BY EDWIN E. VINEYARD
No, we are not making up a new word, but we are using one that we believe is of quite recent origin. As best we know, this new word was coined and appropriately employed only a week or so ago by Paul Krugman, Nobel economist and columnist for the New York Times.
Neither our version of Webster nor our on-line dictionary has a definition for ignoramitocracy, of course, but a writer in the Daily KOS offers the following: “Rule by the Republican Party, or what a President Sarah Palin Administration might bring to Washington, DC.” The further comment is made: “It explains the current state of Republican politics.”
Of course, we are familiar with the term aristocracy, which we know refers to those of high rank and privilege, often the hereditary nobility. A government of aristocracy would mean one ruled by the upper class elite, superior to others by birth and/or wealth.
In America we have resisted the aristocracy of “titles,” but espoused those of “power and pelf.” [Sir Walter Scott’s “Lay of the Last Minstrel”] Our founding fathers eschewed any use or recognition of hereditary nobility or title, preferring the common forms of address and courtesy versus obeisance to aristocracy of that sort. We have tended to overlook the fact that our forbears themselves were something of a “landed aristocracy” or from the “rich merchant” and artisan class. In fact, their rules allowed only male property owners to vote in those early days.
Those who believed in an aristocracy of the traditional sort believed also the doctrine of “divine right” of kings to rule. They accepted as God’s will the rule of the nobility and laws of primogeniture, and they believed that in bloodlines ran the right to rule, if not always the ability to do so. Religion of that historical era was criticized for being the “opiate” that kept peasant working classes in obeisance.
We have also heard and perhaps used the term “meritocracy.” In such a system, persons advance to leadership on the basis of ability and talent rather than privilege, birth, or wealth. It refers to leadership or “rule” by the most able and talented persons regardless of extraneous factors – including gender, nationality, or race. Many people fear any actual, true application of meritocratic rule. They distrust anyone who is much more intelligent or knowledgeable than themselves.
In a “democracy” we like to think that advancement is indeed based upon merit and little else. Such is not the case in reality, however attractive the theory. All kinds of extraneous factors prevent the working of that idealistic notion of a democracy, not the least of which being the accidents of time, place, and plain luck. But there are other factors, which are really sophisticated versions of aristocracy that intervene and sometimes dominate.
Wealth and power form a base from which political careers may be launched, either one’s own or the “sponsorship” of another who is more acceptable to voters. Name recognition is important. Appearance and personality have always been factors, and these have become highly significant since the advent of electronic media. Of course, such do not necessarily denote ability and talent.
An expressed ideology with connections to big money has become much more significant than merit in the ascendance of political personages in the new Republican Party. In fact, ignorance appears to be an asset to many of those now in favor with the money and power brokers of the conservative right wing. In the absence of ignorance, hypocrisy may help such ascendancy.
Writing in the Times, Krugman says:
“The underlying problem is that anyone with expertise and any kind of public profile – in short, anyone who is qualified to hold a position – is bound to have said something, somewhere that can be taken out of context to make him or her look like another Pol Pot. So what lies down this road? ….. A world in which key positions can only be filled by hacks, preferably interns from the Heritage Foundation with no relevant experience, but unquestioned [political] loyalty.”
And, according to Dr. Krugman, there you have an “ignoramitocracy.”
An ignoramitocracy is put there by ignorant and gullible voters who have been brainwashed through massive media buys by the wealthy elite and their corporations. Gullible voters have been led to think that these corporate “minion” officials will rule in the interest of the common man.
Unfortunately, an ignoramitocracy is not even competent enough to rule the country well in the interest of its own sponsors from the economic aristocracy, much less all the rest of us.
– Dr. Edwin E. Vineyard, AKA The Militant Moderate, lives in Enid, OK and is a regular contributor to The Oklahoma Observer