Arts &
  Arts Culture Analysis  
Vol. 21, No. 6, 2022
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Robert J. Lewis
  Senior Editor
Jason McDonald
  Contributing Editors
Louis René Beres
David Solway
Nick Catalano
Don Dewey
Chris Barry
Howard Richler
Gary Olson
Jordan Adler
Andrew Hlavacek
Daniel Charchuk
  Music Editor
Serge Gamache
  Arts Editor
Lydia Schrufer
Mady Bourdage
  Photographer Jerry Prindle
Chantal Levesque
Emanuel Pordes
  Past Contributors
  Noam Chomsky
Mark Kingwell
Charles Tayler
Naomi Klein
Arundhati Roy
Evelyn Lau
Stephen Lewis
Robert Fisk
Margaret Somerville
Mona Eltahawy
Michael Moore
Julius Grey
Irshad Manji
Richard Rodriguez
Navi Pillay
Ernesto Zedillo
Pico Iyer
Edward Said
Jean Baudrillard
Bill Moyers
Barbara Ehrenreich
Leon Wieseltier
Nayan Chanda
Charles Lewis
John Lavery
Tariq Ali
Michael Albert
Rochelle Gurstein
Alex Waterhouse-Hayward





Good governance never depends upon laws,
but upon the personal qualities of those who govern.
The machinery of government is always subordinate
to the will of those who administer that machinery.
The most important element of government, therefore,
is the method of choosing leaders.
Frank Herbert

In the course of human history, to best insure his survival, man has experimented with various systems of governance: beginning with one-man rule and its variations (monarchy, autocracy, dictatorship) to the most recent development, rule by consent or rule of the masses, otherwise known as democracy.

Prior to the development of towns and then cities (circa 7,500 BC-Mesopotamia), the physically dominant male led his band or tribe. Changes in leadership were due to either the death of the leader or his overthrow. Whenever possible he would transfer power to next of kin. Over time, with the emergence of city states and jurisdictions that might encompass 100ds and even thousands of square miles, leadership was obliged to diversify in recognition of the specialization required to deal with the growing complexities of both rural and urban life: specialists were required to preside over agriculture (food supply), defense, waste disposal, education etc.

But no matter what the system (despotic, democratic), leadership has always been comprised of an elite who make decisions for those over whom they rule. Jared Diamond, in Collapse, painstakingly demonstrates why certain systems succeed and others have failed.

So we ask: of all the systems of governance implemented by man over his long history, is it possible to objectively determine which one is the best? Which begs the question what do we mean by the best?

Until recently the best has always meant for the ruling elite and then everybody else. But with the birth of socialism in late 18th century England, the best has come to mean “the greatest happiness for the greatest number.” I think most of us would agree that as it concerns personal well-being and security, we would much rather be among people who are happy in life and contented with their lot. In other words, given the choice, which has not been an option for most of man’s history, we default to the system of governance that is most likely to produce a happy, contented populace.

The island of Hispaniola, which is divided politically by the Republic of Haiti and the Dominican Republic (DR), is a case in point. While both countries share the same environment (tourist beaches, mineral resouces, topography), their political systems have produced two very unequal outcomes. Haiti, per capita, is one of the poorest countries of the world and is a de facto failed state. Crime and corruption are rampant while the country is becoming increasingly hostage to gangs such that Haitians, en masse, are desperate to immigrate to the DR. In terms of which political system is measurably more effective, Haiti produces more poverty and crime than the DR whose population enjoys more proportional access to the wealth of the nation (food, shelter, hospitals). To the argument that Haiti has been devastated by recent natural disasters (earthquake, hurricanes) does not explain the century long exodus of Haitians to the DR and not the reverse. And however brutal and oppressive has been the politics of the DR, especially under Trujillo, the latter’s system of governance produces significantly more contented people than Haiti, a fact borne out by the one-way flow charts that track immigration.

So for the purposes of this inquiry, the best will refer to what is best for everyone in respect to the necessities of life and beyond. In the spirit of give and take, the ruling elite will understand that if those over whom they rule are able to address their basic needs, the latter will in turn look favourably upon the leadership that has provided for them.

Since the end game of any system of governance is to take a nation and its people to a better place, is one-man rule more likely to produce a better result than democratic rule? The historical record is inconclusive: despotic rule has produced both its golden and dark ages.

Regarding the many punishing gauntlets every aspiring leader must run, does one system better assure that its fittest, its most capable will be found and propelled to the highest office? One man rule usually requires support of the military and approval of the ruling plutocratic elite. Does the securing of these two non-negotiables translate into the fitness attendant to leadership? Not necessarily.

In a democracy, an aspiring leader must appeal to the general population, which in a nationwide campaign requires prohibitive sums of money. Which means leadership candidates, prior to running, must be able to secure the backing of big money. Thus, if the most qualified leader is unable to run because of insufficient funds, the system (the nation) will not find him.

In a democracy, if money were taken out of the equation and all the candidates allowed equal air/debate time, how different would be the result?

Unlike with one man rule, in a democracy the most charismatic candidate often wins the day. But charisma, which can be an adjunct of leadership, does not necessarily translate into effective leadership, just as great technique, which is essential in performance of great music, in and of itself it does not guarantee great musicianship.

In one-man rule the strong or the most calculating man, to be distinguished from the most capable, wins the prize.

So it seems that both systems fall significantly short in ferreting out the most qualified person to lead his/her nation.

It could very well be that choosing the correct leader is not nearly as important as a system that is most likely to identify its most talented and gifted who will preside over a nation’s vital sectors: infrastructure, manufacturing, R & D, aviation, medicine. Does not the incompetent or unqualified leader who wisely chooses the right people to run the engines of the nation rebuff the accusation?

Politics, unlike competitive sports, is hit and miss as it concerns identifying its most qualified, while the latter unfailingly guarantees that the top athletes will be recognized and duly rewarded. From primary school onward, there are athletic competitions at every level for every age group which eventually narrows the field to the very best. No such rigour or winnowing out process in politics. In a democracy, there are district, municipal, state and provincial offices and portfolios that provide for vital leadership experience but in the absence of personal charisma and ability to raise capital, which have nothing to do with actual governing, the candidate faces an uphill battle. It could very well be that Mr. X, who runs an international shipping company but who is turned off by the political process or isn’t an effective public speaker, may be best qualified to run a country. Is there any system that would find him out?

In a democracy, a potential leader must be able to appeal to a long line-up of special interest groups, which requires that he be or become an effective actor. In the past half century, more and more professional actors have been elected to public office, but a great actor does not necessarily make a great leader. At the other end of the spectrum, we have the autocrat/dictator who bullies his way to the top. We must grant that he is exceptionally skilled in ascending to power but that does not mean he possesses requisite leadership skills. We only have to look to the history of collapsed empires and nations to know that one-man rule has produced mixed results.

So in the absence of a reliable means of identifying the most capable leader, the system’s next challenge is to elect or appoint the most talented people to run the country.

We want the best doctors, researchers, pilots, engineers, regardless of ethnicity, colour, sexual orientation or religion doing the nation’s bidding. That means identifying at a very early age those students upon whom the better future of any nation depends.

What system best assures that its very best students will be identified as such and granted access to its elite institutions of higher learning?

Is there a system that recognizes that among its poor and disadvantaged some of its very best minds are to be found? India’s legendary poverty is a direct outcome of its caste system that forbade class mobility until 1949. A genius, but born into a pariah class, was condemned to spend an entire lifetime among the wretched of the earth prosecuting menial labour (latrine upkeep, street sweeping). How many brilliant minds were wasted as a result of a catastrophically defective system, whose discriminatory ethos has not yet been purged from the Indian psyche?

In the United States, it can cost up to 50K/year to send a student to an out-of-state university. How many potentially gifted students become turned off to higher education because they are reluctant to assume a debt-lode that will require in some cases decades to pay off. How many of these students go to other countries that are more accommodating? Systems or nations that do not identify and cultivate their exceptional students suffer real (economic) consequences. There is no evidence that one-man rule is less effective than democracy in identifying and nurturing its best, with the exception of institutionally misogynist nations.

Of all of its resources, the greatest wealth of any nation is its collective IQ. Nations or systems that do not allow women to participate as equals in the productive life of the country are squandering millions of IQ points. When you compare per capita income of the nations of the world, the most prosperous are those that recognize that IQ is its most vital resource, and that women supply 50% of it. Even Mao recognized that “women hold up half the sky.” Mohammed bin Salman (Saudi Arabia) and Ali Khamenei (Iran) et al do not?

One of the most important aspects of any system of governance is the orderly transfer of power. For most of man’s history, the first born male was groomed from his earliest years to assume power. Eliminated from the succession process were all siblings and advisors, some of whom might have been better suited to rule than the first born, so we look to a system that offers the widest choice in the area of succession.

There isn’t a person in the world who wouldn’t rather be free than not. It has been suggested that the swift and quite remarkable ascendancy of the US as the world’s dominant power was due to its hospitability to foreign-born scientists, engineers, chemists, medical specialists and researchers. More than anywhere else they found in the USA the freedom and resources to pursue their dreams. If a nation’s advance is directly related to its reservoir of best minds, there was a time when America was a magnet for the best and brightest. Is America’s current decline consequent to a change in its values, its priorities? The percentage of GDP spent on Research and Development is at a 60 year low.

In the 1950s America’s prisoner population numbered 200K. Sixty years later the number is 1.6 million. Do these numbers discourage those gifted immigrants that would otherwise make the US their first choice?

Do China and Russia more effectively attract the world’s best and the brightest? Do their home-born brightest have better access to resources with which they can more effectively contribute to the wealth and future of their nation? Russia’s population is 4-times that of Canada but its GDP is the same.

Being able to attract the world’s best minds speaks volumes to the those political systems that are most successful on that very count. Countries that place restrictions on freedom will not only not attract the best, but will lose their very best to nations predicated on the notion that freedom is not a privilege but an unalienable right.

The west, its relative prosperity, continues to attract people from all walks of life from around the world, which forces the conclusion that democracy, warts and all, as a system of governance, is thus far the best at securing the greatest happiness for the greatest number.




also by Robert J. Lewis:


Who Owns the Moon?
Why Do We Daydream

Argument & Disagreement

Smashing the God Particle

The Decline of Reading

In Praise of Useless Activities

When Sex Became Dirty
Blood Meridian: (McCarthy): An Appreciation

Trump & Authencity

Language, Aim & Fire

One Hand Clapping: The Zen Koan Hoax

Human Nature: King of the Hill

The Trouble with Darwin
The Life & Death of Anthony Bourdain
Denying Identity and Natural Law
The Cares versus the Care-nots
Elon Musk: Brilliant but Wrong
As the Corporation Feasts, the Earth Festers
Flirting & Consequences
Breaking Bonds
Oscar Wilde and the Birth of Cool
The Big
Deconstructing Skin Colour
To Party - Parting Ways with Consciousness
Comedy - Constant Craving
Choosing Gender
Becoming Our Opposites
Broken Feather's Last Stand

Abstract Art or Artifice II
Old People
Beware the Cherry-Picker
Once Were Animal
Islam is Smarter Than the West
Islam Divided by Two
Pedophiling Innocence
Grappling with Revenge
Hit Me With That Music
The Sinking of the Friendship
Om: The Great Escape
Actor on a Hot Tin Roof
Being & Self-Consciousness
Giacometti: A Line in the Wilderness
The Jazz Solo
Chat Rooms & Infidels
Music Fatigue
Understanding Rape
Have Idea Will Travel
Bikini Jihad
The Reader Feedback Manifesto
Caste the First Stone
Let's Get Cultured
Being & Baggage
Robert Mapplethorpe
The Eclectic Switch

Philosophical Time
What is Beauty?
In Defense of Heidegger

Hijackers, Hookers and Paradise Now
Death Wish 7 Billion
My Gypsy Wife Tonight
On the Origins of Love & Hate
Divine Right and the Unrevolted Masses
Cycle Hype or Genotype
The Genocide Gene










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