Phone book government

I'd rather entrust the government of the United States to the first 400 people listed in the Boston telephone directory than to the faculty of Harvard University.
William F. Buckley, Jr.

Patri and Arnold point to an interesting piece in The Economist. The article provides an overview of a series of studies attempting to answer the question of whether power corrupts.

They found that not only does power corrupt, it also causes hypocrisy. People primed to think of themselves as more powerful not only judged the morality of others cheating more harshly, they themselves were more likely to cheat.

In the dice game, however, high-power participants reported, on average, that they had rolled 70 while low-power individuals reported an average 59.

However, an interesting result occured when the subjects were primed to think that they were more powerful but underserving of power. They were more lenient on other people and rated cheating by themselves as far wose than others, the opposite of people who believe that they deserve their power.  The theory is that people who don't feel like they deserve power will be far less likely to abuse it for fear of being brought down by the truly powerful.

This research puts the wisdom of William Buckley Jr. and 45% of the American public in an interesting context. A random group from the phone book would be more likely to feel like they didn't deserve to govern and therefore would be less likely to abuse their power.