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I was wondering what would happen, if we required the people who serve in top positions in a democracy (president...) to go through a dedicated school, that would be free for anyone who wants to enroll, and exclusively based on merit, run by the state.

The idea would be to prepare the future leaders of that democracy through a solid education in history, geography, economics, ... and of course Philosophy!

I do believe that running a State is incredibly hard, and that being prepared would be productive, and in the interests of the citizens. I think it should be open to anyone though, as long as you can demonstrate that you have the capacity (hence that school will be all based on merit, and not on money, no buying anything here).

I am not sure what to make of the fact that it might de facto exclude some citizens, i.e. those who might enroll, but then fail along the way. Would that make the system not democratic? Also, I would be curious about any reference on that topic, I'm sure there are plenty already.

  • Similar principles were though through in the Platos Republic; it wouldn't surprise me if it had a role in adoption of mass education in the West... – Mozibur Ullah Jan 14 '17 at 0:57
  • I will check out Plato's Republic. What do you think of the idea, @Mozibur? – Frank Jan 14 '17 at 2:25
  • The idea has merit! – Mozibur Ullah Jan 14 '17 at 4:32
  • Plato suggests that guardians are ready to be leaders only when they reach 50 years of age, after (among other things) 10 years of maths (!), 5 years of "dialectic" and 15 years of "apprenticeship", if I understand correctly. That is exactly what we need nowadays - at least because it would discourage politicians who "are in it" for the wrong reasons, hopefully. The more strenuous the learning process, the more would be discouraged and give up. – Frank Jan 14 '17 at 6:02
  • I think he changed his mind on math, they were guidelines after all; plus it meant something different to him than is meant to day; its the study then of proportion, amongst other things; in the Timeaus, which comes after the Republic, he just says music & gymnastic; Confucious made roughly the same point about age, maturity and education. – Mozibur Ullah Jan 14 '17 at 6:21
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It's not a new idea. Haileybury School in England was set up by the East India Company to train civil servants to administer India. By its standards it was very successful, the school still exists but obviously not for this purpose.

Note, though, that it's not at all clear that the people administered by the alumni of Haileybury necessarily agreed that they did a great job. This, I think, hints at the flaw in the idea.

By necessity, if you train all your civil servants in one school/college, they'll have an outlook that reflects that training. That's presumably the point of doing it. This requires, however, that the curriculum and ethos of the college instills the right outlook. But what is right in this regard? Is there one true way to govern? Would we not be better with various viewpoints and outlooks? I don't think the answer is at all clear cut.

  • the other half of the proposition is to restrict citizens in elections to choose only from people from the school. But maybe that's not relevant in the case you cite. As for point of view, how about we restrict the education to be administrative? Competent technocrats would be all we need to run the State efficiently. Ideology might not be required, and that should restrict the number of "viewpoints": all that's required is that budgets be balanced ... which should not be subjective? – Frank Jan 18 '17 at 15:29
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I think that "idealistically" it would be of benefit to those being governed, to have competent, knowledgeable, ethical, honest, etc. civil servants. However, "realistically" it does not happen, because those being governed can't (or don't want) differentiate between those leaders/persons that have (or meet) the "good" requirements, from those that "claim" they have them, or even those that "obviously" don't have them! This is one of the reasons we have the "Electorate College" to try to avoid fools from electing incompetent, dishonest, unethical, etc. civil servants, but as history has shown, we have not done that great.
Although I don't expect great improvement, your idea has the potential to improve the system, and if implemented, I feel it would be no worse than the current system.

  • Is this a strong argument? If there was, say in the US, a constitutional amendment to require e.g. the president to only come from that hypothetical school, then that school would confer the "good" stamp unambiguously. That school could not be one of the for profit schools we commonly find in the US. It would have to be a states-sponsored school paid for by taxes. I would pay for such a school. – Frank Jan 17 '17 at 22:30
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