This Dark Age

A manual for life in the modern world.

By Daniel Schwindt

This Dark Age is now available in paperback on Amazon. The print version is MUCH cleaner than this online version, which is largely unedited and has fallen by the wayside as the project has grown. If you’ve appreciated my writing, please consider leaving a review on the relevant paperback volumes. The print edition also includes new sections (Military History, War Psychology, Dogmatic Theology).

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The cult of incompetence

 “I have often wondered what principle democrats have adopted for the form of government which they favour, and it has not required a great effort on my part to arrive at the conclusion that the principle in question is the worship and cultivation, or, briefly ‘the cult’ of incompetence or inefficiency…The people favours incompetence, not only because it is no judge of intellectual competence and because it looks on moral competence from a wrong point of view, but because it desires before everything, as indeed is very natural, that its representatives should resemble itself.”

~ Emile Faguet[1]

The passage above is taken from Émile Faguet’s Cult of Incompetence, in which he elaborates on this idea. It is worth quoting at length:

What is the people’s one desire, when once it has been stung by the democratic tarantula? It is that all men should be equal, and in consequence that all inequalities natural as well as artificial should disappear. It will not have artificial inequalities, nobility of birth, royal favours, inherited wealth, and so it is ready to abolish nobility, royalty, and inheritance. Nor does it like natural inequalities, that is to say a man more intelligent, more active, more courageous, more skilful than his neighbours. It cannot destroy these inequalities, for they are natural, but it can neutralise them, strike them with impotence by excluding them from the employments under its control. Democracy is thus led quite naturally, irresistibly one may say, to exclude the competent precisely because they are competent, or if the phrase pleases better and as the popular advocate would put it, not because they are competent but because they are unequal, or, as he would probably go on to say, if he wished to excuse such action, not because they are unequal, but because being unequal they are suspected of being opponents of equality. So it all comes to the same thing. This it is that made Aristotle say that where merit is despised, there is democracy. He does not say so in so many words, but he wrote: “Where merit is not esteemed before everything else, it is not possible to have a firmly established aristocracy,” and that amounts to saying that where merit is not esteemed, we enter at once on a democratic regime and never escape from it.[2]

One would have to read Faguet’s interesting little book to properly appreciate his thesis, but it is not difficult to understand that an incompetent public chooses the incompetent candidate, not just accidentally, due to the incompetence, but on purpose. For if the choice of an incompetent leader were merely the result of incompetence on the part of the chooser, then we would see the accidental choice of a competent leader for the same reason: it would be a coin toss. But the principle of like unto like demands that the incompetent voters actively prefer the incompetent candidate, despising a competent one.

In other words, the worst part about the attempt to institute “representative” government is that it often works: the people choose leaders, not because they perceive that they know better or because they have exceptional talents, but because they believe that these men resemble themselves.

If Faguet’s reasoning is sound, then we would actually have a better chance of drawing quality statesman if we adopted the Old Testament practice of casting lots, for the system we use presently does not give us the luxury of chance, but ensures that the selection will fail. To lead into our next point, however, we must acknowledge that this is not a conscious process, but an unconscious one, which is to say it is almost instinctual.

[1] Emile Faguet, The Cult of Incompetence, pp. 15, 29.

[2] Ibid., pp. 30-31.

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