A Political Education

In his Republic, Plato suggests that the ruler should at least be a philosopher and aged over 50 years old. If we were to translate this into modern times we could understand that by a “ruler philosopher”, we’d think of someone with a substantial political education that would comprise enough economics, law, philosophy, logic, history, and ethics to deal with the specific issues at hand in their department. And by the minimum age, it would be sensible to consider someone who has had some years of experience both in the private and public sector.
So, how old should that be? Well, nowadays, to be a politician at least in Spain, all you need is to be an adult (18 years old) and not be disqualified by some kind of criminal record from holding public office. However, in order to practice their trade, a doctor, architect, engineer, judge, lawyer, and many other professionals are required to have a long career with very demanding tests. Because, if it were not so, it would be likely that our health, buildings, roads, or law enforcement policies would be at risk. But, we require NOTHING from politicians in their responsibility for the management of public affairs and welfare of the State, except being legal of age and having no criminal record.
So, one platitudinous question comes up for the debate: Why cannot doctors practice their professión just when they turn 18? Or the other way around: Why are politicians allowed to exercise their job at such a young age and without any specific degree?

    We know that politicians are usually educated in political science, law, history, or economics. But it isn’t an eligibility requirement and as things are going, one may think that they could have a better political education. If they had a greater philosophical base, as Plato suggested, could campaigns be more knowledgeable? Ad hominem rhetorics would be somehow avoided? Thorough training in the virtues could somehow prevent corruption? We also see MPs and councilors who have no formal education whatsoever, lawyers in charge of ministries of culture, chemists in charge of Interior, property registrars in the very presidency, engineers in charge of Health Departments, and local administration officials who did not finish any studies, but who have become MPs, counselors, ministers of industry or even presidents of an autonomous community. But, a lawyer must have a bachelor's degree, a 2-year master and pass a bar exam with 75 questions. Lawyers defend their clients and they would like to know that their attorneys are properly trained. Aren’t politicians defending their citizens and shouldn’t they require even more difficult training?

We do not want to ignore how much effort politicians have put into the political career and their party, nor leave out the fact that the loyalty devoted to a political idea eventually paid off. But, would they have performed their duties better had the constitution of the country required them to have a more thorough political education and more experience? So, this poses the final question for the debate: To be eligible as a politician, what should this political education be formed of?

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