Monday, August 15, 2011

What Merit Badges Make A Good President?

Do We Need Politicians Who Are Smart or Virtuous?

Bruce S. Thornton, August 14, 2011 -
- That we raise the question at all is a testimony to how thoroughly progressive ideas about governing have permeated our political consciousness. This is obvious from the fact that Democrats are the ones who typically assert the superior intelligence of their candidate over the Republican. Indeed, every Republican candidate since Eisenhower has been characterized as a simplistic ideologue, if not an outright dunce, a tradition that continues with the scorn heaped on Sarah Palin’s intellect and alma mater. Partly this reflects the unproven assumption that liberals are by definition more nuanced, complex, subtle thinkers than are conservatives. More important, however, is the underlying assumption of progressive ideology: that modern politics in a technologically advanced world needs technocratic managers with specialized knowledge and skills, what French political philosopher Chantal Delsol calls “techno-politics.”

Yet this belief goes back even farther, to the philosophical debates of ancient Greece. When Plato in the Republic creates his ideal government, he imagines a ruling elite of philosopher “guardians” who are selected at an early age and educated for thirty years in philosophy and mathematics. In contrast, the democracy of Athens assumed that all citizens, by virtue of being citizens, were capable of participating in running the state. To Plato’s credit, in the Protagoras he gives a fair version of the argument underlying democratic rule: for social order to exist at all, Protagoras argues, all people must have the politikê technê, the craft of politics, one innate to humans. Thus all are capable of managing the state. ----------Read more