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Why should people other than political scientists become or be allowed to be politicians?

Since one ought to guess that political scientists would have broadest knowledge of history and empiricism of political behavior, whereas people from totally unrelated fields might be more susceptible to "favoritism" or being unable to learn from history and empirical research regarding different configurations.

For example, I wonder if the politicians would want to continue the war on drugs, given the evidence that suggests that the drawbacks are greater than the benefits. However, it's easier to believe and argue against drugs, if one is emotional. Therefore, being able to base on research in political science in addition to the politician's own reason ought to be just a plus.

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    This is kind of like saying that only computer scientists should run computer companies, chemists should run oil companies, biologists should run pharmaceutical companies, etc. Managing an organization (such as a government) requires different skills from the individual contributors. – Barmar Nov 2 '17 at 19:28
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    I'll be the cynic in the room and point out that most politicians are out to get (re-)elected, and nothing else. In general, this can be seen as they focus on short-term decisions (will I have results to show for the next elections). – Matthieu M. Nov 2 '17 at 19:35
  • Because political scientists are not evil enough. – Tyler Durden Nov 2 '17 at 19:37
  • I think this is mostly going to be philosophical rather than objectively answerable. – user1530 Nov 2 '17 at 20:05
  • @Barmar - yes and no. Running a computer company requires "running" part, true. But also, setting business strategy. Which you can't do without computer related subject matter expertise, especially since the strategy needs to ideally be forward looking. A more fitting example is running a heterogeneous conglomerate spanning industries. – user4012 Nov 3 '17 at 4:51
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There's a set of implicit questions and assumptions in your question.

  • Why should people other than political scientists be allowed to be a politician

    Well, for starters, the main reason is that most people in the West prefer to live in some form of a democracy. As such, creating artificial class of who is allowed to rule (the idea isn't new, by the way - see Plato's Philosopher King) is antithetical to democratic form of governance.

  • Do "political scientists" possess some unique quality?

    For one thing, it depends on how you qualify who is a political scientist or not. Do you count someone with an undergraduate degree in Political Science? Only someone with PhD? Only someone published? Only someone who made a testable, predictive hypothesis that was empirically proved correct later on?

    I would argue that the last is the only reasonable qualification that would enable someone to claim that being involved in political science as a study gives them uniquely useful quality. And guess what, that set of people is incredibly small (Nate Silver would come to mind... except he's a statistician, not a political scientist)

    As Gad Saad put it wisely on a recent interview in Rubin Report, a scientist isn't someone who does studies in X field. It's someone who applies scientific method - be it in chemistry or sociology. And knowing how to apply a scientific method is agnostic across disciplines, so either your aspiring politician knows that or not, regardless of their major.

  • Does studying political science provide any qualities that would be useful to a politician?

    No, not really.

    Politicians have three main jobs:

    • Leadership/persuasion

      The goal of a politician is to convince people to follow what they think needs doing. Being a political scientist doesn't make one a good leader/persuader (evidence: very few of them become leaders naturally); and although knowledge of the subject matter can help one be better at it, that's why a politician has advisers/staff who ARE experts at such studies. Many of whom happen to be political science majors, for good reason. However, you can't have an adviser who makes you a born leader.

    • Management.

      As has been discovered by ancient Chinese, Romans and Persians, most of the job of politics is management. Logistics, bureaucracy, leading underlings (the latter is split between management and leadership rubrics) etc...

      Political science expertise is no big help here - an MBA is more qualified at it, if you want to pick "best" major for the job, as opposed to best person.

    • Making decisions on how to govern.

      Since most decisions involve fields of endeavor other than politics (economics, finance, manufacturing, chemistry, education), political science major is absolutely no help there. And you can't even pick one most useful major since most politicians deal with decisions across the board. That's why they have advisers and experts and researchers for.

      Caveat: it may be useful if you are in the context of constitutional convention, where your job and goal is to literally design political structures. And guess what, many US Founding Fathers (and in general people who found new governing structures) happen to be students of politics and history, even if not formally majored in it.

  • Political scientis would know best how to approach war on drugs

    Not really. For one thing, people who would REALLY know the details of impact of policies would not be political scientists. Let's take a look at your example of drug war.

    • Political science is useless to that topic - I'm not sure how Condorcet method apply to drug policies at all

    • If anything, it would be economists and may be sociologists, and to a degree, historians who would have some subject matter expertise. But guess what, a random economist wouldn't know ^& about economic effect of drug policies either, because they study effects of sales of toothpaste, or behavior of shoppers when the store is cold, or price movements of Uber rides. So, to make a decision on drug policy, if you have to have a subject matter expert, you would have to pick one of a very small handful of economists and sociologists and historians specializing in just that. Oh, and they'd be useless for any other policy topics.

      Instead, what happens in reality is (or at least, should be in ideal) much more feasible: a politician asks a subject matter expert for their opinion. Either doing their own research, or hiring someone on the staff, or holding hearings and inviting experts.

    For another thing, all it takes is two working brain cells to find out the basics of drug prohibition pros and cons - you don't need to be a political scientist, OR an economist or sociologist. Just to do 5 minutes or a couple of days of research on the topic to see what actual experts on the topic say (and surprise, in most issues of governance, all the experts will contradict each other. Especially economists).

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  • I guess I'd disagree that actual in-depth understanding of political systems, how they work, how they came to be, and an understanding of impacts throughout history not "being useful" for a potential politician. More of a nitpick than any claim of overall invalidation. – PoloHoleSet Nov 2 '17 at 16:30
  • @PoloHoleSet - not so much as fully useless as not as useful as other things. – user4012 Nov 2 '17 at 16:52
  • The method of "inviting experts" is susceptible to manipulation by cherry picking experts equidistant from whatever a priori position one wishes to justify. (If one wants to decide for -10, invite -30 and 20 to the hearing, and "compromise" at -10.) On making heroes of scientists who've made predictive hypotheses -- this discounts the value of scientists who've done equally valid work countering and disproving various hypotheses. – agc Nov 3 '17 at 4:31
  • @agc - sorry, I think you're misreading the answer. (1) I didn't say inviting the experts is fool proof thing. I said that having a politician be a political scientist is in no way superior - mostly since they are NOT experts at almost anything meaningful politicians deal with. (2) I was not contrasting scientists who made valid vs invalid hypothesis. I was contrasting the former to those who merely talk about stuff without making falsifiable testable hypothesis. (though, if I had to choose between a scientist good enough to have correct hypothesis and one who isn't, I choose former too) – user4012 Nov 3 '17 at 4:41
  • Re "good enough to have": Scientists are like ants radiating from an anthill in search of food, perhaps today food is NW, but that doesn't make the ant that went SW inferior. Beware of attributing chance to skill. – agc Nov 3 '17 at 4:58
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Why political scientists? Why not lawyers? After all, in most governments elected represenatives are responsible for the passage of legislation - i.e laws. Given that their entire profession is about drafting documents, debating or ensuring compliance with the law, wouldn't they be better suited? A barrister/advocate/trial lawyer should theoretically at least have some grounding in public speaking and debating - I don't believe this is a skill that is trained in political scientists.

The answer is fairly self evident: Democracies are meant to represent the entire cross section of society. If only political scientists were electable then they would only represent the interests of political scientists. I mean it's not like we've ever had situations where small subsets of a population hold power and use it to support to their own interests to the detriment of everyone else. Pretty sure that's like never happened.

I'm pretty sure though that this question is asked on an almost daily basis by people of a variety of vocations and partisan persuasions which can be sublimated down to the form of "Why aren't there more people like me in power, and less like them?"

Since one ought to guess that political scientists would have broadest knowledge of history and empiricism of political behavior, whereas people from totally unrelated fields might be more susceptible to "favoritism" or being unable to learn from history and empirical research regarding different configurations.

This is essentially like arguing that sports commentators should be good at a particular sport because they commentate on it a lot. There's no reason why political scientists would be any more or less "moral" than any one else.

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest you're a PolSci undergrad?

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  • I'm looking forward to the day when AI becomes smart enough and so much more superior to humans at determining the best outcomes in objective ways that we dump the whole idea of people making laws altogether. We may not like what the AI decides, but we will know for certain that society will be better off because of its superior analytical ability. A side benefit will be that the computer can't be bought off by a few million dollars going into its personal coffers like today's politicians who make decisions in their own self-interest rather than those they are supposed to represent. – Dunk Nov 2 '17 at 20:34
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    @Dunk, Re "can't be bought": an AI requires programmers to write its code, and programmers can be bought or coerced. – agc Nov 3 '17 at 4:41
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    @agc - Correct. Or better yet, bribe a low-paid data center grunt to replace the AI code from 'wrong' backup. I have far less power to wreck havoc now as a well paid software engineer, compared to back when I was low paid junior sysadmin with root access everywhere, physical access to backup tapes and disks AND DB system passwords. Someone thought that was a good idea at the time. – user4012 Nov 3 '17 at 4:45
  • @Dunk - another problem with your comment is that you assume that there's an objective and valid way to determine which outcome is "best". Whereas, most problems and disagreements in politics is due to the fact that everyone's idea of what the best outcome is differs. See your own comment below about social sciences :) – user4012 Nov 3 '17 at 4:47
  • @agc/user - you are talking about today's AI. In the future, the programmers aren't going to have a clue on how the AI is going to evolve. They are going to give it some starting rules/goals and the AI is going to continually optimize the problems it is analyzing and come up with solutions that quite likely, humans won't even be able to understand, let alone have had the capacity to even think of. Even today's neural nets have approached the limits of the ability of humans to completely understand how the computer is making the decisions. How complex do you think things will be in 100 years? – Dunk Nov 6 '17 at 21:27
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Political candidates need a wide range of skills to be elected, such as being presentable, being a fundraiser, being well-connected etc.

Those aspects are independent of having studied political science.

Ideally the political class should have a wide range of skills and come from a range of backgrounds. For example, it may be desirable for an education minister to have been a teacher before. That doesn't exclude a candidate who studied political science, but it makes the pool smaller.


Additionally you're making an assumption that being better trained and informed makes for a more rational, and hence better, decision maker. Politicians craft policies to gain votes. Voters are emotional. Politicians are emotional too, as they hold party ideals which may run contrary to evidence presented too them.

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  • Then it sounds like fairly irrational to have representative democracy. Since it cannot ever "reach" for the individual. Or if it does exist, then the division to private and public should be more discernible than today. I mean, the war on drugs can be considered to violate the individuals, rather than protect the public. Since most drug users use or even produce without causing any public damage, nor the public necessarily even knowing about it. It's therefore a war on normal individuals, rather than just those that become criminal / cause harm to others. – mavavilj Nov 2 '17 at 15:15
  • I don't believe in anything else then that which is strongly empirically based and bases on broad data set. Since emotionally it's easy to argue "whatever in whatever way", but only does such become more truthful when one can display that there are more subjects that share some property. And this certainly has to base on statistics. – mavavilj Nov 2 '17 at 15:19
  • As a data scientist, I come across people's irrationality all the time. However, I have an irrational trait myself (we all do) and how we interpret data is subjective. For example, let's say that there are many people who take drugs. One person might say 'let's legalise them then', whereas I would say 'the drug dealers have got too much power and it needs to be reduced' – user7809 Nov 2 '17 at 15:23
  • But isn't "the drug dealers have got too much power" reduced by legalizing drugs. The benefits gained by criminals are caused by the illegal status, which rises prices to allow for huge profits to be made as well as lets them produce and sell whatever they want without regulation, which is dangerous to the users. Legal status would bring 1) regulation and 2) illegality of criminal activity, but not non-criminal one, which frees up police resources. – mavavilj Nov 2 '17 at 15:25
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    @mavavilj-There might be data for what you claimed but there's also data supporting the opposite position. People like to claim there's "science" in "social-sciences" but the reality is that there's not. Especially in today's irrational political environment, social-science studies aren't designed to reveal new information. Instead, just about every study I've spent the time looking into in detail reveals that the results have been predetermined before the study even started and the 'scientist...ahem..' interprets the data in very specific ways that supports their personal agenda. – Dunk Nov 2 '17 at 20:24

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