How do we get good politicians?
It’s a centuries old question. And a very important one: politicians hold more power than any other citizen in nearly any type of governmental system. Their importance goes without mention.
First, we need to define what a “good politician” would look like. Then, we need to see how we could acquire that individual for use in the political sphere.
First, some basic assumptions.
We’re assuming that we are operating in a quasi-democratic type of government.
Totalitarianism sucks. Having good politicians means little if we don’t have a somewhat decent system. Thus, we need to assume our ideal politician resides in the sphere of a free, open society.
Next, we need to assume that we have a large variety of individuals to choose from. IE: Not a closed off, small tribal nation.
Third, we need to assume that the governmental system is currently stable. No revolutions brewing or other concerning issues rising up in the nation. Instead, we have a stable, functioning, and democratic nation.
With these assumptions what would a good politician look like?
What Is A Good Politician?
Three words: strong, virtuous, and wise.
Strong to be able to demand leadership and inspire a diverse nation. A trait necessary to weather the storms and issues that will almost certainly face them on a near daily basis.
Virtuous to handle the issues that require strength with an accurate moral compass.
And wise enough to understand the options available for those choices and their short-term and long-term consequences of those actions.
These three traits encompass the four cardinal virtues: prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance.
No human is perfect but each human that is ingrained with the cardinal virtues would certainly perform with significant superiority to modern politicians.
Are They Created Or Discovered?
The easiest argument in favor of this is wise: no man is born wise. We learn what is true or right through study, introspection, and education. This quality must be honed, practiced, and given it’s rightful place of importance in the life of the individual to be considered useful.
The same logic follows for strength and virtue.
We do not “discover” the best individuals to lead. They are created from the life experiences that surround them. Their experiences may shape them into whomever is best to lead at a given time. In essence, they are created by the world around them.
If they are molded by the world around them, then we should also be able to mold them ourselves. So how do we create politicians that have these three traits?
Clearly, our current system doesn’t do it. When was the last time you heard the word “politician” outside of this article? Did the word “strong”, “courageous”, “moral”, or “wise” come to mind? Yeah, save the laughing. Likely not.
So how do we get from where we are to a place where we do feel that in our leaders?
How Do We Create Good Politicians?
We cannot force a man to be strong. Nor wise. Nor virtuous. This is obvious.
But what we could do is remove those who clearly don’t hold those traits from contending.
If we forced politicians to deal with situations that require the three traits we could then ensure that they have the fortitude to at least honor them. Then, we could treasure those traits to incentivize them being developed further. Finally, we could punish those who clearly disregard them.
Starting with the first creation item: we require politicians to deal with situations that require those traits.
Consider a decade long training program. The first 3 years were traditional military service. The next year was a “hell” year where the military training required massive physical fitness and endurance exceeding the regular soldier’s routines. Then we had 4 years of education. Then 1 year of community service/volunteerism. With an ending of one final year of shadowing current politicians. A full 10 year training cycle for politicians. Once graduated they would earn a “Mark of the Nation” allowing them full rights to run for office.
During this time we would limit their outside interaction and their materialism. Those who are not wise enough will fail out during the coursework. Those not strong enough with not pass the military hell year. Those not virtuous could not survive the full 10 year stretch. We would stop the inferior from contending for electoral positions.
In doing this 10 year training stretch, would our politicians not exhibit courage and dedication (strength)? Would they not learn tremendous amounts of real world skills (military) and political education (shadowing, 4 year political coursework) making them wise? Would they not clearly hold some level of virtue for dedicating 10 years of their life to public service and demonstrate it during their year of volunteerism?
Through this we would satisfy our requirement of removing those who don’t hold the traits from contending: they would fail out. We could still hold open and free elections, but only for those who bear a “Mark of the Nation” declaring their passing of this ten year training program. We could limit positions at the state and higher level while allowing more openness on the local level.
So long as every individual was allowed entry to try their hand at earning this “Mark”, it would not limit any individual in any manner. Yet, it would produce far superior politicians for our citizens to choose from.
Since we have this in-depth decade-long training program, we already clearly treasure those traits. Through it, we further develop them.
Then we could punish an individual that holds the Mark if they lie or cheat by removing their mark through a public vote. Which would incentivize a continuation of holding the three essential political traits by the Mark bearers.
We train doctors and lawyers for at least a decade and they hold much less power, prestige, and importance in the grand scheme of society. Why not politicians?
I believe through this method we could create not just good politicians but great politicians. Only the most sacrificial and dedicated will reach our offices.
Do We Want Term Limits?
Do we want term limits on doctors? What about your criminal defense attorney?
Term limits would make sense under current systems because the politicians being chosen are poor options. It is wise to recycle garbage. It is not wise to discard of gold.
If we had good politicians then the argument in favor of term limits would be mute. We would desire to keep them and incentivize them to stay in leadership positions.
An obvious exemption exists for the prime executive position to prevent tyrannical control. For other positions it does not make sense to have exemptions.
A ‘Mark’ Is The Solution To The Politician Question
I’ve been calling it the “Mark of the Nation”. This Mark would grant the bearer the ability to run for political office. Anyone could try to acquire the Mark but only those who pass the ten years would actually bear it.
This Mark would help us create great politicians. Politicians that are strong, virtuous, and wise. Much better than the modern politicians of the day.
Even through this system we could retain free and open elections.
If we had educated politicians our governmental offices from Senate houses to independent Federal organizations would all be run far more efficiently than the modern equivalent. Any political appointee or elected official should bear the Mark.
The issue of the selfish politician is an important one when building a new governmental framework and this is a potential solution to that problem.