Last week, we concluded the first part of our look at the terms for various types of governments by wondering what life would be like if we lived in a cyberocracy or an algoracy — in other words, in a nation governed by computers. Let’s continue in that vein.

What could be worse than being governed by computers? How about being governed by the people who build and operate them? For instance, we could find ourselves living in a technocracy in which decision makers are selected to govern based upon their education or technical expertise.

Or we could end up in a netocracy, a portmanteau of “Internet” and “aristocracy,” (a term coined by the editors of Wired magazine in the early 1990s) in which a perceived global upper class bases its power on a technological advantage and networking skills. What could go wrong there? Just look at how well Twitter — I mean X — is doing.

Perhaps we should put our faith in people who are genuinely smart or honorable to run the country. For example we could try out a geniocracy, which, according to, “is a collegial government by geniuses elected under a selective democracy.” (Be careful not to confuse a geniocracy with a gerontocracy, which is rule by elders.)

And if those groups don’t pan out we could look to really wise, learned people such as philosophers to lead us, which would then give us a noocracy. They could then be succeeded by the meritorious in a meritocracy or perhaps a timocracy (which takes its name from the Greek word “time” or “value, honor”) and be ruled by the honorable.

“But what if rule by the brilliant and honorable doesn’t work out?” you ask. Fear not, there’s always the average American ready to pitch in and do his or her part. We could start with an isocracy, a political system in which everyone has equal power, kind of like how isobars on a weather map connect points of equal pressure.


Or we might want to try an ergatocracy, or rule by workers or the working class (from the Greek “ergates” or a workman) in which groups such as revolutionaries and rebels have created an alternative economy for people and workers. A possible last resort would be the establishment of a mobocracy (also called an ochlocracy), which is rule by a crowd or mob or by the intimidation of legitimate authorities.

There’s no way to sugar coat it, our last types of government involve associating with some really bad actors. First up is the kratocracy, which comes from the Greek “krateros” or “strong,” and is a government based on coercive power by those who seized control through physical violence or coercion.

Batting second is the kakistocracy, which comes to us, says Merriam-Webster, by way of the Greek word “kakistos,” (the superlative of bad) and obviously means “government by the worst people.”

Third in the order, and originating from the Greek words “klepto” (I steal) and “kratos” (rule), is kleptocracy, a government whose corrupt leaders use their power to expropriate the wealth of the people and land they govern, typically through embezzlement.

Batting cleanup is nepotocracy, which gets its root from the Italian word “nipote” or “nephew,” and is, according to, “a government run solely by giving your family and close friends jobs after firing anyone with experience and everyone who won’t kiss the ring.”

In the end, we get the type of government we deserve. A quote attributed to Edmund Burke reminds us, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

Or, as New Yorker drama critic Alexander Woollcott put it, “I’m tired of hearing it said that democracy doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t work. We are supposed to work it.”

Jim Witherell of Lewiston is a writer and lover of words whose work includes “L.L. Bean: The Man and His Company” and “Ed Muskie: Made in Maine.” He can be reached at

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