Wednesday, May 10, 2006

2006 Word of the Year: Kakistocracy

Every year a few of the big dictionaries and dialect experts determine the "Word of the Year." A couple years back it was "blogs." Somehow, inexplicably, last year Merriam-Webster tapped "Integrity" over runners-up "Tsunami" and "Hurricane" among others—I suppose picking a word meant chopping off the "lack of" to be official...

Anyway, I want to kick off the campaign for this year's word right now.
kakistocracy (kak·is·toc·ra·cy) n.
Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens.

I wonder if you can guess my inspiration?...
Housing Sec. Canceled Contract Because Contractor Criticized Bush, Apparently Violating Law
Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Alphonso Jackson publicly admitted that he canceled a government contract with a business because the CEO was critical of President Bush. From the Dallas Business Journal:

“He had made every effort to get a contract with HUD for 10 years,” Jackson said of the prospective contractor. “He made a heck of a proposal and was on the (General Services Administration) list, so we selected him. He came to see me and thank me for selecting him. Then he said something … he said, ‘I have a problem with your president.’

“I said, ‘What do you mean?’ He said, ‘I don’t like President Bush.’ I thought to myself, ‘Brother, you have a disconnect — the president is elected, I was selected. You wouldn’t be getting the contract unless I was sitting here. If you have a problem with the president, don’t tell the secretary.’

“He didn’t get the contract,” Jackson continued. “Why should I reward someone who doesn’t like the president? [...]”

Jackson’s conduct appears to be in violation of federal law. From the Federal Acquisition Regulations, 48 CFR 3.101-1:

Government business shall be conducted in a manner above reproach and, except as authorized by statute or regulation, with complete impartiality and with preferential treatment for none. Transactions relating to the expenditure of public funds require the highest degree of public trust and an impeccable standard of conduct.

Jackson has admitted that this particular contract was not awarded with “impartiality.” The business that would have been awarded the contract was excluded because of the contractor’s political views.

The Competition in Contracting Act (41 U.S.C. 253(b)(1)) details the six circumstances in which a particular contractor can be excluded. Needless to say, political views are not on the list.

It is also highly unusual for a cabinet secretary to be involved in the awarding or cancellation of a particular contract. More on this story soon.

Now I am certainly not naive enough to believe that contracts are awarded with "complete impartiality." What gets me is not the cronyism and favoritism—it's the brazen manner in which this Administration conducts it. I mean, the Cabinet Secretary went out and bragged about cancelling a contract—a contract that had already been awarded—because the guy didn't like President Bush. By that standard, I guess that means the government will only be soliciting contacts from 30% of the country from now on...

Seriously though, this was completely wrong and appears to be a violation of the law, as well as this business owner's First Amendment rights. Jackson should be removed. Now.

So it starts here and now. Let's spread it like a dialectic pandemic. Far and wide across the country. I want it on the Daily Show (God, that would be great) Kakistocracy. What makes this even more fun, is that this word is pretty obscure, let's make it known and make it synonymous with the Bush Administration.

[h/t: Otto Man for the story, and IRod (in the comments) for the word.]

UPDATE: The official defense of Jackson has been released — he was lying. Yes. That's really what they are serving up as the cover story, "He made it up."

UPDATE 2: From a commenter at Kos:
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Kakistocracy is derived from the Greek kakistos, the superlative of kakos (κακός) meaning bad. The word literally means "government by the worst elements of society." It can refer to any system of management controlled by the least competent, least qualified, most unreliable, or the most evil members of a society.
Kakistocracy is not used to describe governments run by persons whose primary motivation is graft---the word for that is kleptocracy. However, the two are not entirely mutually exclusive, as it is possible to be both bad and greedy.

You bet. George W. bush works hard to prove it every day!

UPDATE 3--06/06/07: Last week during the Scripps National Spelling Bee, there was a young girl from Madison, WIwhose profile revealed that her favorite word was "kakistocracy." Needless to say, from that point on, she was the one I wanted to win—even though there was a kid from the town I grew up in (Avon, CT) still in contention!

Twelve year old, already politically aware, badass rebel girl vs. a bunch of über-nerd boys? No contest. My girls are going to follow in her footsteps...

Welcome to anybone else who clicks over from a Google "kakistocracy" search. Look around a bit, there's a few years worth of me ranting about all sorts of stuff.


S.W. Anderson said...

I prefer the closely related term, ka-ka-stocracy. Watch where you step.

Ed Schultz mentioned Jackson's cover story this afternoon and added that when reporters wanted to talk to him at work, they were told he was home and out of touch until further notice, or something closely like that.

Heckuva job there, Al. Way to go.

Mike said...

Purely "anecdotal," huh?


Anonymous said...

Notice the close resemblence of Kaka in Kakistocracy to "caca", the nigh universal word for faeces. Rule by ***heads. Yeah. Can u spell "Bush"?

ORF said...

What you really need to do is get Dan Savage to write about this word, so it can be like the "Santorum" phenomenon.

Mike said...

That's true, ORF. "Santorum" contains kaka, though, so we may need to start over from scratch.

Anonymous said...

To be in the running for 2006 Word of the Year, and it's such a good one, it may have to roll off the tongue a little easier. No?

"Kakocracy", perhaps? Like "democracy".

Kakistocracy needs to be read and rehearsed a couple of times when first encountered before it can be ennunciated with confidence. Nor is it easy to remember at the beginning without reading it again, or repeating it several times.

Kakocracy has a more broken, defective sound to it, and morphs easily into the satyrical kaka-ocracy.

I know kakistocracy is the more etymological correct, but that can work against its popularity (cf 'weblog' >> 'blog'). Also kakistocracy resonates with aristocracy, of which it is the antithesis. I don't know which way that would play but I'd go for forcing a distinction.

'Kakocracy' evokes cacophony (harsh discordant mixture of sound), and cackle (a clucking sound as of a hen or goose; a loud silly laugh; noisy inconsequential talk). Meritocracy -- another common -ocracy -- sits between the demo- kako- and aristo-cracies.

Elisabeth said...

watching the Scripp's National Spelling Bee tonight- heard this word for the first time and loved it instantly.

it wasn't a competition word- it was one that a contestant in the Top 15 (Isabel Jacobson of Madison, WI) listed in her interview as one of her favorites.

my son, boyfriend and I immediately wondered aloud why we had never heard this divine word- particularly with the current state of affairs, and why never on the Daily Show?! the horror. a

nyway, I went online to google and read up about the word- and that's how I found you. thanks for your thoughts.

Kari said...

"What you really need to do is get Dan Savage to write about this word, so it can be like the "Santorum" phenomenon."

He already did. Way back in '04.

Mr Furious said...

Elisabeth and Kari--

Welcome! Thanks for taking the time to comment. Drop by once in a while...

Anonymous said...

I'm guesing that this word is best used to explain that stupid whore we have in Lansing that has ruined this great state of ours. She truely is "Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens."

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8bit said...

"I wonder if you can guess my inspiration?..."

11 years later and Donald Trump is president.