Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Walter Lippmann

The well regarded writer Walter Lippmann was, at times, critical of too much democracy. Here are some of his quotes and my arguments for Interactive Democracy:
"When distant and unfamiliar and complex things are communicated to great masses of people, the truth suffers a considerable and often a radical distortion. The complex is made over into the simple, the hypothetical into the dogmatic, and the relative into an absolute."

I'd expect leaders to make the complex and fractal truth understandable. Democracy, in general, cannot operate without leadership. But there is another argument against falling into the trap that considers public opinion ignorant: even if it is accepted that one group of voters did not consider all the detailed arguments before expressing their opinion, another group surely made up for their deficit, and the system amalgamates all those disparate views into a common, widely informed, decision.
"The private citizen, beset by partisan appeals for the loan of his Public Opinion, will soon see, perhaps, that these appeals are not a compliment to his intelligence, but an imposition on his good nature and an insult to his sense of evidence."
It's essential to good decision making that there is a system to tease out the evidence and it is crucial to Democracy that the scientific and statistical evidence is subject to careful review. This, along with all of the points made during Parliamentary debate, should be presented on the web site where the public cast their vote. But, if you don't want to vote you don't have to, so it's no imposition at all.

"What we call a democratic society might be defined for certain purposes as one in which the majority is always prepared to put down a revolutionary minority."

Humanity is at its most successful when it seeks mutual benefit. Anyone debating in a Democratic system would do well to highlight the benefits of their proposition to their audience, ensuring a degree of empathy and understanding that begets evolution, not revolution.

"In government offices which are sensitive to the vehemence and passion of mass sentiment, public men have no sure tenure. They are in effect perpetual office seekers, always on trial for their political lives, always required to court
their restless constituents."
Democratically elected politicians "have no sure tenure", but the role of Parliament within Interactive Democracy is to debate, analyse and call for studies into the proposals that are presented by ePetition. MPs in this system will be judged less on their salesmanship than on their contribution to the debate: their points will be catalogued on the ID web site for all to see and consider. Those MPs that make up the government will suffer the gaze of their opposition, the media and the public, as they do today.

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