An Alternative to Democracy: Meritocratic Dictatorship | Callum

A few months ago I read an article in the Mallard by Alex Brown on why democracy will never work. It was a good article and set out the case eloquently on why democracy is such a fundamentally flawed political system, however I was struck by his negative end to the article and the lack of alternatives to democracy. He hopes that something more competent will replace it and in this article I aim to outline what that more competent system would be. It would be called meritocratic dictatorship and it is a system which has had brief flickers of existence throughout history but has never existed as an actual, properly defined, political system. It is my aim in this article to explain what meritocratic dictatorship is and why it would be a superior system to democracy.

What is meritocratic dictatorship? It is simple and self-explanatory. It is a system in which the most able and competent man available rules the nation and is the head of both government and state. In contrast to hereditary monarchy, the man’s son cannot succeed him but he must choose his successor from the most able man in his cabinet. The dictatorship would be time limited, due to the nature of the succession; most would inherit the post in their late 40s or early 50s and would have to retire by 75 with their successor already chosen. This gives the dictator 25 or years or so of ruling which is the equivalent of the average rule of a monarch. The advantage it has over monarchy is that the next ruler will never be chosen simply by birth. Most great monarchs are succeeded by inferior ones, but this system ensures that every successor is just as competent if not more so than their predecessor. Jean-Jacques Rousseau states that hereditary monarchy leads to a constant risk of incompetent rulers, meritocratic dictatorship avoids that problem. The dictator will rule with a strong cabinet chosen by him and the best member of his cabinet will succeed him. Thus, the cabinet advising and aiding him will be of central importance to the system, the dictator will also be expected to appoint younger members of the cabinet every decade or so to ensure that his successor will be younger than him. Of course, older and experienced members of cabinet could remain in post for a long time but would be unable to succeed him. Why give a cabinet of a handful of men a central role in a dictatorship? No dictatorship has ever succeeded when everything relies on one man. Napoleon the Great practically worked himself to death and made major mistakes because he was unable to delegate effectively and have key political advisors he trusted. The same for Julius Caesar, he was assassinated because leading Romans saw that he was dominating the state entirely and had no key advisors around him which led to resentment. Contrast this with Augustus, who was able to delegate and with Agrippa, Maecenas and Livia was able to rule Rome effectively well for decades. His reign only began to falter when he lost these key advisors. Thus, a strong cabinet with knowledgeable and skilled advisors is key for any dictatorship to effectively function. 

Has meritocratic dictatorship ever been seen before in history? Yes and no. It has never been a clear cut defined political system but there have been brief examples of it throughout history. One of which comes through English history and the form of Oliver Cromwell and the Protectorate. Cromwell was a man who rose to rule England as a result of his exceptional ability as a general and his political acumen. He transformed England and was one of the greatest Englishmen ever, however he made one fatal flaw in choosing his son, Richard, to succeed him. If Cromwell had chosen John Lambert or another able military man as his successor instead of his son then the Protectorate could have ruled England for centuries and would be the first true example of a functioning meritocratic dictatorship in human history. Napoleon the Great is another example of a meritocratic dictatorship in action. Napoleon seized power from the ineffective and incompetent Directory and went on to rule France for the next 15 years. His genius and vision led to France becoming a pioneer for the Enlightenment and France reached its zenith under him. He rose to power through talent and proved himself as one of the greatest statesmen in human history. Unfortunately, he embraced monarchy and trusted few non-military men around him so did not implement a meritocratic succession. However, his rise to power and vision shows the potential of meritocratic dictatorship and what can happen if we let skilled and exceptional men lead nations. Thus, it has never existed as a defined system but we have seen glimmers of what happens when the most competent men rule nations and meritocratic dictatorship would ensure that these gifted visionary men would rule in perpetuity.

How is meritocratic dictatorship established? This I admit is the trickiest part of the system, in order for it to be established we need a truly remarkable man to seize power. A Cromwell, Caesar or Napoleon must be able to come to power in the first place and establish this system. It could come about through democratic means but it would be difficult as they would need to abolish the system they used to get into power. It has been done before with Hitler, but this was a unique situation and is an option unavailable to us in Britain as a truly visionary man will not be able to come to power democratically with First Past the Post and the current Labour/Tory duopoly. In Britain we would need a radical change in order to bring meritocratic dictatorship into existence. However once established the system has the potential to go on for centuries. Once coming to power one of the most important reforms the dictator must pass is a reform to the education system. He must create an education system that is meritocratic and ensures that the very best men rise to the positions of power. Private schools would be abolished and there would be no privilege or succession throughout generations. The best schools would have entry exams which would be available to those talented enough and if you pass then you will be trained to become a key political figure and potential ruler. The son of the dictator himself might not be talented enough to enter the school which creates the future leaders, cabinet members and civil servants. However, the son of a binman might be remarkably talented and pass the entry exams into the best schools and could become one of the leading cabinet ministers or even the dictator. Other schools would exist and I would advocate a three tiered educational system of practical education, normal schooling and the political academies which would train the future political leaders and civil servants etc. at the top. This system would ensure that there would always be talented men coming through the system and would ensure that people cannot rise to the top simply through privilege and wealth. Those who are gifted and truly care about their nation would rise to the top, not greedy, privileged men who have no interest in the nation but only their own self-advancement.

Meritocratic dictatorship is a system that I believe would be a much better alternative to democracy. Democracy leads to weak, untalented, power hungry men getting to power. Meritocratic dictatorship ensures that only the best and the most visionary of men rule the nation and guide it towards greatness. Aided by a competent and knowledgeable cabinet, the dictator would be able to rule without being overly encumbered by the burdens of state and ruling. He would be able to delegate but also make the tough decisions that are needed and are in the best interests of the nation. Being in power for decades at a time would allow the dictators to make clear plans for the future without being tied down by time limits and the fickle electorate. It is a system which could transform any nation from mediocrity to the very zenith of their potential. It is a system which could bring Britain out of its nadir and become a truly great nation again and fix all the problems which are plaguing the nation. It is a system that has never been properly tried before in human history but it would transform politics and is a political system that is the future of mankind.

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