For much of human history, government was bequeathed to the sons (usually) or daughters of those currently in power. Either they were kings with a direct lineage, or a relatively small aristocracy where while the actual distribution of responsibilities was subject to change, those in power were usually selected for being in power by the simple fact of being born into the ruling class.
This system had many shortcomings, up to and including having mentally ill or otherwise unstable people in total control of nations. In addition, many of those in power put themselves before the rest of their society, pushing their subjects into poverty while enjoying barely imaginable luxury themselves. The shortcomings of the various systems of lineage of power are well-known. I shall argue that they have a crucial advantage that modern democracy lacks. A lack that is one of the causes for the suffering and injustices that our current government systems cause.
Modern democracy is rightfully considered a better government system than, say, an absolute monarchy. What it is not, however, is flawless. And while the divergence between an average member of the community and those governing it have reduced dramatically (and also shifted out from political leaders to business leaders), other problems have not been solved completely. Every now and then, the news report of abuses and corruption, personal profiteering and lobbyism and many other grains of sand in the machine.
While these issues are real, they are not specific to the current government system and only show that they are human, rather than systematic problems. They are not the subject here, but the ignorance and often arrogance that those caught in the act display points towards the larger issue:
Politicians are amateurs.
I don’t mean that in a derogatory sense, but in the literal. We do not let a doctor operate on a patient without having him go to medical school first. Our houses get planned by architects that went to university first. To fly a commercial airliner, you have to spend years getting certificates and experience. We even require drivers licenses from everyone who wants to drive a car. But those who govern us, deciding the fate of the country and ultimately that of the world, do not have a degree in rulership, or training in governance. Many of them are lawyers, teachers, administrators. There are no job offerings for politicians, no university degree, no formal education whatsoever. Some of them even dismiss politician as being a profession. The Stupidedia sums it up nicely:
Politician is a job that does not require training – and the results are as expected.
This is a systematic failure of the modern democratic system, leading directly to most of the issues mentioned above. In the words of Nassim Nicholas Taleb:
The interest [of politics] is self-perpetuation, not truth.
Older systems, who had their own disadvantages, do not mistake my picking out one element as a judgement on the whole, did not have this shortcoming to the same extent. The prince could be taught how to be a king from birth, and when he received the crown could have one or two decades of training.
Obviously, we do not want to return to those times, as the disadvantages outweight the advantages. And yet, do we want to be governed by people who do not know how to do their jobs? Because we do not give them a training period, either. The more serious the circumstances, the more immediately we expect actions. In other words: The more important competence is, the least it can be realistically expected.
In the real world, many politicians rise through the ranks slowly, gaining experience in lower positions before they reach the higher ones. However, that is still just hands-on experience, with no formal aspects and, more importantly, no verification of being a successful method. Would you fly on a plane whose pilot has never seen a flight school from the inside, has no training in anything related (like, say, talking to the air traffic controller and understand what he’s saying), but fear not, he’s got flight hours (not training, mind you) on smaller planes, and he’s only crashed two so far?
The fault is fundamental.
The problem is, that you can not fix this issue without considerable changes to the system itself. The basic idea of democracy is not just that anyone can vote, but also that anyone can be voted for. At least in theory, if you want to run for a political position, you can. Laymen representing their own interests is at the very core of the very idea. Requiring a formal education as a precondition to even run would run counter to our mental concept of a democracy.
But maybe our mental concept is flawed.