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January 15, 2015



They are better than party leaders charging about in battle-buses or going on walk-abouts, but that's about all.


Just who will watch this debate? Media wonks and political hacks probably, with much partisan screaming and raving in the next days media. But most ordinary people will probably look for 1 minute, yawn and turn to something else.


22 million watched the last one


"(I'm not making a partisan point here: righties can compare their favourite rightist thinker to Ed Miliband)."

Sadly Miliband lacks the basics of political communication (I don't think this is down to his being educated at a Comprehensive, his brother is very able and went to the same school). So, it is impossible to imagine him besting a reasonably competent professional economist in a TV debate.

I think all of your objections are precisely the objections Plato had to democracy itself.

"Plato (Republic, Book VI) argues that democracy is inferior to various forms of monarchy, aristocracy and even oligarchy on the grounds that democracy tends to undermine the expertise necessary to properly governed societies. In a democracy, he argues, those who are expert at winning elections and nothing else will eventually dominate democratic politics. Democracy tends to emphasize this expertise at the expense of the expertise that is necessary to properly governed societies. The reason for this is that most people do not have the kinds of talents that enable them to think well about the difficult issues that politics involves. But in order to win office or get a piece of legislation passed, politicians must appeal to these people's sense of what is right or not right. Hence, the state will be guided by very poorly worked out ideas that experts in manipulation and mass appeal use to help themselves win office."


Dave Timoney

When you strip away the ideology, Plato's position (which has been a mainstay of reactionary thinking down the years) sees politics as the instrument of class interests. In other words, government should be left to the "best" because government should be in their interests (Marx at least made this clear). Terms such as "properly governed" beg the question.

This has two effects in a democracy. First, there is an inevitable tension between the interests of the many and the interests of the few, which leads to the former being denigrated ("populist", "Utopian" etc) and the latter valorised ("responsible", "national interest" etc).

Second, it causes the business of government to be biased (in presentation if not actuality) towards topics that reinforce the ideas that politics requires expertise and the elite are experts. This is why so much of political debate focuses on hyperreal economics (simultaneously obscure and ignorant) and foreign affairs (obscure and posturing).

The problem with TV debates (and middle-of-the road wank like Question Time) is not the poor quality of the politicians but the poor quality of the questions. That's the key selection bias.

Igor Belanov

We already have a highly restricted formal political system dominated by a handful of parties. Democracy is further weakened by encouraging these parties to be distilled into one figure, the party leader, who is judged to be the only person that the electorate really needs to see. That is one of the main reasons why TV debates (in the 2010 format)are such a problem.


"Tony Yates and Simon Wren Lewis know vastly more about economics than Cameron".

Well yes, but Cameron knows vastly more about politics than Tony Yates and Simon Wren Lewis.

In what sense does this make their opinions "superior"?

An Alien Visitor

We have also had very real empirical eveidence to test Plato's assertion and I think we can say that he was incorrect with bells on, the more democratic the society the more successful it is at delivering the application of science to production.

It has actually been found, and this is a great shock, that investing in a small elite results in worse outcomes than investing more broadly. I.e. the concept of a society where 'expertise' is in the hands of a few retards progress and seeing 'expertise' as something that should be part of the job in a society where the division of labour is so widespread and complex has proved a better strategy.

And we should never confuse management with expertise, or elites with expertise.

I have news for the high and mighty, expertise is found among the hoi polloi. You lot simply attend banquets!

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