Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Lawyers and Doctors Must Go to School Forever. Why Not Politicians?

The Problem: Politicians Are Stupid and Corrupt

Most politicians are required to weigh in on a variety of topics they know nothing about. And, between campaigning, listening to their constituents, sexual indiscretions, covering up those sexual indiscretions, and appeasing their largest financial backers; they don't really have time to study all angles of an issue. This leads to even our most devoted and well-meaning elected officials making uninformed decisions. All of this assumes the politician has his heart in the right place and wants to do what is best for his citizenry. This is rarely the case.

Money controls the government. Cash is considered free speech, so those with money have more of a voice than the average thrift store shopper. Anyone running for office in the United States needs two things: money and a hunger for power. Neither of these are good leadership qualities. You can see the problems the rich and power hungry are causing in Washington DC. You can see these problems by looking out your window. The all-mighty dollar trumps citizen's health and the environment in importance. There's got to be a better way.

The Solution: PhD in Public Service

For every other high-paying specialized job, a certain level of education is required. Lawyers have to complete seven or eight years of higher education. It's even more for medical doctors. Yet, to make decisions for your city, state, or even the entire country; there are no education requirements. The only requirements seem to be, as stated above, money and a hunger for power (and perhaps attaining a specific age and citizenship.)

I propose we hold lawmakers to the same standards we expect from those who interpret the laws. We need Schools of Public Service.

How It Works: The First Draft of an Idea

Like with other degrees, the amount of schooling required should correlate with the level of the political office sought. In other words, a city/county elected position would require a Bachelor's Degree in Public Service. Positions within the state government might require a Master's Degree. And, to work in Washington DC, nothing less than a Public Service PhD will do.

The courses of study will be like Civics/Government classes on steroids. Typical liberal arts courses will also be required, but they will have a focus on public service. Some preliminary thoughts on class requirements:
  • Hard science courses: including reading and interpreting peer-reviewed journal articles
  • Sociology
  • History
  • US Foreign Policy
  • Bill Crafting
  • Interacting with and Understanding Constituents
  • Theory of Law
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Economics
  • Warfare and Killing
  • Ethics
  • Required volunteer hours
  • Service project
  • Internship
Paying for this much schooling will guarantee the future office holder isn't rich anytime soon. If the candidate is driven by a hunger for power, their hunger will be directed in a more socially acceptable way as they complete these classes geared toward social responsibility. And, ignorance will be less prevalent once we can assure these politicians have received the right education.

Problems with the Solution

The above is all well and good, but how do we keep politicians out of the pockets of corporations and other wealthy donors?
The simple solution is to outlaw it. Campaign contributions will be split evenly from public funding.

But, what about the two-party system? 
Outlaw it. I believe we should outlaw any third-party-funded (this includes political parties, corporations, and individuals) campaigning for specific candidates. Candidates need to stand on their own and not with the Rs or Ds following their names.

But, aren't a lot of politicians given cushy executive jobs as a reward for their service to various businesses while in office?
Outlaw it. Once a politician has served, he may not hold a position in a company that directly benefited from his time in office.

But, doesn't this rule out the common man, the Joe Nobody from running for office?
Yes, but that's no different from what we currently have. Instead of valuing money and power, the new politicians will presumably value serving their constituents.

This still doesn't change the education level of the average voter. Aren't voters still going to make poor decisions?
Yes. I have a lot of possible solutions for this, but it is beyond the scope of this article. I will be sure to write about this soon enough.

What Other Problems Do You See with the Above?

Don't like my solution? Think it's unrealistic? Please let me know what you think would improve upon it in the comments below.

Today's post is brought to you by Howard Zinn's "A People's History of the United States," which should be required reading for all politicians:


  1. You are equating education with competence. In my experience, that is rarely the case. I have worked with dozens of PhD-holders over the past 30 years. Many were extremely competent. Many others, however, were completely useless. It's a phenomenon that is not limited to those with doctorates. You can find countless examples of folks with bachelor or master degrees, or even technical certifications, that are just as incompetent. All the degree really proves is they can make it through professinal schooling.

    Another issue with your plan is that it will force individuals to commit, essentially, to life-time public service. Where else would that sort of degree be useful? I believe most people that spend that much time getting a degree are hoping to use it through the remainder of their working lives.

    One of the few things Congress has going for it is the diverse background of its members. Someone who has practiced as a doctor may be better able to identify issues with legislation affecting the medical profession. A geologist may be beneficial to have on a committee dealing with fracking. It would be handy to have an accountant working on budgets.

    Rather than an educational requirement, why not state a minimum IQ needed to hold office? Better yet, let's have a minimum IQ to vote. That may solve the issue all on its own.

    By the way, the book suggestion is excellent. Zinn may be way left of Ralph Nader, but it definitely provides a contrasting view to the crap taught in public schools.