Originally, I was playing with the idea that representatives should have to pass an exam to become eligable to run for political office. While listening to C-SPAN broadcasts of Congress committees, or members of Congress giving interviews to NPR, where on some shows they are allowed more speaking time than the 20 or 30 seconds, I am too often shocked by the lack of depth and the absence of fact in their statements. Sometimes, representatives will even simply confess they only know what they read in the newspaper, and honestly, I think for many this is all they read I am afraid. Of course, many representatives have expensive and learned advisers, but the judge of their advise will still be lead by nothing but their own framework of reference. In the best situation, the representative will blindly trust his advisers, in the worst, he or she will view themselves as the better qualified of judgment, as a Moses guided by an inner voice.
The notion of requiring a threshold of qualification for representatives holds of course incredible dangers within it of bias and favoritism, undermining the very idea of democracy. On the other hand, the opinion of the masses easily allows to be manipulated by the rise of mass media and the degrading of higher education under the influence of popularization or democratization of educational institutions. But the thought experiment would be worth while the effort.
But secondly, a thought inspired by this notion of a representation bar somewhat, I concluded that I do not know much about the different democratic systems in the world in comparitive overview. The direct association from above thought leading to this, was the comparison with the Iranian democracy, where a High Council of Theologians approves candidates for elections. Now, as a nihilist atheist with rarely a romantic notion of ethics, I would obviously approve of such a standard, but within a system where religious of ethic values are determined or arbitrarily defined to be main concern for future social development, versus my own concerns of an educational, scientific or factual values, such a Theologian body of judgment would not be a totally absurd idea. Of course, this idea does not fit within the Western thought of Enlightenment in which the state and church are separated and the Trias Politica is firmly established, but then most non-Western countries depend on completely different socio-economic conditions and ideological traditions.
So here is my thesis: Collect information for all (formal) forms of democratic government, established by law and elected by popular vote, in the world and group these into 5 basic forms. Define the main differences, with a special eye for the selection of representatives.