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September 05, 2009



"a political system that panders to ill-founded preferences"

Forget Rawls and try instead Strauss' Plato to understand the nature of polical life.

Luis Enrique

"lacks legitimacy"?

what's the benchmark here: as legitimate as we can ever realistic expect any system of social organisation to be, or lacking legitimacy relative to some made-up notion of what "real" legitimacy would be?



I take seriously Keynes' dictum that though they don't realise it, politicians are influenced by the scribblings of long-dead and defunct academics.

The present crop of politicians hails from an era when philosophy generally was dominated by positivst linguistic analysis, and political philosophy was barely taught to undergraduates. (I remember meeting several of my college's alumni last year in the status, and all of them over 50 complained of how angry and frustrated they were by philosophy, and hence opted for economics or political science instead).

Over the next 20 years a generation of politicians will emerge who were educated at the top UK universities where Rawls was taught in abundance. It could just be a matter of time.


"in the status" = "in the States"



«Why should we tolerate a political system that panders to ill-founded preferences - as filtered and manipulated by media plutocrats - whilst paying little heed to justice?»

It is called a democracy -- where everyone in the secret of the ballot box is allowed to be as mean, shortsighted, selfish as they please, and politicians have to be elected.

Perhaps philosopher-kings would "heed to justice", but a democracy heeds to whatever voters in the secret of the ballot box reveal as to their preferences.

Laban Tall

I never thought a great deal of Lou Rawls.

I suppose this was OK.

Laban Tall

I meant this.

Does html not work in these comments ?



@Blissex - I fear you might be hinting at a false dichotomy here. Our question isn't democracy vs philosopher kings (aka dictators)? Instead it's: are there ways of structuring democractic choices in such a way that we can filter out ignorant or mean preferences, and bring in the dispersed knowledge which voters have but centralizing politicians might not have?

David Semple

@Chris - the answer to which is 'no'. The other have of the Marxian critique you mention is the assertion that 'democratic' choices are pretty irrelevant. Whether, as Lenin argued, this is because the decisions are really made in the chanceries and bureaucracies and not in parliament (he didn't have New Labour in mind, but...) OR related to the ebb and flow of Gramscian hegemony and the practical constraints on action imposed by the big bourgeoisie, the point is just our way of saying that only the frippery changes - the basic economic and ideological forces don't really.

David Semple

Half* Goddamn hymonymic typing.

Mike Woodhouse

TV talent shows are primarily about "show", not "talent", although a Will Young, Girls Aloud or Leona Lewis doesn't hurt. The sob-story contestants only get on stage because some assistant producer spots 30 seconds of golden crowd-pulling in prospect. I'm not complaining - my wife and daughter are very welcome to spend their Saturday evenings being entertained by all this as long as I can be elsewhere.

Talent shows are as much about talent as reality TV is about reality. And politics is about getting elected next time, not about running the country well, except inasmuch as the latter improves the chances of the former, which appears to be not much.

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And a lot of it reflects a switch from bank deposits to securities; foreigners “other investments” in the UK, http://www.watchgy.com/ mostly bank deposits, fell by £143.2bn in Q1. And of course there’s no guarantee such buying will continue.

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