Wednesday Word of the Week: Kakistocracy

The word of the week comes from a recent Peggy Noonan column that appeared in the Wall Street Journal, “The Week They Decided Donald Trump Was Crazy.”

Here is the relevant section:

“I end with a new word, at least new to me. A friend called it to my attention. It speaks of the moment we’re in. It is “kakistocracy,” from the Greek. It means government by the worst persons, by the least qualified, or most unprincipled. We’re on our way there, aren’t we? We’re going to have to make our way through it together.”

I’ll have to agree with Ms. Noonan, it certainly seems like we are headed towards such a government, or at least a significant number of people will claim that’s what is in our future, no matter what the outcome f the upcoming election.

I’m not sure what such a form of government says about our country, our leaders, and ourselves. But it raises a lot of questions:

  • How did we get to such a place?
  • What are the risks associated with such a form of government?
  • How hard is it to recover from kakistocracy, and how long would it take?

I wonder if the use of this word will increase as we get closer to the November elections.

And here’s a fun fact: according to the web site, The Phrontistery, there are 169 forms of government.

Here are some of the more unusual ones:

  • beerocracy: government by brewers or brewing interests
  • idiocracy: personal rule; self-rule
  • kleptocracy: government by thieves
  • narcokleptocracy: government by those who profit from trade in illegal drugs
  • pornocracy: government by harlots
  • ptochocracy: government by beggars or paupers

From what I can tell, the examples above were, at one point in history, actual forms of government. While it doesn’t look like all 169 terms given in the Phrontistery list can make that claim, I’m still impressed that there used to be governments run by harlots and brewers.

Who knows, maybe a beertocracy or pornocracy would be better than a kakistocracy…

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Jim Borden

Accounting Prof. at Villanova; happily married for 30+ years; father of 3 outstanding young men; vegan; interests: fitness, creativity, education, blogging, social media.

2 thoughts on “Wednesday Word of the Week: Kakistocracy”

  1. Jim – I enjoy Peggy Noonan’s column tremendously and have been wrestling with this issue as well. I fear that what we put candidates through makes the good people decide they can do without being president. We are left to choose a president from a group seemingly void of any moral compass. I’ve reached the point that I hardly care what party, just show me someone with a backbone, a heart and sense of right and wrong and I’ll vote for them. Good post, thanks!




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    1. Hi Patrick. I agree that the process to be elected can be disheartening. And then once you get the job, we don’t make it any easier. Maybe after this election, we’ll learn from our mistakes…




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