Sta Hungry Stay Foolish

Stay Hungry. Stay Foolish.

A blog by Leon Oudejans

Parliamentary democracy in The Age of Wisdom

9 February 2015


An interesting guy featured in my favourite Sunday evening TV broadcast: Ricardo Semler, a Brazilian businessman and novelist (1959). One of his remarks was about intelligence and wisdom: too much intelligence does not create wisdom. Immediately I was reminded of what a headhunter once said to me: the word too – like in too much – never indicates anything good.

Ricardo Semler used the example of today’s employee hiring processes that all look for the best and brightest. Nevertheless, most of these companies will turn into oblivion within decades. Hiring the best and brightest may even be a recipe for disaster, he said, while referring to the banking industry. According to him any organisation needs to reflect the ordinary world to maintain sustainability.

Pooling intelligence in organisations that are driven by short term gains will obviously direct that intelligence towards their short term goals. One cannot expect wisdom to appear where greed rules.

Ricardo Semler also wondered when the Age of Wisdom would finally start given the advances in intelligence that we had made. We do admire wise men like Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela but would we elect them in office today? Usually we prefer to elect the people into office who promise us the things we want although we know that they will not be able to deliver.

We admire wise men as they provide a moral compass but we may not often listen to their wisdom as doing good and right may be boring. The mere existence of wise men already makes us feel less guilty about our own shortcomings.

The Age of Wisdom will never arrive as long as we keep on electing new people with new promises into office each 4 years. The Age of Wisdom and parliamentary democracy do not go well together. Most other systems have failed too. Usually as personal interests prevail over common interests.

The continued decline in voter turnout in mature parliamentary democracies illustrates that voters no longer believe that voting makes a difference. Parliamentary democracy is on its return yet there is no alternative in sight. A declining voter turnout even allows outliers to gain more relative power than deserved. Hence power becomes more fragmented and governing even more complicated.

The Age of Wisdom may thus well require people to waive their political rights.

In what situation would the majority of people be prepared to do such? Some elements that come up for consideration are a healthy balance between equality and inequality, food, housing, education, healthcare and obviously entertainment. Like in ancient Rome: give the people bread and circuses and they will be satisfied and will not revolt.

The Age of Wisdom may well evolve towards a technocracy, until now a hypothetical concept.

A technocracy is a form of organisational structure or system of governance where decision-makers were selected on the basis of their expert knowledge. Source: Wikipedia.

Although The Age of Wisdom may finally feel achievable, Greed and Power remain its Nemesis.


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