In the last American election, I read an article where a Chinese citizen asked: if America is a republic, why are so many presidents and presidential candidates related?

This got me thinking.

Has anyone done any analysis which compares nations by the number of their leaders, candidates, and politicians who are related (spouses, parents, children, siblings, grandparents)?

It stands to reason that in a system based on merit, the statistical odds of a candidate being related to a previous national leader or politician should be low. This is to say that monarchy and republic are opposites, in that one votes for leaders and the other is led by aristocrats who inherit power.

A system like North Korea is officially a republic, but effectively a monarchy, as power has been transferred from father to son over three generations. It seems very unlikely that this could happen given fair competition between a large enough pool of candidates.

  • How does a family relationship between political leaders imply a weakening of the republican tradition? – phoog Jul 13 '18 at 15:53
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    @phoog If leaders are elected on merit, then the statistical odds of politicians being related, should be very small. – inappropriateCode Jul 13 '18 at 16:49
  • I'm not sure nepotism (especially an indirect nepotism, e.g. having networking connections and/or name recognition due to ancestor who was a politician) necessarily correllate to "republican tradition". – user4012 Jul 13 '18 at 16:58
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    One definition of republicanism is sovereignty of the people. That doesn't imply that merit will be the only factor influencing a politician's likelihood of being elected. @user4012 Related politicians being more likely to be elected isn't as you note direct nepotism. Name recognition is arguably not at all nepotism. But that the people are subject to psychological influence, or that relatives of successful people are more likely to be successful, does not detract from the sovereignty of the people. A king can also be influenced, but we don't ask if that makes it less of a monarchy. – phoog Jul 13 '18 at 17:08
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    "It stands to reason that in a system based on merit, the statistical odds of a candidate being related to a previous national leader or politician should be low. " That doesn't necessarily follow. For example, Drew Barrymore and Alec Baldwin are each from an entire family of actors. Top level musicians are often from musical families. Baseball families. Etc. Families may, for genetic or cultural reasons, be more likely to produce people of merit. – Brythan Jul 14 '18 at 8:22


It's pretty common. Note that there are a few nations that are listed that are Monarchies or Former Monarchies (Austria lists the Hapsburgs, a rather large royal family that had married into several European Monarchies... it's easier to list the European countries that didn't have a Hapsburg connection).

Sir Winston Churchill is the great-great grandson of the first Churchill in Politics, and was the Father-in-law to Prime Minister Antony Eden.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Canada) is the son of Prime Minister Pierre Elliot Trudeau, who is quite well regarded by Canadians as far as I can tell.

The US seems to be the only one that has to break its political families down into alphabetical sub-pages (that I've found so far) on its exclusive page, but this is more due to it being a large Federation... most of these families are state level politicians at best, and may have significant local power but no significant National Level Power.

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    Churchill was NOT the father-in-law of Eden. The latter's second wife, Clarissa, was Churchill's niece, not his daughter. Churchill was, however, father-in-law to Conservative cabinet minister Duncan Sandys between 1935 and 1960, when the latter's marriage to Diana (née Churchill) was dissolved. – WS2 Jul 13 '18 at 18:23
  • @WS2: Thanks for the correction. I just saw Eden was in Churchill's line. I'm not British, so I don't know the PMs all that well beyond Churchill, Thatcher, May, Hacker, and Lord Palmerston was Britain's Greatest Prime Minister, not Pitt the Elder. – hszmv Jul 13 '18 at 18:49
  • Jim Hacker was a fictional character from the 1980's TV sit-com Yes, Prime Minister. – WS2 Jul 13 '18 at 23:36
  • And some might say Britain's Best PM... Next to Lord Palmerston of course. – hszmv Jul 16 '18 at 17:35

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