Kakistocracy... A Word You Should Know

11/06/2008 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

"Government by the least qualified or most unprincipled citizens (from the Greek kakistos "worst.")

I heard the word over dinner the other night. It probably describes the current state of the union better than any single term I know of. Its first known appearance was in 1829 in The Misfortunes of Elphin, written by the English satirical writer Thomas Love Peacock. The American poet James Russell Lowell wrote in a letter in 1876: "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?"

It's certainly a word that should enter our vocabularies and our political discourse, perhaps find its rightful place on the SAT and be scrawled on the walls of colleges and public restrooms.
There's a website getyourkidtovote.com that encourages parents to send kakistocracy tee shirts to their college age kids to remind them and their classmates of the stakes in this election and to encourage them to vote.

I hope the shirts will have a very short shelf life. We wouldn't want to be wearing them for the next four years.