Whither the idiocracy?

As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. We move toward a lofty ideal. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron. —H. L. Mencken, “Bayard vs. Lionheart”, The Baltimore Evening Sun, 26th July 1920

Political blogs, whatever their outlook, however honourable their intentions and however many hours are wasted in their creation, exist to arouse the amour-propre of the author through the medium of explaining how the writer of the blog is smarter than the politicians they are writing about. They thus operate in exactly the same way as the more important and influential main-stream self-fellators. Occasionally, the blogger or media commenter may even be right; people often get lucky, after all.

With most people’s political opinions being formed from these two outlets of ornamental oratory (with optional analysis), the public’s appreciation of the political classes is none too numinous.

The House of Commons is run, apparently, by mephitic mountebanks and malefactors, deluded by meliorism and protected by their minatory myrmidons against the archenemies of reason and common decency. They, our elected representatives are also stupid. Or rather not just stupid; they’re criminally capricious, monumentally moronic and, most unfortunately of all, ineluctably incompetent. It is a wonder any of them are allowed out in polite society, let alone given the opportunity to run the country. Politicians as a group are disliked and distrusted more than any other section of society.

The above view is one I’ve been known to supplement, subscribe to and generally show sympathy with. This is because I’m very cynical, and it’s very right.

However, to view the House of Commons as an unusually ornate clown-college-cum-asylum is to profoundly misunderstand its purpose.

MPs are smarter than the average person. In some cases, a lot smarter. Furthermore, the majority are often honest, scarily assiduous and, certain ministerial mockeries aside, genuinely dedicated to their jobs.

They are only ever completely useless and lost in the sense that they try too hard in too many areas in which only a very few would even come close to avoiding abject failure. The rest of the time, they know exactly what they’re up to. Most of them have been in the job, or at least the sphere, for a bewilderingly long time, and in a job as human as politics, experience counts for plenty.

Even the corpulent King of Catachresis, the Rt Hon Deputy Prime Minister, must know more or less what he’s doing. If he really was as retarded as he is lecherous, his fat ass would’ve been toasted, fried, fricasseed and served back to him before things were ever allowed to get this far. A political observer should never forget that knowing how to make yourself useful is the ne plus ultra of practical politics.

It’s not pretty, especially to the censorious and all-too-airily-idealistic commentariat, but it is true. However much we may wish for the good of the country to be of paramount concern to those in the best singular positions to affect it, we need only ask ourselves if it would be our main focus of attention if we were in such a position to know full well that it isn’t.

If we wanted a wise collection of individuals following their consciences, their wisdoms and their senses of civic responsibility in an attempt to run the country in a sensible and mostly harmless manner, we wouldn’t have a democracy. Or at least we’d be trying harder to not get too carried away with the one we’ve got, lest we see it through to its logical conclusion and stump ourselves with an ochlocracy that seeks to purge all the funny looking characters from the streets so we can fly to America without being troubled by our own startling psychological inadequacies and general unfitness for living.

A great deal of the apparent ineptitude displayed by our chieftains is genuine. As well as being above average in general capability, they’re also above average in terms of delusions, and are thus prone to losing sight of their actual abilities the moment someone pins a rosette on their chest and declares them best in show. However, vanity accounts for only a part of their tendency to mess stuff up.

A lot can be equally well explained as an inevitable outcome of the job’s dilettantish demands and the necessity of allocating all the very best resources towards furthering one’s own interests, or being human as it’s otherwise known. In many ways, it’s a wonder there aren’t more obdurate oafs wobbling along the corridors of power, playing at being in the West Wing.

So consider this a one time only ode to the obsequious: the biggest bunch of bastards there is, except for the others.

  1. Having been born and raised in the US and having never lived in the UK, I have little experience with the House of Commons. I have been reading Liadnan’s LiveJournal for quite a while and have been reading here recently. That said, what you’ve talked about here has direct application here in Laramie, WY.

    Our Primary Election in Wyoming was on Tuesday. For City Council here, one of the seats up for grabs is one of the at-large seats. I ran this time, as did five other people. Only the top two go on the the General Election in November.

    I have a lot of respect for the abilities of our existing mayor, who is one of the people running. However, she has proved to make decisions more based on personal interests than is normal even in this town. The second person who is going on is the husband of one of the other eight Council members.

    Having all this fresh in my mind and reading your post makes me think about it. Maybe the problem isn’t who is on Council, but how little most people get involved. Voting in this election was lower than its normal low showing, and few people make their feelings know. Maybe the focus shouldn’t be in making the leaders represent the people better, but in getting the people to take an active interest and try to let their interests be known, both by voting, and by speaking up, instead of grumbling behind their hands.


  2. Paranoid Android said:

    Getting people involved is always going to be a problem, How many people voted in our last general election? Less than or about half wasn’t it?
    I feel this is because there is no real difference twix the partys, especially sonce Labour has moved in on traditional conservative ground. Only when there is something different to vote for (or against) will the turnout improve, as at the moment, it doesn’t matter which bunch of Charlies run the country, the end result is the same.
    Like him or loathe him, that is why Hugo Chavez has been elected as often with as much of the vote as he has (upto 80% at one time, i think).