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The Political Arts: a somewhat radical proposal

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  • The Political Arts: a somewhat radical proposal

    There's always been somewhat of a dichotomy, at least in my mind, between the Founders' idea of "citizen legislators" and some form of "guaranteed minimal competence" for those we elect to represent us. After all, non-elected civil servants, without exception, are expected to be credentialed in their field, proficient in their subject matter, and are held to a standard of competence/performance appropriate to their station. And frankly the Founding Fathers, when talking about "citizen legislators" envisioned men like themselves - highly educated, cultured, well-versed in multiple subjects Gentlemen of the Enlightenment. Those have been somewhat hard to come by, as some may have noticed.

    Here's my proposed remedy. Create "Political Arts" departments at State University level. Political Science departments can, in the best cases, turn out excellent political analysts, but that is their focus - What I am talking about is literally a finishing school for would be elected public servants. The curriculum would of course have typical PoliSci subjects like political theory, history, international relations etc... but would also include things not formally taught to would-be politicians since the Roman Republic - Logic, Rhetoric, Oratory, and the like. As well, there would be general Economics and a basic level of Physical Science. The real difference from a PoliSci degree or a Law degree would be a focus on practical tools of statecraft - the ability to comprehend and examine complex issues with multiple viewpoints, the ability to not only formulate a position but to express it in clear and convincing language, both written and oral, to defend one's positions in skilled debate, to be able to absorb the reports of experts on a wide variety of subjects with a modicum of understanding, etc, etc...

    Ideally it would be a one or two year, intensive focus curriculum, and one that isn't designed to turn out "experts" and fail out the rest - merely completing the course at a basic standard of comprehension would be deemed sufficient, without any form of grading system. Nor would I make it a requirement for running for office, nor a requirement to be elected - but a requirement to serve in any capacity at Representative level and above. So - all members of Congress, President/VP, Governor/Lt. Governor, as well as any political appointments at Head of Agency/Deputy Head of Agency level.

    We could build an institution under the auspices of the Electoral College, as it would in fact be a college designed to equip those we would elect to govern with the basic tools of good governance. I think any federal funds invested in such a venture would pay all of us back many-fold in improved governance.

    The logistics seem tricky though. So, say you elect a representative to your district, and they have to go and complete a year-long course of studies before they can assume their duties - how does that work? Is the course open and available to all comers (seems untenable) or do you become eligible (as opposed to required) after completing some sort of political milestone? Establish some form of competitive scholarship for those who want to take the course of studies prior to entering elected politics? What happens, as it invariably will, when persons are elected whom are shown clearly to be lacking basic educational skills like reading comprehension, and are incapable of absorbing ANY of the material?

    This is what happens when Phil has to travel for a few days and asks me to "mind the store" while he does, and I start spending too much time here
    Last edited by Red Ant; 01-10-2019, 09:43 PM.
    Keep the company of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have found it.

    -- Vaclav Havel

    The Universe is unimaginably vast. For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

    -- Carl Sagan


    Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.

    -- Joseph Brodsky

  • #2
    That sounds great, but I believe that human's problem of self governance doesn't stem from incompetence and unpreparedness, as much it does from the baser of human failings.


    I guess what I'm saying is, does teaching philosophy to criminals rehabilitate them?


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    • #3
      Originally posted by HAMMER TOSS View Post


      I guess what I'm saying is, does teaching philosophy to criminals rehabilitate them?

      Good question, one I don't have the answer to - as far as I'm aware, its never been tried. I'd be all for it though

      Keep the company of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have found it.

      -- Vaclav Havel

      The Universe is unimaginably vast. For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

      -- Carl Sagan


      Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.

      -- Joseph Brodsky

      Comment


      • #4
        I’ll read the whole thing later, but first let me ask: What kind of grade would Russia’s 2016 play get in such an academy?
        Last edited by arcadesonfire; 01-10-2019, 10:19 PM.
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        • Red Ant
          Red Ant commented
          Editing a comment
          Perhaps you should read the thing before asking such a question.

      • #5
        It's an intriguing idea, Anton. My first thought is, do we want to create even more of a "professional politician class" than we already have?

        Comment


        • #6
          I'm not sure that the American populace is interested in competent leadership.

          One cannot make a clear and convincing argument, citing references, and decently defend one's position in the space allocated by Twitter. It doesn't make for good soundbites. Proper debate is difficult to make fun of on late nite TV.

          I think it's a great idea, but I don't think it would get off the ground.

          Comment


          • #7
            Originally posted by Danocoustic View Post
            It's an intriguing idea, Anton. My first thought is, do we want to create even more of a "professional politician class" than we already have?
            It was one of my first thoughts as well, with the next one being "well, we already have a de facto political class, perhaps we should make sure they possess some level of competence".
            Last edited by Red Ant; 01-11-2019, 09:19 AM.
            Keep the company of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have found it.

            -- Vaclav Havel

            The Universe is unimaginably vast. For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

            -- Carl Sagan


            Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.

            -- Joseph Brodsky

            Comment


            • #8
              I'd rather see a better educated voting public.

              Does anyone even teach "Civics" in the schools anymore?
              Look over there
              A dry ice factory
              Good place to get some thinking done!


              Ed phobes fathered my child, the child which is music within me, suckling on his talented teet. His new CD is the breast pump which collects his sweet, sweet boob milk for all the world. Bravo Ed, Bravo!
              - MXR

              https://soundcloud.com/ed-phobes

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              • #9
                Originally posted by Red Ant View Post

                It was one of my fust thougbts as well, with the next one being "well, we alrready have a de facto political class, perhaps we should make sure they possess some level of competence".
                As we useta say, "I can dig where you're comin' from".

                But just because it already exists, should we encourage it?...or would it be better, as Ed says in his last post, to better educate WE THE PEOPLE, and draw our candidates from them?

                I dunno, man. Sometimes I get so discouraged...

                Comment


                • #10
                  Originally posted by -Ed Phobes- View Post
                  I'd rather see a better educated voting public.

                  Does anyone even teach "Civics" in the schools anymore?
                  I'd rather that as well, but for that to happen the entire fundamental culture of the US has to change, and I don't see a snowball's chance of that happening.
                  Keep the company of those who seek the truth, and run from those who have found it.

                  -- Vaclav Havel

                  The Universe is unimaginably vast. For small creatures such as we the vastness is bearable only through love.

                  -- Carl Sagan


                  Life - the way it really is - is a battle not between Bad and Good but between Bad and Worse.

                  -- Joseph Brodsky

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    I am all for this idea and the first thing it brings to mind oddly enough is the way China handles professional competence and experience in its leaders and in government in general.

                    As I understand it, Chinese leaders are trained, vetted, indoctrinated, and prepared over an entire lifetime in governmental service. A Barack Obama could never have happened in China, i.e., someone with nominal or inadequate experience within the system rising to the highest office in the land. The party managers would never have allowed someone with such a dubious resume to make it to the top. Trump obviously would never have made it there either!
                    And as we know, China has a more stable and as it appears, more effective form of government over the long haul than the US. (Not saying I like it better, just looking at this objectively.)

                    So yes some program for practical knowledge and skills like what the OP is proposing seems like a good idea, especially in a system as complex as that of the US.

                    I would wonder about the long term implications though - it sounds like the old Plato's Republic idea and though my knowledge of political theory and history is pretty lame, I don't think it sits well with the notion of a democracy as it's practiced in the US, and there's the intrinsic anti-intellectual, anti-theory, anti-expert trend that's just part of the package here and exacerbated in recent years by the party supposedly representing workers and normal Americans abdicating and jumping on the Silicon Valley and high finance train (i.e., the Democrats).

                    The other caveat is that more educated and competent doesn't always equal better results. Not to Godwin this, but Germany in the 30's was advanced, technological, intellectual, cultural, well educated etc, and look where that led.

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      We don't need political candidates to do years of intensive study in order to run for office. All we need is to institute a hiring hall or licensing board where potential candidates would be screened. If they pass muster for intellectual capacity, clear thinking, reasonable understanding of important issues and the ability to set personal beliefs and prejudices aside and compromise with others, they're in. They'd get a political campaigning license for the office they seek. Fail any of those criteria, or ones others here might think up, and no license, no campaign and no office.

                      The Electoral College was intended to do something like that, and if I had my way, it would do so again. The EC was supposed to be made up of the soundest thinkers from each congressional district. They were to meet in the state capital or other gathering place to discuss who they thought would make a good president. Only after deliberation would they vote, and send those votes to Congress to be counted. It gave us presidents like Washington, Jefferson, etc.

                      Today's Electoral College should do something similar: Representatives are chosen to meet during the campaign season. They would gather and meet with each candidate, alone, with no spin doctors, policy advisers, speech writers, image makers or anyone else -- just the candidate and the EC members. The EC members would question the candidate for as long as it takes to get a feeling for the man or woman, how he or she thinks, and how he or she would react in various situations. Only after their curiosity is satisfied would they gather to vote.

                      These Electoral College gatherings could be by single state, in populous states with many representatives, or gatherings of several states with small populations. The New England Electoral College members, for example, would meet as a region. As would the Rocky Mountain states, etc. Others, like California, New York, Florida and other populace states would meet alone. This would reduce the campaigning to a few weeks of travel to maybe two dozen cities, rather than the current zooping all over the landscape. It would also mean that presidential candidates could not rely on lies, half-truths, image makers and other deceptions -- either they are good presidential material or they aren't, as judged by people who had time to meet with them in person. As it stands now, the Electoral College is a rubber stamp on popular election results from people who believe what they're told, often without question. That system has given us people like Richard Nixon, Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and now Donald Trump.

                      And therein lies the root of the problem.
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                      • #13
                        Originally posted by HAMMER TOSS View Post
                        That sounds great, but I believe that human's problem of self governance doesn't stem from incompetence and unpreparedness,
                        Perhaps not, but incompetence surely complicates things.
                        Lease this space!

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          Originally posted by Zig al-din View Post
                          I am all for this idea and the first thing it brings to mind oddly enough is the way China handles professional competence and experience in its leaders and in government in general.

                          As I understand it, Chinese leaders are trained, vetted, indoctrinated, and prepared over an entire lifetime in governmental service. A Barack Obama could never have happened in China, i.e., someone with nominal or inadequate experience within the system rising to the highest office in the land. The party managers would never have allowed someone with such a dubious resume to make it to the top. Trump obviously would never have made it there either!
                          And as we know, China has a more stable and as it appears, more effective form of government over the long haul than the US. (Not saying I like it better, just looking at this objectively.)

                          [...]

                          The other caveat is that more educated and competent doesn't always equal better results. Not to Godwin this, but Germany in the 30's was advanced, technological, intellectual, cultural, well educated etc, and look where that led.
                          True, but the system you describe wouldn't have allowed Hitler to achieve power, either. A high school dropout who could achieved no higher a military rank than corporal isn't really fit to run a powerful industrial nation, right?
                          Lease this space!

                          Comment


                          • #15
                            Originally posted by Danocoustic View Post
                            It's an intriguing idea, Anton. My first thought is, do we want to create even more of a "professional politician class" than we already have?
                            My thoughts exactly. We get the government we ask for, we the people have allowed politics to become a team sport and we're reaping what we've sown.

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