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Your kakistocracy is collapsing after its lamentable journey. As the greatest Nation history has known, we have the opportunity to emerge from this nightmare stronger & more committed to ensuring a better life for all Americans, including those you have so tragically deceived.
—John O. Brennan (former CIA director) to Donald Trump[1]

Kakistocracy is a form of government where the least qualified individuals are in power. It comes from the Greek κακιστος (kakistos) meaning "worst"), the superlative of κακος (kakos) meaning “bad”. An early recorded use of the term was by the satirical writer Thomas Love Peacock in 1829 (The Misfortunes of Elphin),[2] but the earliest recorded use was in 1644 by Thomas Gosnold, warning of the transformation of "our well-temperd Monarchy into a mad kinde of Kakistocracy").[note 1][3][4] Kakistocracy isn't a particularly mainstream term and it is mostly used by satirists and critics of government.

The more cynical will argue that all governments eventually break down into this; the most cynical argue they all start that way. Because to be part of government, you have to put yourself forward first, potential rulers are those that want the job. And most people don't know how incompetent they are (or are so sociopathic that they don't care), so few potential rulers will actually be competent. The public tends to reward the most charismatic individuals the highest positions, and while charisma does demonstrate high levels of emotional intelligence and is useful for some aspects of leadership, charisma alone is not enough when you need to make a spot check trying to determine who the best subordinates to run a school system would be.

Others would argue that that there are many genuinely caring people with integrity who wish to have power in order to better serve their communities. Many believe that not to engage in matters of power and government is tantamount to voting for kakistocracy.

Other commentators besides Brennan (above quote) have used the term with regard to the Trump administration, including Paul Krugman, and MSNBC's Joy Reid.[5]

Examples of kakistocracies[edit]

See also[edit]

External links[edit]


  1. Therefore we need not make any scruple of praying against such: against those Sanctimonious Incendiaries, who have fetched fire from heaven to set their Country in combustion, have pretended Religion to raise and maintaine a most wicked rebellion: against those Nero's, who have ripped up the wombe of the mother that bare them, and wounded the breasts that gave them sucke: against those Cannibal's who feed upon the flesh and are drunke with the bloud of their own brethren: against those Catiline's who seeke their private ends in the publicke disturbance, and have set the Kingdome on fire to rost their owne egges: against those tempests of the State, those restlesse spirits who can no longer live, then be stickling and medling; who are stung with a perpetuall itch of changing and innovating, transforming our old Hierarchy into a new Presbytery, and this againe into a newer Independency; and our well-temperd Monarchy into a mad kinde of Kakistocracy.
    —Thomas Gosnold[3]


  1. Your kakistocracy is collapsing after its lamentable journey. As the greatest Nation history has known, we have the opportunity to emerge from this nightmare stronger & more committed to ensuring a better life for all Americans, including those you have so tragically deceived. by John O. Brennan (5:39 PM — 13 Apr 2018) Twitter.
  2. The Misfortunes of Elphin by Thomas Love Peacock (1829).
  3. 3.0 3.1 A sermon preached at the publique fast the ninth day of Aug. 1644 at St. Maries, Oxford, before the honorable members of the two Houses of Parliament there assembled by Thomas Gosnold (1644).
  4. Brennan: Your 'Kakistocracy' is Collapsing: Former CIA Director drives lookups 13,700% (Apr 13, 2018) Merriam-Webster.
  5. Kakistocracy goes viral after John Brennan calls Trump administration 'government by the worst' by Avi Selk (April 13, 2018 at 3:44 PM) The Washington Post.
  6. Krugman, Paul (2017-01-16). "With All Due Disrespect". The New York Times. Retrieved 2022-04-20. 
  7. Marsden, Harriet (2016-11-17). "Kakistocracy may just be the perfect word to describe the Trump government". The Independent. Retrieved 2022-04-20. 
  8. Description and reviews of Reform the Kakistocracy: Rule by the Least Able Or Least Principled Citizens at Google Books. Retrieved 20 April 2022.
  9. 9.0 9.1 Luce, Edward (7 February 2019). "Only the UK leads America in its rush to kakistocracy". Financial Times. 
  10. "David Cameron leads MPS in a charade of smoke and mirrors". 11 January 2016. 
  11. "A new dawn of the worst and most injurious". 24 July 2019. 
  12. "The Great British Kakistocracy". 
  13. Warde, Ibrahim (1 June 2020). "A caquistocracia" (in pt-BR). 
  14. Rodrigues, Sérgio (2020-08-12). "Caquistocracia, o pior de nós" (in pt-BR). 
  15. Costa-Pereira, Raul (2021). "Letter from Brazil: Teaching and Mentoring in a Sadder Nation" (in en). The Bulletin of the Ecological Society of America 102 (4): e01927. doiWikipedia:10.1002/bes2.1927. ISSN 2327-6096. "Facing the COVID-19 pandemic during Bolsonaro’s kakistocracy (i.e., a government run by the worst and most unscrupulous citizens) has taken a heavy toll on all of us." 
  16. Abadjian, Vahram (July 2010). "Kakistocracy or the true story of what happened in the post-Soviet area". Journal of Eurasian Studies 1 (2): 153–163. doiWikipedia:10.1016/j.euras.2010.04.009. 
  17. Ali, Amro (12 November 2016). "Kakistocracy: a word we need to revive". 
  18. Okafor, Collins; Smith, L. Murphy; Ujah, Nacasius U. (29 July 2014). "Kleptocracy, nepotism, kakistocracy: impact of corruption in Sub-Saharan African countries". International Journal of Economics and Accounting 5 (2): 97. doiWikipedia:10.1504/IJEA.2014.063736. 
  19. "Kerajaan PH Kerajaan Kakistocracy" (in en-US). 2018-08-13. 
  20. Report, Sarawak. "From Kleptocracy To Kakistocracy - Malaysia's Sad Progress".