The NBA All Star starting line-up is a perfect indictment on the idea that ordinary, undiscerning people make rational voting decisions. Rather than choosing a well-balanced, complementary team, they choose the loudest and flashiest players. Players that inevitably do not play well with each other.
For those unfamiliar with basketball, it is a game heavily reliant on good team makeup. Players must complement one another, both talent and personality wise. They must put the team first, and be prepared to forsake personal point scoring for a team win. You can’t just load a team up with the best, flashiest, and most well known. Sure, you might sell a few more seats and gain some extra TV coverage, but you wont win. In order to be successful in basketball, you must find the pieces that fit together correctly. Putting together the perfect team is, therefore, a specialised job, done by experts in backroom deals. It is a highly lucrative profession, and some people are vastly better at it than others.
In a stark contrast to the professional versions, the starting line-up of NBA All Star Teams are chosen by the public. And as you would expect, they inevitably end up being a who’s who of the most popular players. The flashiest and loudest are chosen. No thought is given to team chemistry or tactics. People vote for the players they like, hometown players, or maybe just all the players on their favourite team. The result: the starting line-up is generally a hodgepodge. Fumbles ensue. Plays are messed up. Yes, some of this can be blamed on the players not being used to each other, but it is mostly because the pieces do not fit together. It is generally not long before the coaches call a time out so weak links picked by the public can be replaced by players picked by the professionals. The result: the game gets better. There are less stupid mistakes. The game is more fun to watch. It just goes to prove that the public are just not as discerning as the professionals.
The voters make similar mistakes when it comes to electing the nations leaders. Governance, at least democratic governance, is also a team sport. Like the NBA All Star Team, the government is made up of publicly chosen players with competing interests and loyalties. But whereas in undemocratic areas of the government, such as the military, the various players get along and work together for the common good, those picked by the public inevitably fumble the ball. Like in the All Star Team, the public pick the loud and flashy. They pick people who inevitably refuse to complement, and compromise with each other in order to get things done. Fumbles ensue, and plays are messed up. Soon it is left to those picked by the professionals, the bureaucrats, to mop up. This cannot go on like this. We cannot keep picking bad teams while our competitors in less democratic countries pick well. If we truly want good governance, either we must come up with a way that the public can make more discerning choices, or we must come up with a system where the public can entrust their vote to those who can. If we want a working team, some truly professional leadership, we must remove the loud and flashy. We must pick those that can play well together.