French political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville (1805-1859) said “In democracy we get the government we deserve”

We must have all been very bad over the last decades or so if we really do deserve the leaders that we have ended up with, and the ones positioning to control our futures.

I do understand that in theory governments that are democratically elected are done so by the electorate, so generally we get whomever the majority wants, and therefore it is our fault if we end up with poor leadership. But it is hard to just blame the electorate, as it is the political parties who decide who will be on our list of choices, and the small list that we have had to choose from has hardly been impressive. The question is that if these are the best that exist in their parties, how good are the lesser party members that are selecting them and putting them on a short list for us to choose from?

In France, Nicolas Sarkozy looked like a reasonable candidate from the UMP (Centre Right) for the Presidency in 2007 when lined up against Segolene Royale (Socialists) and Jean Marie Le Pen (National Front). Apart from courting and marrying Carla Bruni his achievements have been minimal. The raising of the retirement age from 60 to 62 was actually a typical move of cowardice, as most advisers had recommended moving directly to 65, which most of the developed world had already done. The French electorate had believed that he would usher in an era of change bringing France back into a position of importance in a changing world. The reality is that he has changed little and in doing little has alienated even his supporters, thus dropping his approval rating from 53% to win the last election to about 30% currently, meaning that he has almost no chance of re-election in 2012, making Royale a sure bet for the Presidency. Marine Le Pen the new leader of the National Front looks poised to take enough votes away from the UMP to make the possibility of Sarkozy being eliminated in the first pass a reality.

France is not alone in questionable leadership.

Australia has Julia Gillard (the “Prime Sheila”), who makes Australians look and sound like a bunch of yokels and who recently confessed that “matters foreign” are not really her thing, and the US is facing the real possibility that Sarah Palin (who thinks Africa is a country) will be the Republican Party candidate for the Presidency in 2012. Silvio Berlusconi in Italy seems to be spending more time with young “pretties” than with his cabinet (obviously touting for the youth vote), and Belgium hasn’t managed to put together a stable government in over 2 years.

By MystifyMe Concert Photography (Troy) (Prime Minister Julia Gillard (25)) (CC-BY-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

By Therealbs2002 (Own work) (CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0), via Wikimedia Commons



Add the real “crazies” to this list like Muammar al-Gaddafi who said “There is no state with a democracy except Libya on the whole planet”, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad “A powerful Iran is the best friend of neighbouring states, and the best guarantor of regional security”, Kim Jong-Il of North Korea who asked “Why are hundreds of thousands of people dying in off-limit areas?”, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe “The only white man you can trust is a dead white man”, and Jacob Zuma of Sth Africa “I took a shower to cut the risk of contracting HIV”, and you start to understand the fact that we are leaving the running of our planet to a relatively small number of blunderers or butchers.

By Daniella Zalcman from New York City, USA. Website http://dan.iella.net/ (Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 2) (CC-BY-2.0), via Wikimedia Commons

Attribution: GCIS (Government Communication and Information System), via Wikimedia Commons


How many mirrors did we have to break, black cats did we have to pass, and ladders did we have to walk under to deserve this?

Even the 10 plagues of Egypt didn’t have the option of running for a second term.



  1. PriyankaSAP says:

    Hello Les,
    I completely agree. We have the same situation in India. We have definitely more than 2 political parties to choose from. However any party we choose, the number of the scams they get involved in and the scope of the scam just get bigger and bigger.

  2. leshayman says:

    Hi Priyanka,
    Unfortunately it is hard to keep politicians from “feeding at the trough” once they are in power.
    Singapore pays MPs well enough that they attract talent and overcome corruption, and they make penalties severe if they do stray.

  3. Hermann says:

    The question is, why do good leaders and managers not want to get involved in politics. The question seems stupid, but I think, that’s the main question to answer. And how to change that. I think, there have to be role models (of for example successful entrepreneurs, managers, artists, …) who spend some of their valuable time to SERVE the country where they have grown up. And to change the way, politics works. The processes and even parties are a relict of a time, when we had no other means to govern a large society. Now, we have other means and use them throughout different processes – except politics. But that will change – see the Arabian world and its opposition from the roots. (That is, what Greek invented some thousand years ago.)

    • leshayman says:

      Hi Hermann,
      Because you have to be an apparachick to be able to be involved in politics, and that means dealing with people that most good leaders/managers would not tolerate. Singapore can co-opt people into government to add needed skills without them having to go through a party system, nor be democratically elected…. and pay them accordingly. It means that you can ensure that you have the skills needed to govern effectively, rather than just end up with a bunch of loyal (but useless) party insiders.

  4. Roisin says:

    One of my favourite quotes (I think it’s from one of the ‘leaders’ of the French Revolution) is “we must follow the people into the street and watch where they are going because we are their leaders.” Lots of so-called leaders are only interested in being popular.

    • leshayman says:

      Hi Rosisin,
      I thought that the current French quote was …. “We must follow the people into the street and see where they are going in case they have found a really good place for lunch”. 🙂

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  6. Enrico Negroni says:

    I’m in “violent” agreemnt with you, Les, like someone, known to each other, was used to say…
    And shame on Italy !
    Yes, because most of the italians, despite the “bunga bunga” story and everything ridicolous Berlusconi is doing, are still supporting him.
    What a shame !
    Yes, most of the italians deserve Berlusconi !!!

    • leshayman says:

      Hi Enrico,
      It is because he is living the dream of most European men being …. “Be in charge and chase young women” … sounds a lot like Utopia.

  7. Chad says:

    No personal offence taken Les!

    • leshayman says:

      Hi Chad,
      None intended. I believe that at the local levels we have a better chance of attracting candidates that have an interest in creating benefit for their community. I rarely see this at state or Federal levels.

  8. Tom says:

    America is a perfect example, just witness the Obama phenomena — charismatic empty rhetoric is all it took. Bad as Bush et al were, history will rank our ‘community organizer’ with Jimmy Carter as one of the most ineffectual presidents. HIs so-called milestone accomplishments are proving disastrous to our economy and our social infrastructure. The U.S. political system is broke, dysfunctional and not likely to improve soon. Whether you lean left or right, we’re doomed to an endless parade of wankers!

    • Mal Booth says:

      I couldn’t agree more Tom. I’ve lived in California now for over 14 years. Not only do I have to put up with the mess at a Federal level, I also have to live with the State Government and San Francisco City Government, which at times make Obama look competent.
      Being just a mere Green Card holder, I don’t get to choose who leads, but just to donate whatever slice of my taxes they demand.

      • leshayman says:

        Hi Tom and Mal,
        That;s one of the issues everywhere, that we mistake charisma for character. We love those that can inspire us with talk but rarely elect those that can talk and also act in our interests.

  9. Kishore Sambasivam says:

    Hello Les,

    I had an opportunity to have lunch with you and listen to you at SAP last week. It was outstanding stuff. Thanks for your great inputs. This article is wonderful and in fact in India voter turnout is just about 50% with the population from middle and upper economic strata not bothering to turn up in large numbers. So it is the rural folk who cast their vote and that’s how we elect our leaders. In fact we follow the first-past-the-post system so parties with razor thin margins in the different constituencies form governments – may be a proportional representation system might work.

    • leshayman says:

      Hi Kishore,
      The challenge is to convince better people that they should get involved as their way of contributing to their country’s future, rather than the power mad or those looking to just benefit personally.

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  13. Molapo says:

    Good candidates are always present in an electoral race. People are just too stupid to recognise them. (USA has more than just 2 parties, but Americans always only consider these 2) The wages of the stupid are never good. Thus, in that sense, people do indeed get the governemnt they deserve, it’s becuase of their stupidity.

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