Should we go a step further and impose IQ tests on Presidential Candidates?

The President of a country like Kenya has several roles each with distinctive job description. Some of these roles, as explained by Scholastic in their article Seven roles for one president, include:

Chief of State – A president is required to lead the entire nation by inspiring the people and guiding the nation to achieve national ideals, etc. Presiding over national functions like national holidays or awarding medals come with this role.

Chief Executive – The government of Kenya has three branches: The Executive, Parliament and The Judiciary. Each of these arms have several employees. The head of employees in the Executive arm is the President. In that arm, which is in implementing national policies, projects and the ruling party’s manifesto, the Chief Executive Officer is the President. Just like CEO of any big company, The President as the CEO of the Executive arm of the government is expected to perform and deliver results. As an example of a job description for a CEO, the CEO is expected to undertake some of the duties outlined in this document.

Chief Diplomat – A country must relate with other countries, and the person who defines the agenda of these relationships is the President. He actually outlines how the appointed ambassadors and commissioners represent the country in the foreign nations.

Commander in Chief – The President is the head of all armed forces in Kenya. The president decides where troops shall be stationed, where ships shall be sent, and how weapons shall be used. All military generals and admirals take their orders from the President.

Chief Legislature – Parliament make bills, but it is the president who signs the bills into laws. It requires a person with great wisdom to sign bills that are of greater good to the nation, bills that are consistent to the aspiration of all and are not in violation of either written or unwritten laws – bills that are consistent to both the letter and spirit of the constitution.

Chief Economist – In matters of tax policy, unemployment, new investment ventures, streamlining the public sector and setting up laws, rules and regulation that shapes the private sector, it is the President that has the greatest say. If the economy is sliding, the back stops at his office.

Each of the above roles require individuals with impeccable qualifications. It requires a person who can relate with the people to effectively perform the role of Chief of State. As the Chief Legislature and Chief Economist, the President must be a person with a greater understanding of how both the legal systems and macro economy work. Although the President will have several advisers for the many roles he has to play, he must be a person capable of discerning good advise from a bad one.

A president whose logical, rationalization and wisdom abilities are below a certain threshold is likely to make decision that will either be overturned by some independent bodies or arm of government, or send the country rolling down hill. This is why a country should be led, not by someone who simply went to some University to pursue a degree as demanded by the current constitution, but by a person who has accompanying intelligence to discern the various roles he must play, a president should meet a minimum level of IQ – an IQ that is above population average.

I am not saying that a President of a country should be a person with above average IQ out of the blues. Yesterday Scientific American published an article titled, “How smart should the President Be?”  in which David Z, Hambrick  reported a historiometric research meant to estimate the correlation between IQ and presidential success that was done by Dean Keith Simonton, a Psychologist with the University of California that found out that “IQ correlated positively with a measure of “presidential greatness” based on multiple rankings and ratings of presidents’ leadership ability—and the relationship went in a straight line”. That is, the higher the IQ of the president, the greater he became in US history. “Simonton’s IQ estimates also correlate positively with a ranking of presidential performance compiled by statistician and founder Nate Silver.”

Correlating presidential performance with IQ was also found to be consistent with a “large-scale meta-analyses by the University of Iowa industrial psychologist Frank Schmidt demonstrating that general cognitive ability—the psychological trait underlying IQ—is the single best predictor of performance in the workplace.”

Why should a president be a person of a slightly higher IQ than the average person? “The job of president of the United States calls on a wide range of knowledge, skills, and abilities. The president must acquire vast amounts of knowledge about a dizzying array of topics, consider competing points-of-view and ideas in making decisions, and solve complex problems of all sorts” Scientific American answered.

In Kenya and elsewhere in the world there is no demand that a person vying for presidency should have a certain level of IQ. Before the current constitution was effected, one was only required to be a citizen of Kenya, has attained 35 years of age, and is registered as voter in the National Assembly elections. The current constitution amends the qualifications for presidency and thus one is now required to be a citizen by birth, is qualified for election as a member of parliament among two others. For a person to be qualified for election as a member of parliament he/she must satisfy any educational, moral and ethical requirements prescribed by the Constitution or by an Act of Parliament. Currently, the educational requirement is that one must have obtained at least a bachelors degree from a recognized University.

But we know how easy it can be to obtain a degree, at least here in Kenya. To safeguard the country from being led by a “dead brain” incapable of making informed decisions for assured economic growth, I do believe it would be crucial to require of Presidential Candidates to undertake an IQ test, a general knowledge test (knowledge of global, regional and local politics, basics in economics, a rough understanding of governance and management, etc), and interpersonal skills tests.

A structured pre-qualification programme that takes into account an individual’s experience, personality, education and intelligence would probably be what this country needs to change the political environment from tribal to ideology based politics.

Don’t get me wrong, I haven’t said that any of the four presidents who have led this country have less than required IQ for the job. What I have said is that we cannot know whether any or all of them have deficient or sufficient IQ for the job. So, should we go a step further and impose IQ tests on Presidential Candidates?


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