Democracy In Action, Part 6 to blupete's Essay
"An Essay On Democracy"
First off, it must be recognized, that the country is not run, at least not in between elections, with the executive checking with the people by way of referenda (as the Swiss do). However, the people who possess government power and who would like to keep it, are bound to proceed on the basis of popular opinion; the difficulty is that public opinion arises as a result of an agenda which is set by minority groups to which vote chasing politicians cow, a process which is generally aided and abetted by an ignorant press.
"[Proper political conclusions] cannot be had by glancing at newspapers, listening to snatches of radio comment, watching politicians perform on television, hearing occasional lectures, and reading a few books. It would not be enough to make a man competent to decide whether to amputate a leg, and it is not enough to qualify him to choose war or peace, to arm or not to arm, to intervene or to withdraw, to fight on or to negotiate. ...We should never hope or aim to choose a bully, but the elective process will give no guarantee that the people will not end up with one. Democracy, no matter its imperfections, is a way by which the people can bloodlessly turn out leaders; but, the democratic process will only work with the consent of the leaders. The best that can be expected of a constitutional democracy, the best that can be expected by any political system, is a process by which the people turn up a leader or leaders which are prepared to deal with both the bullies amongst us and those at our borders. Hopefully, the leader or leaders, so turned up by the "democratic process," do not turn out to be a worst set of bullies than that which might exist in an ungoverned state. If, in the "democratic process," an elected leader turns into a bully; well, then, one should not rely on democracy, except as a rallying cry, to turn him out. To turn out a powerful bully, great quantities of spilt blood are needed.
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. ... the public opinion of masses cannot be counted upon to apprehend regularly and promptly the reality of things. There is an inherent tendency in opinion to feed upon rumors excited by our own wishes and fears." (Lippmann, The Public Philosophy, p. 25.)
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