The basic laws of human stupidity suggest a better way to choose politicians

The Italian economist Carlo M. Cipolla wrote an essay about stupidity and perhaps all other human experiences. «Always and inevitably everyone underestimates the number of stupid individuals in circulation; The probability that a certain person be stupid is independent of any other characteristic of that person; A stupid person is a person who causes losses to another person or to a group of persons while himself deriving no gain and even possibly incurring losses; Non-stupid people always underestimate the damaging power of stupid individuals. In particular non-stupid people constantly forget that at all times and places and under any circumstances to deal and/or associate with stupid people always turns out to be a costly mistake.» Nations in decline have an alarming proliferation of persistently stupid people whose behavior inevitably strengthens their destructive power. There are two distinct, unhelpful groups: “bandits” who take positions of power which they use for their own gain, and people out of power who sigh through life as if they are helpless.

After professor Cipolla’s death, three scientists came up with an improved way to choose politicians, they applied a bit of modern mathematics to an old Athenian principle of democracy, «governments that more efficiently produce laws that benefit society.» Pluchino, Rapisarda, and Garofalo based the “Accidental Politicians: How Randomly Selected Legislators Can Improve Parliament Efficiency” on the Peter Principle—the notion that many people are promoted, sooner or later, to positions that overmatch their competence. But their research was neither the beginning nor the end of the story of how bureaucracies try—and fail—to find a good promotion method. They demonstrated mathematically that organizations would become more efficient if they promoted people at random.

And if you think it’s never been tried. It has. The practice was common in ancient Greece, when democracy was young. The study tells how, in Athens, citizens’ names were placed into a randomization device called a kleroterion. Later on, legislators were selected randomly in other places, Bologna, Parma, Vicenza, San Marino, Barcelona, and parts of Switzerland, aand “in Florence in the 13th and 14th century and in Venice from 1268 until the fall of the Venetian Republic in 1797, providing opportunities to minorities and resistance to corruption”.




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