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Rule by the Smart

  1. Feb 5, 2005 #1
    What if the only prerequisite to public rule were a broad battery of intelligence tests? Only those, say, better than 1 in 1000 could become government administrators, and the intelligence of each applicant determines how high an office they hold. After being placed in the system there might be some organizational shuffling, but limited by law so you don't just have charismatic leaders.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 5, 2005 #2


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    Don't underestimate the importance of charisma in leadership. Being smart is nice, but there are other traits you need as well. If we could limit public officeholders to people that were smart and has those other traits, then we'd be talking. Have you been reading Plato's Republic or something?
  4. Feb 5, 2005 #3
    You generally need charisma to obtain and hold leadership. But to actually lead--by which I mean, to actually make leadership decisions which you have the authority to have carried out--what you need is intelligence, and a lot of it. You want your rulers to make wise decisions. How persuasive those rulers are about their decisions is not relevant, so long as they have power to carry them out.
  5. Feb 5, 2005 #4


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    Charisma matters if you want people to actually follow you and elect or appoint or whatever they do. It also matters when you are negotiating with any other powerful decision-makers, which any leader will presumably have to do. Unless you are suggesting a pure authoritarian state that encompasses the entire world - are you?
  6. Feb 5, 2005 #5
    I am suggesting an authoritarian state. But it doesn't have to encompass the world. If the most intelligent leaders lack charisma, they will simply hire negotiators who do not lack it. Elections are not a problem when you attain your post through testing alone.
  7. Feb 5, 2005 #6
    Rule by the smart is all well and good, but it doesn't mean that these smart people
    are very nice. Hitler was a genius but he was the last person you would want to
    run a country.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2005
  8. Feb 5, 2005 #7
    Was Hitler really a genius? He was very, very charismatic, I can tell you that; if he had a genius, charisma was it. Conventional politics puts people like Hitler in charge. Other than his charisma, I doubt Hitler was terribly intelligent.
  9. Feb 5, 2005 #8
    Whoever ends up in charge, they still may not be very nice but as long as elections
    enable the public to do something about it then there is no problem.
  10. Feb 5, 2005 #9
    You mean, just like the German public "did something" about Hitler? He was elected.
  11. Feb 5, 2005 #10
    Hitler then made elections illegal so that he could put forward long term plans
    for his country, but in theory this could happen anywhere although hopefully
    people won't let this happen. As long as elections remain everything should
    be ok.
  12. Feb 5, 2005 #11
    That's like saying, "I have a paper tank, but so long as the paper holds the bullets won't hit me."
  13. Feb 5, 2005 #12
    So as not to detract from the main issue, if someone who was
    very smart but not very nice got into power, what would happen?
  14. Feb 5, 2005 #13


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    Bart - have you even bothered to do any research to figure out if leaders in the past have shown any correlation between intelligence and good leadership?
  15. Feb 5, 2005 #14
    "Leadership" means nothing more than "the ability to make good decisions." The only times it means something else is when the leader's power draws from his ability to rally people around a cause. When the leader's power is based purely on the rules of the system he is a part of, then intelligence is the only prerequisite, as it should be.

    If he needs someone to rally people, he should hire him. Delegation can be done for everything except decision-making.

    Furthermore, if a political system is based on testing which is largely invariant for each person, the competition aspect of it is nearly eliminated. Each person must simply accept the position he is qualified for (if any), and then work as best he can within that position to effect change, because he is not going to be promoted any significant amount. There is no espousing of a particular view simply to garner favor; each person may work for the cause he feels most just without any corruption of motive.

    If an evil smart person makes it to the top, hopefully he will not be so smart that the other people around him (who will also be geniuses) can't second-guess him. There is always some risk.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2005
  16. Feb 5, 2005 #15


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    Intelligent people aren't necessarily good at making decisions. Perhaps you should test for good decision-making if that's what you're looking for.
  17. Feb 5, 2005 #16
    Most of intelligence IS decision-making. A multiple-choice test is a prime exercise in decision-making. Engineers and mathematicians use their intelligence to make tough decisions all the time. Nobody who is smarter than 999 out of 1000 random people is bad at making decisions. But many people who can be elected by 60% of their constituency are bad at making decisions.

    I think that if the smartest people became the rulers, politics would become more of a science. It wouldn't be one man shouting for his vision to be heard among a thousand other people doing the same; there would be theories and tests of theories.
  18. Feb 6, 2005 #17
    High intelligence can either make a politician a better advocate for the interests of the voters, or a better manipulator of the voters. So, just having high intelligence is not enough: one must also consider personality, esp. conscientiousness (moral fiber). Conscientiousness is one of the main 5 personality traits agreed upon my most brain scientists, and the more conscientious a person, the more he will be thinking about "right" and "wrong" when behaving, while someone with low conscientiousness will only be thinking about what's in his own best interest with no concern about the "rights" of others. Most criminals test very low on conscientiousness, and politicians often score low on this trait as well. So, a good politician should have a high IQ and conscientiousness. But, I would not stop there: I would also add that a politician should be very well educated in the field of human psychology as well as a good level of knowledge in general sciences. Also, a politician should have another one of the 5 main personality traits called "open-to-experience." The more open a person is, the more willing he will be to re-evaluate policies to see if better policies are available, or if previous beliefs were based on fallacies. Finally, a politician should be very rational so that empiricism and the scientific method can be used in order to see if a policy will be good or not. Mainstream politicians often ignore science and choose policies based on dogma or "feelings," as opposed to empirical backing.

    Regarding society, I think the members of Physics Forums, who make up the cognitive elite of the world, should form their own separate country and thus be free of the low intelligent voters who only bring society down.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2005
  19. Feb 6, 2005 #18
    To be fair, a leader should represent the people who are electing him. Very intelligent people tend to have ideas which are not popular, or support unpopular causes. Maybe this is due to them being outcasts as children, or simply a product of being able to see through things presented in the media which other people cannot. But in order to be democratic, they should only support popular causes.

    I would not really like to live in a society where everyone was a genius as who would do the low IQ jobs such as cleaning? Maybe we could give low IQ people from other countries visas to clean, and tell them to go away after a few years.
    Last edited: Feb 6, 2005
  20. Feb 6, 2005 #19
    As to the "democratic ideal," I read a story about Richard Feynman. Forty engineers were working on a project, and all of them were asked their opinion on something or other, and most of them said one thing. The three best engineers out of that group all agreed on the opposite thing. Whose opinion would you trust?

    The thing is that when you are not elected, but tested, and when you have little chance to increase your power, even the most unscrupulous genius must be very, very tricky to act in his own best interest at the expense of others'. Simply manipulating the voters will do nothing, since there are no voters. He would have to somehow encourage a project which looked good to his peers but was really bad and actually just benefited him--quite a convoluted plot. When your job is fully secure and you cannot advance, and when people as smart as you are noting your every move, it's not easy to be immoral.

    If everyone were a genius, there would still be janitors. But they'd be very highly paid and probably use a lot of high-tech equipment.
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