, deciding and implementing a strategic direction for a nation of tens or hundreds of millions of people, is a big job with grave responsibilities. Being the leader of such a management team is more than nothing.
The Prime Minister or President of a country is responsible for the well-being of all citizens, for the economy, for the country's foreign affairs policies and its relations with all other countries, for the military and related decisions.
This person's decisions can cost millions of lives, can improve or degrade world peace and security. The responsibilities are formidable and I'm sure we will all agree this is not a place for a child, for the ignorant, inexperienced and untrained.
But let's begin with something smaller - a corporation. We'll use Bombardier Canada as an example. Bombardier is a global transportation company involved in aerospace and rail transport, operating in more than 60 countries on five continents. The company has almost 70,000 employees, with revenues of $5 billion per year, and it designs, manufactures, and sells world-class products in these two industry sectors.
So Bombardier needs a new CEO, a new president. It's already clear that this leader must be a person of great proportion. The job requires making product decisions and investing possibly billions of dollars to design new products for a market 5 or 10 years into the future. A single mistake could bankrupt the company.
This leader must know how to deal with foreign governments, companies, and laws. He must be exceptionally knowledgeable about finance, investment, labor relations, foreign affairs, manufacturing, as well as having great expertise in the specific fields of aviation and rail transport.
Again, the responsibilities are formidable and I'm sure we will all agree we need a proven manager and a leader with vision.
So we retain an executive search firm to source the most likely candidates with a proven track record of success in managing such a large and far-flung enterprise. And the firm produces a short list of three candidates, all of whom might do the job but who have different profiles to offer.
So, who among you will claim to be fully competent to interview these people, to review their files, to assess their competence, and to make the best selection. Could you do that? Can you honestly tell us that you are capable of this, that you have the competence, the knowledge, the ability, the experience, to make this selection?
Not likely. Few of us could make such a claim. Indeed, if you were faced with the prospect of having to interview and evaluate candidates at this level, you would probably wet your pants.
Now let's return to the government, the selection of a President or Prime Minister of a country. If you are hopelessly incompetent (and you likely are) to choose a CEO for Bombardier, how can you claim with your next breath you are perfectly competent to choose a CEO for your country?
Does it seem to you that maybe something is wrong with this picture? There is indeed something wrong. 'Government' has been replaced by 'politics', a primitive, socio-religious team sport where reason and good sense are suspended for the duration.
Let's return to Bombardier and clarify our choices. We have two:
(1) The Democratic Way
Anybody who wants the job, credentials unimportant, just get someone to nominate you and you're in the running. Convince enough staff to vote for you, and the job is yours. The easiest way is to promise higher salaries, longer vacations and free weed.
It doesn't matter if you give away the farm because you will be long gone before the bankruptcy lawyers take over. And in the meantime, you'll have had a good job.
(2) The Un-Democratic Way
As we did earlier, hire an executive search firm with serious experience in the aerospace and transportation industries, to locate and qualify a minimum of three excellent candidates, all of whom have outstanding credentials and proven experience in a similar task. Present these candidates to a group of their peers - in this case the Board of Directors - for the final decision.
Observers would note that in the Non-Democratic Method, the choice and decision are much too important to be made by the (uninformed) rank and file. No insult to the workers, but they are not competent to assess or select a CEO. They haven't the knowledge, the training or the experience.
Isn't it odd, the similarity between the way we run our companies and the Un-Democratic Model? Our families, too, if you think about it. In both cases, there is (normally) one person in charge who has the authority to say, "This is what we are going to do. If you have any good ideas, now's the time. Now let's get it done." That's a dictatorship; no voting here.
It must surely be apparent that our large corporations are successful only because they are NOT democratic, but authoritarian. If they were democratic, they might all be bankrupt.
To be consistent, I'm not aware of any valid reason it wouldn't be the same for a country. If being a democracy would condemn a company to mediocrity or worse, it must be similar for a nation. And if running a company as a a one-party dictatorship is the overwhelmingly favored worldwide model, then it should be applicable to governments as well.
Some readers have a tendency to get carried away with this corporate/government analogy, trying to compare citizens to shareholders or employees to the general population. Don't go there. We are simply drawing a comparison on the selection process for executive management. We don't need a wild goose chase.
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