We're in for a wild ride. Exponentially accelerating technological, cultural, and socioeconomic evolution means that every year will see more developments than the previous one. More change will happen between now and 2050 than during all of humanity's past. Let's explore the 21st century and ride this historic wave of planetary transition with a confident open mind.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Ways to Screen Political Candidates

The goal of acquiring better politicians and eliminating influence of money in government points to an exam based selection system as the means

How to better achieve the age old goal of having political candidates that are right for the job? The job of course being to visibly and tangibly advance social welfare and involves:

a- decreasing price (in caloric energy spent) while increasing quality/quantity of food, electrical output, transport, shelter, education  
b- decreasing necessity for backbreaking work and subsistence living  
c- increasing safety from violence and coercion and advancing interethnic harmony
d- preserving and even expanding human autonomy during the process of all of the above

Yes, very difficult and definitely not the type of job that morons, pandering charismatic narcissists, rich man's stooges, and quick fix/gimmick driven individuals should engage in. Unfortunately, very often these days these 4 types are blended into one toxic package. To know what we want from candidates is to conceptualize a way to screen them. The public desires 3 basic simultaneous things from a person seeking power:

1) sufficiently competent to run and evolve technologically complex and very populous (over 10 million people) social units
2) sufficiently independent of oligarchic corporate influence
3) sufficiently legitimate in eyes of the public without it minimizing 1) and 2) (successfully approved by some sort of democratic input)

It is becoming very clear that neither public or private financing of candidates is achieving these. Rather than engaging in a futile task of tweaking an easily abused system (more public financing, ban on ads, regulating funds, etc), it is possible to cut off degradation and corruption of the candidate pool at the root. What needs to be made structurally obsolete is a need for money in politics in the first place. This in turn eliminates the need for advanced election marketing propaganda, fund raising pandering, and for extremely self absorbed individuals that possess a solid acting/lying/showmanship ability.

Screening method 1: Technical Exam

As previously mentioned, since economics is an engineering challenge, it is imperative to dramatically increase the quantity of candidates with scientific, civil engineering, and technical backgrounds. This calls for a comprehensive examination that candidates have to pass. Unlike the 1920s progressive era desire to screen voters via literacy tests and such, screening of ambitious power hungry candidates will find a lot more support. Relatively unbiased apolitical technical exams can rapidly be formulated and mandated for those who are to appear on the ballot the same way signature collection is.

The difficulty of the examination process can depend on the level of responsibility the candidate will possess. Perhaps the highest offices in the land may mandate taking a general exam, then secondary more closely watched exam for top 10% of scorers, and finally a final filtering test for 10% top scorers of surviving group. The last individuals left standing (say 10 people) can then be put under rigorous investigation of their personal and psychological backgrounds and be made to engage in debates before the public finally votes for who they want.

"But who controls the process!!?? Who makes the exams!!!??? Wouldn't rich people just have super specialized prep schools to create super engineers that always pass!!?? We're back to where we started!!!"

Sigh. The rich ivy leaguers are nowhere near as advantaged under the examination system since they would not get the automatic social networking and money raising boost. The materials to pass would be much more diffused and available in society (unlike the ivy social networking advantage many politicians have that prevents average people from even trying to run for office). This means that more people can try their luck at higher office. Additionally, due to the color blind nature of the meritocratic candidate selection process, the chances are a lot better for a highly qualified individual to make it into the final candidate pool (who would otherwise not get there due to voter bias against race, gender, ethnic group, age, class, etc).

We must keep in mind that the goals of candidate competence and independence from corporate control determine the means of candidate selection. If for example, one looks at a hypothetical proposal where some sort of social networking-video presentation candidate selection method is implemented, it becomes clear that once again the visually presentable and narcissistic are at an advantage. Visual selection of candidates via videos of speeches filters out the potentially far more competent individuals who may be camera shy, not be sufficiently attractive, not possess superb verbal eloquence, and so on. As of today, politics is dominated by extroverted semi psychopathic backstabbing individuals who are very eloquent and presentable. This corporate type led our society to disastrous consequences on a planetary scale. Reducing reliance on video presentation and increasing other ways of evaluation is key.

The exam itself would consist of sections such as systems thinking, civil engineering, organizational architecture, basic materials science, energy science, history, systems analysis, organizational psychology, infrastructure design, etc. If children of rich people do have some advantage of specialized prep schools, so be it, they'll be better occupied than snorting coke and becoming lawyers.

Screening method 2: Psychiatric Exam

This would test candidates for psychopathy using cutting edge medical and psychological means. This is a very serious if not the most critical issue for leadership filtering in terms of preventing damage to society. Further information concerning the societal justification can be found here.

A hypothetical argument against this can be made from certain possibility that as the ability to pass the technical exam increases, the ability to pass the psychiatric one decreases. This may be true to a degree considering schizoidia leaning introverted individuals with low empathy may excel more at engineering and systems analysis the colder their temperaments are. What has to be kept in mind is that a degree of physiologically determined empathy and emotional intelligence is not in conflict with competence but is a significant characteristic of it (especially for a political leader). To see some discussion on taking emotionality into consideration when determining policy in a group context (or even formulating a candidate exam), see here.

The reader can be assured that humanity can overcome the problem of balancing the need to screen out genuine psychopaths (who are not likely to be synonymous with advanced technical/analytic ability to begin with according to Lobaczewski) from the candidate pool while allowing very cold but harmless people to participate in evolution of social policy.

Final thoughts:

It is worth noting that technical and psychological exams can be applied to all levels of public recruitment even if the leadership is still selected completely democratically. A council of engineers instead of council of economists by the side of the mayor, governor, or president would go a long way. Some countries have already engaged in trying to screen out psychopaths during hiring of new police officers. This can be expanded easily to entry level positions within all public hierarchies. If we are to have proper reindustrialization of the Western world, the public cadres must be up to the level of the task.

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