Democracy Is Dead – Long Live the Smartocracy!
Tl;dr: societal hierarchies are based on competence strongly linked to intellectual capacities. As a result, it is the smart people that rule the world. Not the dumb ones.
What do Kesha (singer), Mark Zuckerberg, Steven Spielberg, Elizabeth Holmes (former billionaire and…uhm, scam artist?)…
…Steve Jobs, Emmanuel Macron (French President), Sheryl Sandberg (n°2 at Facebook), Jonathan Haidt (psychologist), Galileo (astrophysicist)…
…Vladimir Putin, Napoleon, Xi Jinping (Chinese President), Tidjane Thiam (former CEO of Credit Suisse), Roman Abramovitch (billionaire),…
…Pony Ma (entrepreneur), Michael Bloomberg (inventor, billionaire), Margaret Atwood (writer)…
…Bill Gates, Leonardo Da Vinci, Cortes (explorer), Ray Dalio (founder of Bridgewater), Steve Wozniak (inventor), Richard Branson (entrepreneur)…
Michel Onfray (philosopher), Charles Consigny (writer), Dom D’Agostino (scientist), Peter Thiel (founder of Paypal), Michel Houellebecq (writer), Newton (physicist)…
…Melanie Perkins (entrepreneur), Ben Shapiro (political commentator), Emma Stone (actress), Palmer Lucky (inventor)…
…Gérard Depardieu (actor), Warren Buffett (billionaire), Aristotle (philosopher, mathematician), Jim Simons (mathematician)…
…Giorgio Armani (fashion designer), Michael Burry (hedge fund manager), Jordan Peterson (psychologist), Eric Weinstein (math Ph.D.)…
…Oprah Winfrey (entertainment mogul) and Elon Musk (inventor) have in common?
While it is true that most of the people quoted are indeed quite wealthy, their net worth is merely a by-product of the characteristics they have in common.
The Elite Is the Elite Because They’re Smart
Have you ever wondered how and why the people at the top of society ended up at the top of society?
Why it is them and not others?
Is it because their parents were already there?
Because they are white males? Hell no.
Because they are lucky? To some extent.
Because they are the lizard-people that rule over the world?
They are all lizards.
A Short History of Elite Constituency
In the Middle-Age, after the Western Roman Empire fell, Europe reconstituted of countries made out of Kingdoms with castles and kings.
In the case of France, the country was eventually united under three successive dynasties: the Mérovingiens, the Carolingians, and the Capet.
Rulers of the country were chosen through the dynasty.
A dynasty is a system in which rulers succeed each other based on one criteria: family.
It’s not about being smart, being rich, being white, or having good grades at school, but about being the son/daughter of someone else, most of the time the firstborn.
Royal families are de facto dynasties, they wouldn’t be royal otherwise: you are royal by blood and could be by marriage or adoption, but you can’t become royal because you suddenly decided it.
Royalty is a bit like money: it exists because everyone believes it exists.
Royalty is the reason why I didn’t include MBS (unofficial ruler of Saudi Arabia) or Kim Jung-un in the list: they are at the top of society, but they got there thanks to their situation.
The power of the dynasty fell in Britain in 1689 and France, in 1789.
This period saw the emergence of a new social class: “the new rich”, also called “bourgeoisie”.
The new rich, as the name indicates, weren’t rich at first. They didn’t inherit money and power like dynasties.
They became rich by themselves.
The new rich signaled a slow but certain evolution of the constituency of elites in society.
In the 17th and 18th centuries, Europe went through the industrialized revolution which enabled former poor people to become extremely wealthy thanks to a characteristic linking all the people I have quoted at the beginning.
What is it then?
These people were smart.
As dynasties, the blood-based elite constituency system fell. It was replaced by a “smartocratic” system based on competence.
And competence is just another word for intelligence.
If You Think You Live in a Democracy, Think Again
The importance of the democratic system in a democracy is, I believe, widely overrated.
The military people, civil servants, CEOs, intellectuals, and entrepreneurs that reach the top don’t reach the top randomly.
They don’t reach the top because people voted for them.
Remember, we only vote for politicians.
These people reached the top because they’re smart and they proved they were smart by doing excellent work both at school and at work.
They can outdo their peers so because they have the “capacity to understand new knowledge, resolve new problems, and make good decisions faster and better than others”.
As such, the democratic system in which you live is not a democracy, but a smartocracy.
It’s not the people (demos) that rules, but intelligence.
The democratic dimension of society is only applied in the context of the political system and even then, many politicians are much smarter than the interviews they give could make you guess.
For the rest of society outside of the political sphere, the people that occupy top positions are the people that are smart enough to be there.
Usually, they could be identified as future leaders fairly young.
It showed through signs such as skipping grades at school (Jordan Peterson), building computers in their spare time (Palmer Lucky), learning how to code at age 10 (Zuckerberg), winning local tournaments and competitions (Peter Thiel), writing novels (Dickens), creating national newspapers (Branson) and more.
Their intelligence gave them almost an unfair advantage over their peers and when combined with hard work, beat the path to the top.
Inequality of IQ
In a world where we talk on a daily basis about inequality of means, capital, resources, salaries, opportunities, and so on, I’ve always been surprised that no one ever addressed the root cause of the problem: intelligence (I have already written about this issue over here).
Business studies have highlighted how the fate of an organization depends on the decisions made by those that constitute it. The art of making the right decision is directly correlated to intelligence.
That is rather extraordinary as it means that there are fewer billionaires’ children that become billionaires than there are poor people that become billionaires (provided billionaires have children).
What it means is that having billionaire parents will not help you become a billionaire yourself, unless of course, you inherit.
And that is when we are only focusing on money.
Should we focus on science, politics, or business, how many percentages of self-made people would we find?
Quite a lot, in my humble opinion.
The social inequalities we are therefore seeing are not inequalities of income, nor depend on physical or gender characteristics as the anti-racist post-modernists would like you to believe.
The root of social-economic inequality is actually inequality in mental capacities (while IQ is a reliable measure of intelligence, it is too restrictive and it doesn’t account for all types of intelligence).
A CEO makes more money because they manage hundreds, thousands, or hundreds of thousands of employees, creating more value than one employee and hence…making more money.
And why is this person CEO?
Because they have the mental capacity to occupy that function, which is not the case of the majority of the people in the company.
The same can be said of most writers, philosophers, inventors, scientists, and journalists at the top.
Artists remain in a different category.
You don’t need to be smart if you can sing or play on TV.
Being smart, in the case of artists, can be outsourced to managers and to agents which explains why so many people in the show-business are so freaking stupid.
You do need to work hard though.
But everyone can do that.
Will the Smartocracy Evolve Towards a New Model?
To understand whether a smartocracy has a future or not, we need to have a look at the other systems in place.
Dynastic-like societies, for example, don’t (and can’t) last.
At some point, the ruler in charge is an idiot and quickly overthrown.
That’s why Saudi Arabia and North-Korea have, in the long-term, zero chance of survival if they don’t change their system.
Systems built on nobility and blood privileges, like was the Roman Empire in its last days, don’t survive, despite nobility leaving more chances for society to find a smart person to assume leadership.
10% (and that’s quite a lot for nobility) of the population isn’t enough.
If you want to maximize your chances to find the right leaders, you need to look at 100% of your population (and in most cases, even that is not enough).
What about systems based on democracy?
It gets better, but as many examples show, people don’t always vote for the smartest candidate.
I’m not sure how effective would be a company functioning as a democracy, for example.
What about systems based on meritocracy?
It gets better, but a stupid hard-working person can always beat up a lazy smart person in a meritocracy, so the sustainability of the system isn’t insured either.
What about drawing people like the lottery?
That’s what the Greeks used to do when they came up with democracy.
It may be the fairest system of them all, but can’t ensure that society will be well managed or developed. Imagine a moment if we were to draw the people that take care of our military security or our taxes?
That wouldn’t quite work.
You want people in charge to be competent.
The last system that remains is therefore the smartocracy.
The smartocracy ensures that the best are where they should be, and the best are most of the time, the smartest.
“So Are You Saying That People I See on TV Are Smart? They Look Pretty Dumb to Me”
Yes, that’s what I’m saying. I’m even saying that they are really smart, but that what they tell you isn’t necessarily good for you to listen to.
If a physician tells you that McDonald’s is not detrimental to your health, it’s highly probable that they got paid to tell you that which does not contradict the fact that they were smart enough to become physicians.
Being smart and saying smart things in public is as related to my daily diet and the Belgian weather.
Everyone has an agenda. Don’t forget about that.
So…what if I’m Dumb?
Let’s say it’s like running a marathon with an extra mile that you alone must run.
The good news is that you can compensate for your lack of intelligence through hard work and probably overrun a big chunk of the people in the marathon.
Human beings remain lazy creatures.
But you won’t win the marathon, because the one that wins it is both smart and a hard worker.
It’s not fair.
We can protest, throw stones in shop windows, and cocktail Molotov on police, but that won’t change anything.
Inequality and the triumph of the strongest, whether from a physical or an intellectual standpoint, is a principle deeply rooted in nature to ensure that the individuals that survive are the ones most deserving to survive, which increases the species’ chances of survival.
It’s “the survival of the fittest”.
Darwinism at its finest.
As such, societies, where everyone is free to do what they want and move where they want, will see higher chances of seeing smart people on top because no one is exercising control on who gets to reach the top like in dictatorships.
Democracies are to political systems what capitalism is to economic systems.
They are free competitive environments that ensure the best and most efficient allocation of resources.
The ones that get on top are the best and fittest. This is why they get there.
Beyond the Smartocracy
No system is frozen in time, however.
If there is one constant variable in this world, it is the fact that nothing is constant but perpetually evolving.
As such, the smartocracy will end and be replaced by another system, a better system.
Technology is great as it takes off all tensions and inefficiencies created by humans.
Technology is great because it’s fair. It is honest. It is transparent. Almost incorruptible.
For decades now, the private sector has been including technology (AI and data) into their decision-making process.
Ray Dalio started doing so at the end of the 80s and subsequently built the biggest hedge-fund in the world.
Today, the biggest companies in the world have launched into a race to build the smartest programs in the world which, hopefully, will enable us to discover the information we have been ignoring so far.
Technological decision-making is therefore the future of political decisions.
This opens the door to many ethical questions.
While companies must focus on making the best decisions, democracies exist to focus on the decisions the people want.
There will be times when politicians will have to decide between taking the best decision as proposed by AI, and the decision demanded by the population.
As I am writing this article, technology is already an important part of political decision-making.
However, it merely exists to give an opinion, a feedback. Humans are still in command.
We will see the time it will take for things to remain that way.