31 Oct 2011
Politicians and regulators frequently come under intense pressure from ill-informed groups opposing commercial ventures even when it’s abundantly clear there’s no evidence of a discernible impact, environmental or otherwise.
The problem is not that politicians cave to populist pressures. Our elected officials should create policy that matches the thoughts and views of the electorate, because that is how we know that we are still living in a democracy. The problem that Gwyn has is with the electorate itself.
Whether it is the merits of “smart meters” or rewriting the tax code, most individuals lack even the most basic understanding on the topics in order to come to a reasonable conclusion. This is not unusual. There are only so many hours in the day and we cannot dedicate each to the pursuit of knowledge, let alone the pursuit of the minutiae that is required to make policy choices. Our contribution to society comes in another way. Informed decision making is the duty of our politicians and the job that we entrust them with when we vote for them.
Yet, whether is it an active distrust in our political leaders or simply a desire for direct participation, our politicians are no longer permitted to be the decision-makers. Instead, the public–either at large or simply in large enough groups to be heard–demands consultation on subjects that they know almost nothing about. This is the process of democracy; individuals taking part in decision-making.
What Gwyn is really arguing for is requiring proof of knowledge before one is permitted to partake in the political sphere. Can’t name all the candidates? Then you’re not allowed to vote. Can’t come up with valid arguments for and against both sides of a referendum? Then you’re not allowed to vote. Replace “vote” with “lobby” if you like, but the results are the same: scientocracy, not democracy.