One of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
From “Get Rich Now” by Amitai Etzioni, from The New Republic
Social justice entails redistribution of wealth, taking from those disproportionately endowed and giving to those who are underprivileged through no fault of their own – for reasons ranging from past injstuce to globilazation. The reason these redistributions have been surprisingly limited in free societies is that those who command the “extra” assets tend also to be those who are politcially powerful.
Chapter 28, from The Restaurant at the End of the Universe by Douglas Adams
To summarize: The major problem — one of the major problems, for there are several — is […] that those people who most want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. To summarize the summary of the summary: people are a problem.
So the question arises: Are there other ways to reduce the resistance of elite to redistribution?
In an inherited monarchy, the problem is the randomness of genetics…which is probably the least affective way of choosing a leader. Hopefully your current leader and their spouse is of good genetic stock, but then you still run into the problem of birth order. Looking at some of the siblings in the world, would you really want to leave which sibling is your leader to fate? For example take Dmitri and Ivan Karamazov. Dmitri spends large amount of money and time on simple pleasures, like booze and women, while Ivan is very studious and intelligent; which would you want to rule your country? How about Billy and John Kennedy, one was a senator and one was a beer maker. Which would you choose? Then there’s Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen, one is a right-handed, 5′ 1″ actress with wavy-ish straight hair who majored in psychology and the other is left-handed actress with straight-ish wavy hair who majored in cuisine and measures (barely) five foot tall! To be fair, both dropped out of college in their freshman year, but these are still not choices you want to leave up to the randomness of birth order.
In our democracy, the problem is money. The truth is that it is impossible to become president without affective marketing. Obama’s campaign had $500,000,000 by the end while McCain had a mere $300,000,000. While wealth is not alone a measure of one’s goodness and appropriateness to be president, it can certainly tell you something of their character. Those people who are primarilly interested in personal gain and put their own interests in front of the interests of others often are able to amass personal wealth before those who are interested in the well-being of others and put other’s interests ahead of their own.
‘Tis true that “anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job” and to reverse Etzioni’s quote, “those who are politcially powerful also tend to be those who command the vast assets.”
Therefore I set forth this modest proposal: anyone who has ever had a net worth of $500,000 or more are automatically disqalified from public office. Once on the ballot, one must go through an extensive audit and if at any point in their life their assets (frozen, liquid, whatever) ever topped a half-million are immediately disqualified. Furthermore, to ensure that the president will not abuse his power for future gain, if he ever has a net worth of more than $500,000 he will go to jail. That means no book deals, no insider trading, nothing but a modest living for the rest of their days. That’s the sacrifice you must make to prove that you are only interested in the well being of the people that you are committing to lead.
This should ensure that anyone seeking to be president will do so purely because they want to lead the country and not to play the global oil market, sell copies of his book, or achieve instant fame.
This is not to say that I “hate the rich” as I have been accused of doing, but only that I have a healthy mistrust of individuals which is inversely proportionate to their ability to amass personal wealth. Most of the problems of our country are deeply entrenched in the fact that we are a consumerist society that puts ownership of things above the quality of life for our selves, our fellow citizens, our global neighbors, and the planet on which we live. If you’re part of the problem, then you’re not likely to be part of the solution.
There are exceptions of course; Paul Newman, Bono, and Warren Buffet are among my favorite millionaires. There are certainly many more examples of wealthy individuals with the interest to improve the lives of others and examples of the destitute who are single-heartedly looking out for their own self interest. This line in the sand is not to vilify the wealthy, but only to express that we should express this healthy mistrust of people who have proven their ability to put themselves first.
The president should be a common person like you or me, otherwise how can they effectively lead a country of common people. The wealthy that have an interest in improving the lives of their fellow citizens already have the means to do so, so this both eliminate the wealthy class from using the presidency from getting wealthy and give the opportunity to those interested in improving the lives of their fellow citizens but without the financial wealth to do so.