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Kakistocracy is a political term for government or rulership by the "worst" people. Its root is the Greek word kakós, "bad".[1] It therefore consciously establishes an antithesis to the classic political term aristocracy, an ancient Greek word meaning the rule of the "best" (Greek aristos), in contrast to democracy (rule of all the registered citizenry), oligarchy (rule of the few), monarchy (rule of one) and ochlocracy (rule of the mob). See too the ancient Latin political terms optimates, derived from optimus (best), and populares, derived from populus (the people, or populace as a whole).


A kakistocracy would be a hallmark of a civilization in decline. In addition to corrupt and venal leaders, public morals might also become degraded. Related to spiritual corruption, it may be a stage in the collapse of civilizations.


English author Thomas Love Peacock coined the term in his 1829 novel The Misfortunes of Elphin, with kakistocracy meaning the opposite of aristocracy (aristos in Greek (ἄριστος) means "excellent").[2] In his 1838 Memoir on Slavery, U.S. Senator and slavery proponent William Harper compared kakistocracy to anarchy, and said it had seldom occurred due to the "honor" of human nature:[3]

Anarchy is not so much the absence of government as the government of the worst—not aristocracy but kakistocracy—a state of things, which to the honor of our nature, has seldom obtained amongst men, and which perhaps was only fully exemplified during the worst times of the French revolution, when that horrid hell burnt with its most horrid flame. In such a state of things, to be accused is to be condemned—to protect the innocent is to be guilty; and what perhaps is the worst effect, even men of better nature, to whom their own deeds are abhorrent, are goaded by terror to be forward and emulous in deeds of guilt and violence.

American poet James Russell Lowell used the term in 1876 in a letter to Joel Benton, writing, "What fills me with doubt and dismay is the degradation of the moral tone. Is it or is it not a result of Democracy? Is ours a 'government of the people by the people for the people,' or a Kakistocracy rather, for the benefit of knaves at the cost of fools?"[4]

Usage of the word was rare in the early part of the 20th century, but regained popularity in 1981 with liberal critics of the Reagan administration. Later it was used to negatively describe other governments around the world, like post-Apartheid South Africa.[5] Conservative commentator Glenn Beck used it to describe the Obama administration, and Donald Trump opponent Amro Ali wrote "stupidity in governance needs to be treated as a political problem". Salon magazine credited Ali's blog with popularizing the term.[6]


The collapse of the Roman Empire was preceded by several self-centered, frivolous, or outright diabolical emperors, like Elagabalus and Caligula.[7] The papacy had produced multiple corrupt popes by the late Middle Ages, helping to usher in the Reformation.[8] During the era of stagnation, the USSR experienced social decline and economic hardships as its leadership class stopped believing in communism but strove only to gain power and personal wealth.[9]


"The Kakistocracy" is also the name of a political blog started in 2014 by Porter that discusses the alleged decline of Western Civilization. It has a particular focus on the theme of Third World immigration into the West, and the supposed IQ-lowering effects of population replacement.[10] Social decline, governmental degradation, and alleged misrule by self-serving elites in the early 21st century are also themes of other blogs like Chateau Heartiste and Jim's Blog.

External links

Also see


  1. http://www.dictionary.com/browse/kakistocracy
  2. "Kakistocracy". Dictionary.com. 
  3. Harper, William (1838). Memoir on Slavery: Read Before the Society for the Advancement of Learning, of South Carolina, at its annual meeting at Columbia, 1837. J. S. Burges. p. 49. Retrieved 27 November 2016. 
  4. ref name "Fiske"
  5. Sunday Independent, South Africa (Oct 30, 2016). http://www.iol.co.za/sundayindependent/lets-dump-this-kakistocracy-for-good-2084926 | retrieved Feb 13 2017
  6. McClennen, Sophia A. http://www.salon.com/2016/12/17/degeneration-nation-it-takes-a-village-of-idiots-to-raise-a-kakistocracy-like-donald-trumps/ | Salon. Retrieved 2017-01-15.
  7. http://listverse.com/2010/05/09/top-10-worst-roman-emperors/
  8. http://www.toptenz.net/top-10-worst-popes-in-history.php
  9. http://www.fsmitha.com/h2/ch33-2.htm
  10. https://kakistocracyblog.wordpress.com/