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January 21, 2014

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William McIlhagga

But since you're missing something - politics isn't just democracy/voting. The reason people worry so much about immigration is because of the availability heuristic - so many people make an issue of it so it must therefore be a problem.

After that, no wonder polls reflect the agenda set by those with access to the media.

Simon

What kind of bearing does the current U.S. debate have on this?:
http://www.politico.com/story/2013/11/immigration-reform-support-poll-99532.html

Deviation From The Mean

If your view of democracy begins and ends with elections then I think the cognitive dissonance argument seems plausiable.

However, if you regard elections as just a component part of a thorough going democracy then the idea of a ‘peoples’ parliament is an interesting proposal. You hit at this but dismiss it too readily in my opinion.

In the current system people effectively abdicate certain responsibilities to a ‘political’ and ‘educated’ class, and by doing this people become removed from the process. By being removed people rely on filters to provide them with information, mainly the media and media influenced peers. By relying on these filters people do not make informed decisions about these issues. If people were less removed from the actual issues and didn’t have to rely on the astonishingly unreliable media then I think people would reach different conclusions. What people say in opinion polls and what they would do when faced with the choices are 2 different things I would suggest.

The problem with the ‘peoples’ parliament is that it sounds too centralised, you would need a regional system of people’s councils that feeds into a national ‘parliament’. I.e. a revolutionary overhaul of the entire rotten system.

Still raising the idea and getting it debated is important I think.

Ralph Musgrave

If we’re going to be all folksy and in touch with the common people as suggested by John McDonnell, then we’ll have to stop using phrases like “cognitive dissonance”. My preferred alternative is “talking bol*ocks”. But I’m open to other suggestions.

Deviation From The Mean

"But I’m open to other suggestions."

How about, sod off fascist?

Blissex

«because of the availability heuristic - so many people make an issue of it so it must therefore be a problem.»
«If people were less removed from the actual issues and didn’t have to rely on the astonishingly unreliable media then I think people would reach different conclusions.»

But voters are adults who can very well decide to invest more or less time in looking at the issues. if they prefer perhaps to spend a lot more time being informed on gardening of cooking or sports than on their voting choices, that's their democratic privilege, and they are accountable for the consequences.

Keith

Except that in fact Blissex is wrong. Voters are not in fact accountable for their choices; they can approve indirectly all sorts of bad ideas and suffer no personal harm. For example they can vote to cut disability benefits and slash essential services for the Disabled to get a tax cut if they like. If they are not disabled at the time they do this they harm others to make a gain with impunity.

The virtue and weakness of political democracy is that it can ignore the negative externality of the selfish choice on those who are harmed. Politics is a collective process but it is reduced to a dynamic based on individual selfishness under a system of voting. In the same way majorities may ironically support the reduction of their own rights. So people may agree with Laws that stop defendants getting a fair trial on the theory they are good people and so will never need to stand trial in an unfair system.

Lots of the mistaken views of the public hinge on the fact that they do not have to consider the implications for society and the political community of their own errors. They can be irresponsible .

In the past it was said that politicians had the duty to show leadership. Thus to lead opinion not follow it. Which is why all sorts of Liberal reforms have been introduced. Is that Democratic? Well it is a different belief about what Democracy means then just following focus groups or opinion polls. It means risking defeat. As in the case of the Labour Council candidate who was told by a voter they would not vote Labour as "I am Racist" to which the candidate replied fine, then do not vote for me, find a racist to vote for instead.

Zorblog

I cannot agree. Neither with the post, nor with the comments.
In Switzerland we vote at least once a year on immigration and welfare. Both are recurrent, hot topics of Swiss politics.
There's no way you can predict what the outcome of the vote will be. The public tend to be versatile on such questions and it pays much attention to details.
Next month, we decide whether Switzerland should renegotiate its free-immigration agreement with the EU. Although there are nearly 25% of foreigners, the odds say that the Swill will reject the proposal, and keep borders with EU open.
You cannot infere what the British public would say from polls, precisely because it has no say. Once the people know they're entitled to decide, they start to think and act more responsibly.
Of course, direct democracy can be sometimes very disappointing, but so is politics done by politicians. And it remains the best proxy for what the public really wants.

Deviation From The Mean

Zorblog - I think you have a point, i said as much myself when I said

“What people say in opinion polls and what they would do when faced with the choices are 2 different things I would suggest.”

However, in Britain we have a gutter press that is generally anti EU and anti immigrant. The main function of the media is to divide the masses. Also we have a long history of colonialism and imperialism, quite different to Switzerland.

I do think, though, that when faced with the objective facts (or facts free from bias) people will make informed decisions, the problem is we don’t get that we get filters, and those filters reflect the general opinion. The question is did the filter make the people or did the people make the filter. I tend to lean toward the former. People are creations of a system. This presents the problem of how to make fundamental change, which is where Marxism is most insightful I would suggest.

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