Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Choosing a Leader

I'm very interested in how Numa was chosen to be king of Rome. From Plutarch:

Both parties came at length to the conclusion that the one should choose a
king out of the body of the other; the Romans make choice of a Sabine, or the
Sabines name a Roman; this was esteemed the best expedient to put an end to all
the party spirit, and the prince would should be chosen would have an equal
affection to the one party as his electors and to the other as his

This got me to thinking of our current political situation. If we asked our current Senators and Representatives to choose a President from the other party, who would they choose? Well, frankly, if both parties had to do such a thing then there would be much mischief as both parties would actively try to subvert the spirit of the question. But I still think it has value as a mental exercise. If one could at least ask all of the Senators and Reps who they would choose, that would be fascinating.


  1. I was interested by that as well. I don't know American politics well enough to guess who they might choose, but I agree with you, I think the decision would be more about how to sabotage the other party than choose the best candidate for the country. Not trying to be pessimistic about the state of our "democracy", but I think that's the only logical thing to expect. So, the question is, have we descended to the point of being willing to sacrifice our whole civilization in the pursuit of power over it, or was this unrealistic tripe when Plutarch wrote it, and only a retroactive idealistic version of events?

    1. I can try to envision some circumstances where it might work, especially if we look at the special time that Plutarch wrote about. What if something happened to knock out the top dozen or so people in line for the Presidency, something far beyond what has been prepared for legislatively. Someone proposes the Numa solution in which one party selects a President from the other. They could be limited to an elected official and one that had held office for a lengthy period of time.
      If it was in response to a fairly unique event, neither party would have a chance to plan for it. If they were constrained by their choices, they would do they best they could but they wouldn't be able to do too much mischief.
      I'm not arguing for this as any kind of solution, I just think that the hypothetical leads to interesting places.

    2. I'm interested in your response. What about an unforeseen event makes you think it would be more likely that people would act out of interest for the whole more than self? Maybe I've been watching too much "West Wing" lately, but it doesn't seem to me that political parties need much lead time to undermine one another, or to have a desire to do so.

      As for whether or not it would have worked in Numa's situation--I suppose you could argue that there weren't established parties already organized to seek their own interests, and therefore there wouldn't be a pattern of subversion to follow. But, since we are talking about two races of people, I'd imagine they would have already had some history of similarly looking out for the best scenario for themselves.

    3. My thinking is that a unique event wouldn't allow parties to plan ahead. If some kind of cross selection was normal they would simply plan some chicanery around it.