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.
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.
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,
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?
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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?
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
In one-man rule the strong or the most calculating man, to
be distinguished from the most capable, wins the prize.
it seems that both systems fall significantly short in ferreting
out the most qualified person to lead his/her nation.
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?
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
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.
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.
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
system best assures that its very best students will be identified
as such and granted access to its elite institutions of higher
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.