OK, class. Our word this week is kakistocracy.
It is from the Greek word “kakistos,” meaning “worst” and “kratia,” another Greek word meaning “power, rule, government.” Put them all together and you have “a government under the control of a nation’s worst or least-qualified citizens.”
In plain English, it means welcome to Washington.
Tommy the Swami, an astute political observer who doubles as my barber, has been telling me for years that people get into politics because they can’t do anything else.
Tommy doesn’t use words like kakistocracy. In the first place, I doubt seriously he knows what it means. He doesn’t have to. He isn’t there to impress us with big words. He is there to cut our hair. That doesn’t require big words. Just a sharp pair of scissors.
In the second place, even if he knows what the word means, Tommy doesn’t need to drop it into a conversation when describing the current state of politics. He is more apt to use one-syllable words like “joke” and “jerk.” You don’t need a thesaurus at Tommy’s.
But Tommy has the concept down pat. As he told me not long ago, “Look at who is running the country. A neighborhood organizer. A goofy senator. And a woman who never worked a day in her life.” I think he was talking about Barack Obama, Joe Biden and Nancy Pelosi, but I didn’t ask. You never interrupt Tommy when he is on a roll.
“And how about Harry Reid?” Tommy exclaimed. “He has never worked in the real world, either.” The man has done his homework. Like the others, Senate Majority Leader Reid, D-Nev., is a career politician who has never had to make a payroll or manage a bottom line. Neither has his counterpart Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., also a career politician.
The chairman of the powerful House Financial Services Committee that oversees the entire financial services industry, including the securities, insurance, banking, and housing industries is Barney Frank, D-Mass. — you guessed it — a career politician who probably can’t balance his own checkbook.
Frank’s counterpart in the U.S. House, Rep. Spence Bachus, R-Ala., did own a sawmill before getting into politics, but he was a lawyer before that. I will need to get a ruling from Tommy on that one.
I could go on but I think you get the point.
Most of the people in Washington who are passing more laws than we want or need and bleeding our hides for taxes probably wouldn’t last a month in the real world in which we reside. Can’t you see Barack Obama running a chain of shoe stores? Joe Biden managing an Internet business? Nancy Pelosi, a hospital administrator? Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell selling insurance? Barney Frank, a bank teller?
Can you imagine the look on their faces when they would have blown their budget by midyear only to discover they can’t print more money to cover their poor management? Or find out that if they hop a jet stocked with the finest liquor and hors d’oeuvres and bop across the country it will cost them thousands of dollars and will come out of their budget? If it suggested that they fly tourist instead, it will be necessary to tell them what the term “tourist” means.
One notable exception to the rule is Georgia’s own U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson, who was president of the biggest independent real estate company in Georgia for more than two decades. He has made payrolls, hired and fired people, sold real estate in both good and bad times and managed to succeed in a highly competitive business. Frankly, he gives kakistocracy a bad name. And that’s a good thing.
When Abraham Lincoln talked about a government “of the people, by the people and for the people,” I don’t think he knew that one day that government would be in the hands of kakistocrats who couldn’t manage a two-goldfish funeral in a large toilet bowl.
He should have talked to Tommy the Swami. Tommy could have warned him about kakistocracy in one syllable words and given him a pretty good haircut, too.
E-mail columnist Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org.