Smart Presidents

The Sonic Charmer has a post that’s well worth a read. Essentially his argument is that focusing on a particular President’s (or Presidential candidate’s) level of intelligence is stupid. I agree with what he says, but I’m going to say it in a different way.

Let’s say that you are being asked to predict a candidate’s job performance. Further, you know nothing about the job and you can only have one piece of data about the potential candidate. In this situation you should ask for the candidates IQ. IQ is going to be the best predictor of job performance for the vast majority of jobs. Therefore, it should be clear that I am not suggesting that IQ is not important.

However, a President needs other skills. The modern Presidency selects for people who are: 1) good at raising money; 2) good at reading carefully prepared speeches; 3) good at lying; 4) good at endlessly repeating the same talking points ad nauseam; 5) good at making it seem like he/she cares about average, boring people; and 6) and good at making meaningless compromises (and of course there are more, but you get the idea). To be incredibly good at these things, you need to be rather intelligent. The Presidential candidates, after all, must be among the very best in these categories. Therefore, if one candidate is better at these things but has an IQ that is 5 points lower than his/her competitor, I think the edge goes to the former.

In an ideal political system, we would select our leaders for their leadership ability (when you read this it sounds obvious, but it’s sadly the polar-opposite of our current system). The best leaders are clearly intelligent, but there’s a certain Je ne sais quoi to leadership that if someone has will put them well above another person who is more intelligent. For example, this dude is smarter than this dude, but the latter is a way better leader. Whatever the qualities that make this so are the qualities we should want in a leader.

Finally, and completely separately, this whole question is absurd because there is absolutely no common definition of “a good President.” Our modern system of government has removed most of the Executive’s actual authority. At best, the modern Executive settles disputes between competing agencies or sections of agencies – the bureaucracy is in charge.


2 Responses to Smart Presidents

  1. Vladimir says:

    …repeating the same talking points ad nauseum…

    Ouch. It’s ad nauseam, first declension singular accusative of nausea, -ae, f. I don’t expect to suffer butchered Latin here, of all places!

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