The World Needs Fewer Politicians and More Leaders

So many lessons from the forefathers of America, on choosing the right men for public office, has long been forgotten.

Lance Ng


Image credit: American Forefathers by Tim on Flickr

“No system of government was ever so ill-devised that, under proper men, it wouldn’t work well enough.”

The English founder of Pennsylvania, William Penn, said that in 1693.

And indeed he is so right.

10,000 years of human history later, we still fight wars over political ideology; as if settling on the right system of government alone can guarantee human society the justice and prosperity we all seek.

That is so wrong.

Democracy alone is not a magic pill for good governance. In fact, countries with elections often end up filling their public offices with politicians instead of leaders.

Because to be elected today means having to play the popularity game and having enough funding to afford masterful propaganda.

The results of electing such men are: Bureaucracy that leads to feet-dragging and compromises, missed opportunities to do the right thing, and time wasted over selfish power struggles.

To turn this around we must learn to identify candidates that are true leaders, and not mere politicians and bureaucrats.

Such men share a few common characteristics.

The willingness to be unpopular

“A new race of men is springing up to govern the nation; they are the hunters after popularity, men ambitious, not of the honor so much as of the profits of office…”

— Joseph Story, American Judge, 1779–1845

Democratic elections with limited office terms have a big downside: Leaders often take a short term view of what they should do to get into office and what they can do while in office.

Because there is the need to get elected (and re-elected), the pressure to echo popular views and pursue popular policies is tremendous.