I think the problem is that we have created this dichotomy between democracy (good) and
everything else (bad) so we cannot apply some of the other terms that are probably closer to
the reality of the kernel development.
To me it looks more like an aristocracy where the best and the brightest have absolute control
based on internally developed conventions and pressures. Their power comes from 'knowing' what
is best and right, which is the main reason why they don't abuse their powers. The threat of a
peasant revolt (fork?) is what keeps them inline plus the ego massage from belonging to the
A pure democratic method would probably produce a much lower quality product in the sense that
it would tend to converge on a boring consensus kernel that tries to be something to everybody
without pleasing anyone.