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Reading an AP article on President Obama’s appearance on The Daly Show (http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20101027/ap_on_en_tv/us_obama_daily_show) reminded me of the title truism, the flip side of “the electorate rewards pandering.” Of course, to the current dominant populist force in America, there’s no such thing as “pandering,” because democracy to them means, should mean, must mean, government by the lowest common denominator, that whatever is shouted loudest must be truest, that the mob is never wrong, and knowledge is never relevant. Forget the fact that history has thoroughly disproved this (ever seen film clips of Nazi rallies in 1920s Germany?). Forget that fact that it is mindbogglingly obvious that there are complex issues, economic, legal, technical issues that require the application of actual knowledge to actual systems. Forget the fact that the only response this neo-Neanderthal movement has to these obvious observations is to yell:

 I have never before read so much elitist, “better-than-thou” snobbery rife opinions full of progressive intellectual drivel in my life than right here. Somebody has spent way too much time in isolated Liberal environments and media.

(That was a direct quote from someone named Keith Perry in a recent Tea Party Facebook circle jerk I had the honor of inspiring). There are better quotes out there, ones that more explicitly denounce any application of knowledge with accusations of disdaining “the unwashed masses.” Any attempt to suggest that we should consider that governance merits professionalization in much the same way that medicine, law, education, accounting, geology, carpentry, mechanics, and any other profession that deals with even moderately complex systems do is met with blind, unreasoning rejection. Even when it is coupled with recognition of the need to hold those professionals democratically accountable for the job they do.

No, the rising tide is one that rejects such quaint notions as that there is any relevance to expertise. They don’t want laymen to instruct surgeons on how to do their child’s open-heart surgery, but they want laymen to instruct representatives on how to deal with complex economic, legal and technical challenges, because they are incapable of recognizing social systems as systems, complex and subtle systems, systems as challenging to work with effectively as (really more challenging than) human anatomical systems, or mechanical systems. But we are cursed by an ignorance so aggressive that it isn’t content merely to lack any understanding of social systems, but has to insist on dictating how they are addressed.

The people best equipped to govern are those who do know enough about these social systems, about the economic dynamics, the technological complexities, the legal and administrative framework, the ways in which all of these articulate with one another and with the natural and cultural systems that envelop and permeate them. These are people professional enough to examine the historical and international record, to compare various institutional arrangements, to identify their strengths and weaknesses, in short, to do what professionals do, applying training to information in service to the job for which they are paid.

And those so equipped shouldn’t say, “yes, Joe-the-Plumber, you are the expert, you know all that needs to be known about economic and fiscal policy, about international relations, about geohydrology and electrical grids and toxic environmental contamination. There is no knowledge anywhere in the world that you don’t possess that can possibly be relevant to public policy.” No, they should say, “You hired me to do a job, and it is my responsibility to do it faithfully and capably. And doing it the way your telling me to do it would be neither.” Just as the surgeon would refuse to take a hacksaw to his patient just because the father insisted it was the best way to go, so to the most talented elected officials, the kind who have the combination of knowledge, integrity, and courage to do the job they were paid to do, and to do it well, the true leaders, are punished at the polls for being true leaders. Only sycophants to popular ignorance need apply.

In fact, true leaders do more than tell the public that not each and every member knows each and every relevant fact or systemic dynamic, but also tells the public that, collectively, they possess vast untapped genius, and that that wisdom can only be tapped once the public stops drowning it out with undifferentiated noise. The job requires not just technocracy, but also energizing and mobilizing what’s best about the populace, inspiring each to contribute what they have in greater degree than others, while also encouraging each to acknowledge what their individual limitations and areas of inexpertise are.

If too many cooks spoil the broth, then the Tea these particular chefs are steeping is a toxic brew, one so putrid that it poisons the body politic each and every time it is served.

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