On Philosophy

August 31, 2007

Making Kings

Filed under: Political Philosophy — Peter @ 12:00 am

A monarchy ruled by a wise and just king or queen can be far better than any other form of government. This is because a wise king can act as a combination of the best features of all possible systems of government. For example, a wise king listens to their people, thus making the government responsive to their wishes, the best feature of democracy; but a wise king also knows when to ignore their wishes, when the people as a whole are making a bad choice. A wise king doesn’t cater to the extremes of society, but instead creates compromises that everyone can be satisfied with. And a wise king balances the advantages of free markets and making those markets serve the people.

Wise kings are wonderful, but they are also rare. And the problem with monarchies is that a bad king can make the system worse than any other possible form of government. And so, being risk adverse (and because power tends to bring out the worst in most people), we usually stay away from monarchies. If only we had some way to identify who would make a wise king, and who wouldn’t be corrupted by power, then we could simply put them on the throne, and not trouble ourselves any longer with trying to improve already complicated political systems, made complicated by their need to thwart the inevitable corruption of the various individuals who participate in them.

Unfortunately I have no way of identifying such individuals, nor does anyone else to the best of my knowledge. However, instead of running around trying to find the perfect king, we could simply make one instead. Obviously I am not talking about a computer, such technology is a long ways off. But we do have the most of the genetic and psychological tools required to make biological kings. Such a project is actually quite feasible, and only requires a small amount of future technology. The first step is to create the best possible genetic foundation for our kings, which means creating a gene set that contains predispositions towards intelligence, ethical behavior, and so on, and lacking any predispositions towards violence and selfishness. This is perhaps the hardest part of the project, and the part that requires technologies not yet developed, since the influence of various genes on behavior is not fully understood yet. And to make use of those genes we will need a way to create people from them, again a technology not completely developed yet.

The next step is to take this genetic template and make a large number of individuals with it. Each individual is raised separately from the rest in highly controlled ways. Their upbringing is designed to condition them to make the best use of their genetic potential, to desire to make the people happy, to properly manage the economy, and so on. Basically all the attributes we expect to find in a wise king. Now admittedly we don’t know exactly what kind of upbringing will produce a wise king, but that isn’t a major problem. We can try out a number of different ways of raising our candidates, which we try on groups (in order to determine the average effect). How successful a particular formula for raising a candidate is can be determined by letting them believe that they are king and seeing how they react to various situations. We take the upbringing of the group that performs best and raise another generation of candidates using variations upon it. This process is repeated until a formula is found that produces the best possible kings.

And once that is completed we can make as many wise kings as we need, simply by raising another generation according the formula we have discovered whenever we need more. Since we now have an overabundance of wise kings the best way to make use of them is probably to let them rule in parallel, meaning that we let a number of them be king simultaneously, and if one of them makes starts ruling in a way contrary to the rest we can remove them from power, on the assumption that some random factor has led to them being a less than optimal ruler. And since we have so many it isn’t necessary to have them rule for life, each can simply rule during their prime and be replaced, another safeguard against unforeseen events leading these kings to become bad rulers.

I suspect that the primary objection to this plan would be that it is inhumane. Certainly it could be run in an inhumane fashion, but it needn’t be. Assume that we only wish the kings produced in this fashion to rule until they are thirty. If that is the case then we have no use for our test subjects or actual kings past that point. And so there is nothing stopping us from letting them retire and go their own way after that age, with appropriate compensation. So while their lives may have been less than perfect until that point it is possible to compensate them so that overall they are better off then people who haven’t been raised in this way. Secondly we must consider whether life itself is valuable. If it is then implementing such a program is the good thing to do, because as part of the program we create a number of people who would have no chance to exist otherwise. Thus the program could be good both for society and for the individuals that are part of it. And that’s the best kind of win-win.


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