Did the word "idiocracy" exist prior to the release of the movie of the same title, or is it a neologism coined by its screenwriters?
Interestingly, the word already existed as far back as 1681, and originally meant:
Peculiarity of constitution; that temperament, or state of constitution, which is peculiar to a person; idiosyncrasy.
So it was basically an alternative form to "idiosyncrasy" and was just re-appropriated for its other meaning.
However, even more interestingly, I see a reference from the OED to the use of this word with the current interpretation of "idiot form of government" (made by an author named Thomas Sinclair) from all the way back in 1878 (and my sincere apology for the unfortunate fact that the cited quotation is antisemitic):
No Jew of them all would..set up a theocracy, or *idiocracy, for this is the exact word, more eagerly and remorselessly.
Great question; I was surprised by what I discovered.
Dictionary.com reports the words derives from idio-, and a word that is mixture of French, and Greek.
The New Oxford American Dictionary reports that idio- means "distinct, private, personal, own"; its origin is from Greek idios (own, distinct).
The term derives from two Greek words:
Idiotis, which means private person and in ancient Greek had a negative connotation as a selfish individual that does not care about the common matters and the collective good.
Kratos, which means power, rule, dominance (Similar to democracy power of the demos/people)
These two words together basically mean: "The rule of the idiots"
I was sure that one of the men present when America was establishing itself as a democracy said such a system could only result in an idiocracy. That celebrity and popularity would become the criteria for presidents and this would be disastrous. Whoever it was had very little regard for the general populous, thinking them unworthy of a vote equal to that of one of the ruling class. Good prediction for maybe the wrong reasons. Hopefully I'll be back to cite the quote and name the author.