by Thomas E. Brewton
If voters are well enough informed to make the complex decision about pulling out of Iraq, why do we need liberal-socialist-progressive government to tell them how to live their daily lives?
Liberal Republicans and liberal Democrats say that the American people voted in the latest Congressional elections to pull our troops out of Iraq, sooner rather than later. Is that the whole story, and is it a valid basis for forming life-or-death foreign policy?
On the one hand, liberals are, in effect, adopting Ross Perot's idea that all voters should have computers and internet connections that would permit continuous referenda on every policy matter before Congress.
On the other hand, liberals' stock-in-trade is the firm conviction that voters need to be protected from their follies and must be coddled and comforted by government, from cradle to grave. Why does government have to keep such purportedly well informed voters from eating the wrong things, driving the wrong automobiles, and borrowing money on terms they can't meet?
If voters are well enough informed to weigh the complex interactions among the United States, the EU, Russia, Iran, Iraq, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and other Middle Eastern nations, why were Florida and Ohio voters, as Democrats claimed, unable to find polling places and unable to fathom the complexities of voting, once in the booth?
It will require a master sophist to argue that these two pictures of human nature are not contradictory.
Carried to its logical conclusion, relying entirely on public opinion-of-the-moment to decide policy issues would obviate the need for Congress altogether. It would instead necessitate polling the voters every day – should we impose higher tariffs on Chinese imports? should we attack Al Queda terrorists in Somalia? How should we react to Hugo Chavez's actions in Venezuela? Should we declare war against Mexico to stop illegals? Should we bomb Iran if the ayatollahs continue pursuit of nuclear weapons? and so on.
If you think that voter participation is depressingly low in elections now, just wait until you see the vanishingly low participation rates in such direct voting every day on all policy issues. Liberals would be compelled to revert to current reliance upon public opinion polls, which are based on sampling, at most, about 2 out of every 100,000 voters (which amounts to less than three-thousandths of one percent of voter rolls).
But not to worry. We know that opinion polls, formed by media hype, are always accurate assessors and predictors, as demonstrated by the BCS bowl game between No. 1-ranked Ohio State and Florida.
As noted earlier in "Iraq Policy and Public Opinion:"
"The underlying assumption is that public opinion, expressed in elections or opinion polls, in all cases represents truth and wisdom. As I wrote in "The Limitations of Public Opinion", such is seldom the case when complex policy matters are the subject of those opinions."
Thomas E. Brewton is a staff writer for the New Media Alliance, Inc. The New Media Alliance is a non-profit (501c3) national coalition of writers, journalists and grass-roots media outlets.
His weblog is THE VIEW FROM 1776