Wednesday, January 6, 2010


Three things that I was thinking about today:
  1. I have been trying to remember a quote that I heard that I think George Washington said. Maybe it wasn't George Washington.  It went something like "those who seek power don't deserve it."  I take this to mean that those who actively try to rule over others, even by trying to win an election, should not lead others, solely because they want to lead others. 
  2.  I read a book about Ancient Greece when I was growing up and I remember reading about how they practiced government in Athens.  The people (adult males) elected some 500 representatives and of those, only 50 were serving at a time.  Those 50 were chosen at random by lots 
  3. I was taking a class called "Quantity Takeoffs" here at BYU, and my professor was very adamant in his opposition toward the current state of the government (this was right after President Obama's inauguration, and my professor was a staunch Republican).  I remember him saying that he figures Congress would be a "heck of a lot better off" if everyone was forced to resign and they chose random people from the phone book to be in Congress.
There are many ways people can come to power: it could be passed on, you win an election, you fight others and force them to obey you, or you are chosen (intentionally or randomly) by someone else.  I would have to say the best situation would be if we had a perfect person select the perfect leader from among us.  I believe other people felt the same way and that is why we have had kings that were "divinely appointed" all throughout history.
Maybe it would be better to have a committee of sorts search the population for the personality traits, leadership abilities, moral conviction, and the intellectual ability that would make a great leader...but that could lead to societies described in books like The Giver or 1984.  It could become easily corruptible.
Perhaps we could remove the human element entirely from the election process and impartially choose people at random to lead us, as if from a phone book, or maybe a computer program to systematically run through backgrounds of people to find good candidates and then randomly choose some.

I think there are some instances where this is already the case.  For instance, random citizens are selected to serve on juries. They are empowered to make life and death decisions. There are of course people who screen them to make sure that they are able to do so without any prejudices, but the jurors are a random mix of people who didn't try to get on the jury.

I'm not supposing that we disband congress and have 100 random people serve in the Senate and 435 more random people serving in the House.  That would be a total nightmare. I would say that it would be interesting to see how a city government or even a state government would run if there were two houses, one elected and one selected.  Those members of the selected house would be only serve for maybe a year, and then a new group would be selected. The selected house could act as a "jury" for the elected government.  And if some selected representative does an outstanding job, he or she can be elected, thus making sure that money does not need to be required to serve in government, with the added benefit of having an accurate representation of the community serving in at least one house of government.

Does anyone know if this has been tried in some form, and if so, how it turned out?


Katie said...

I think that would be a cool way to try out a city government, but I guess I can understand why that's not the way we do things. After all, what if a doctor got chosen and was doing that instead of practicing medicine? What if I got chosen and I did that instead of taking care of my family at home? I mean, I guess you could say no, but then you're almost back where you started in the first place. But in general I agree--there's something about people wanting power that perhaps ought to be a red flag in some cases. Not that I have any big beefs with the government or anything. Just saying.

Anna said...

This is chris.
I think your idea would be kind of cool to see.
I disagree with the paraphrasing/maybe-you-made-it-up of the George Washington thing though. Kind of. I think leaders want to lead. I think you have to want to lead in order to be a great leader. Some people would rather follow and not have to make difficult or vague decisions.
Colin Powell decided not to run for the Presidency because he decided that he did not have the desire to hold the office that he thought was necessary.
But he wanted to be a general because he loved to lead.
nice post.

Lisa Lou said...

(I'm paraphrasing your quote here...) "What if a perfect person chose the perfect leader?" Kind of sounds like how the Church is set up...those that aren't naturally leaders are often put in leadership positions because "the perfect person" knew they would need that or someone would need them there.

Kathy Haynie said...

Every time I've had to go to jury duty, I and everyone else around me was hoping to be dismissed to go home. Sad but true. We should be more excited to serve in our jury system, because it's a strong part of America's freedom, but we take it for granted.

I was thinking about the administration of our school system. I think it's pretty similar all around the country. We have an elected school board of 5 members. And then there's the selected district administrators, again about 5-7 of them for a district our size. Of course, they serve longer than 1 year, but the two bodies interact with each other to govern the school district. So it's a shadow of your system that runs the public education system of America, and I think that's another part of America's freedoms.

I agree with Lisa that part of your description sounds like Church government, or better yet, Christ's government when He returns.

Chris said...

So I think I listened to something on this very same topic on NPR a couple days ago. Either that or it was in this book I'm reading called Th Clinton Tapes. I like how your blog is fitting so nicely into my life. Thanks for your posts!

Chris said...

Uh, that last comment was by Anna, not Chris.