1. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston

    Elitism

    Discussion in 'The Lounge' started by thirdwind, Aug 13, 2013.

    I had an interesting conversation about elitism with someone over the weekend. Specifically, we were talking about elitism and its relationship to democracy. Theoretically, in a democracy, anyone, even the most uninformed citizen, is able to participate in government matters. However, there is a problem with this. A citizen who knows nothing about politics can influence laws and policies that affect millions of other people. Aristotle was against a democracy for this exact reason.

    So here are some questions my friend and I were discussing. Why should the votes of uninformed voters count just as much as those of informed citizens? A lot of these voters are essentially making blind decisions. Is this fair to informed voters? Could our government be better/more efficient if uninformed voters were taken out of the picture? Do you feel that a person should have a certain amount of knowledge about politics to be able to make decisions about them? Is there a difference between an informed voter who has no preference about a policy versus an uninformed voter who votes blindly? If most people aren’t interested in politics, should there be a political elite (say, 5% of the population) composed of informed voters to uphold democratic values?

    This also leads to the issue of how politics differs from other fields (like chemistry or medicine). It can be argued that policies in science and technology (for example, deciding to focus on researching solar energy instead of wind energy) are just as important as policies in politics, yet the average person doesn’t make decisions about those things mostly because he/she doesn’t know enough about them. So why is it that the average person isn’t allowed to vote on, for example, what topics modern physics should focus on but that he/she can vote on important social and political issues? Is there some sort of difference between the goal of politics and the goals of other crafts (to use Aristotle’s terminology)?

    I have a lot more to say about this, but I thought I’d keep it short because I didn’t want this post turning into an essay.
     
  2. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    502
    "The government you elect is the government you deserve.", said Thomas Jefferson.

    This is an excellent point and one that I have thought a lot about.

    When America was founded, governments were built so that land owners could get together and make decisions based on mutual self-interest. Being property owners, they have a vested stake in what happened in government.

    Unfortunately, we have come to a point in history where there is a disconnect between the voters and the policy-makers. The problem is that most Americans don't have a horse in the race anymore. Government is often seen as this far-away entity that makes for interesting drama, but doesn't really affect anyone.

    Also of importance is the rise of social issues overtaking serious policy issues.

    The government is just too damn big and with most Americans caring little for our out of control debt and spending, it seems the ignorant masses will just continue to vote for the person that appears on Leno enough times.
     
  3. Thomas Kitchen
    Offline

    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 5, 2012
    Messages:
    1,258
    Likes Received:
    422
    Location:
    I'm Welsh - and proud!
    An extremely interesting topic, even if I do say so myself. I'm going to freely admit this and say that I am not a politically minded person at all. Not even a little bit. But I also don't vote. Not for the reason you mentioned above (although now it's been added to my reasons not to), but simply because, as I see it, political parties do not stand out anymore. No one is severely right-wing or left-wing. It's all about staying in the middle and trying to keep everyone happy, which may be one reason why uninformed citizens like myself are casting their votes.

    In all honesty, I agree with you. Why should people with little or no education in politics cast their votes on things political, which affect the entire country and possibly the whole world? As you say, we get no say in what research is to be done in biology or chemistry or physics. Why, then, does politics stand out from all the rest?

    I think one reason is rioting. Look at countries which do not have a democracy and instead have the same people voted in year after year because of military power or something similar. Eventually the people become restless and angry, and full-blown rioting can occur. So it could be if we changed it.

    But then again, what if 5-10% of the population voted - those with politically-minded thoughts and discussions? Personally, I would say "fair enough." But others would not. They would ask, "why not me?", when they should know why not them. And what if a political party made only a few of the voting members to vote for them, through illegitimate or corruptible means? That would then count for a significant chunk of the voters, and the tides could turn very easily. Also, how would these voters be cast? Just curious.

    As I've already said, I know literally nothing about politic; I am just contributing my two cents. Hopefully it is of some use in this discussion. :)
     
  4. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    It is a problem and it has given us some very bad outcomes. But the bigger problem is that there is no solution. Churchill was right when he said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried.

    In areas such as physics (or really, the sciences in general), the fields of study are determined either by the marketplace (i.e. someone gives money to enable research. or by academic need (questions posed by those with knowledge, and accepted knowledge gaps) that supports the ability to do research. In addition, there IS a governmental component to this -- the federal government and also the states give grants and allocate money to educational institutions (and also government institutions themselves) to study certain things. And these have sometimes been influenced by the public/voters, to the detriment of academic freedom and science. This is particularly true in the field of genetics and reproductive health.
     
  5. chicagoliz
    Offline

    chicagoliz Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    May 30, 2012
    Messages:
    3,295
    Likes Received:
    815
    Location:
    Pennsylvania
    The thing is, Thomas, the parties have some very major differences on a lot of issues about which you must have an opinion. There are some areas of the country that have some truly dismaying and horrifying politicians. And they inflict policies that harm most of the citizenry. But when people don't bother to vote, they allow the suffering to continue and the harm to accrue.
     
  6. Kelson
    Offline

    Kelson Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2013
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Indiana
    Hello Thirdwind,

    This is already happening. People who have attempted to get a majority population vote are often assassinated, think Martin Luther King, Gandhi, etc. I have very politically active friends that shutter at the thought of a larger turn out for major political elections. Many have admitted that they go out of their way to make it difficult for the average Joe to vote.

    My nephew came around incensed because he went to vote independent and found that the district (the majority of which is democratic) somehow made it so that you had to hand write your vote and mail it in for independent candidates.

    Here's my problem with your logic and what is already occurring: Whenever a group of elites arise pretty soon they're all wearing funny hats and banners, marching together. Next thing you know they're deciding who should also have basic human rights like health care, running water, or the right to live. History is waaaayyyyy too replete with evidence for this to bore everyone on this thread with the innumerable examples.

    Okay that said: Perhaps you'd rather be speaking German or Japanese right now? What I mean is I have served in the military and I can tell you I met quite a few soldiers, sailors, and Marines that didn't know squat about politics and the process; (in fact you are inculcated to obey whatever political party is in power whether you agree with them or not).

    So should these veterans with very little, if any, political savvy not be permitted to vote? Many have lost limbs or far more serving so that people like us can continue to wax poetic about matters such as these. What about the thousands of firemen, police, and EMTs that will likely save your life at some point if you're lucky to live long enough? Are they politically savvy enough to vote? How about the men and women that clean the bathrooms, you use, after all the decision is affecting them and their children for generations.

    Don't think this is the reality? Go research how many congress-people and senators have children actively serving in combat or served themselves. That's the problem. You might as well have people like me calling plays for the Super Bowl Teams during the game (and the results are/would be similarly catastrophic).

    Sorry but that is ultimately what makes your whole idea prima facie ridiculous.

    My Two Cents,

    ~Kelson Hargis
     
  7. JJ_Maxx
    Offline

    JJ_Maxx Banned

    Joined:
    Oct 8, 2012
    Messages:
    3,339
    Likes Received:
    502
    [MENTION=55533]Kelson[/MENTION] - I think you're missing the point.

    You're saying that some people sacrifice, so they deserve a voice in what happens to their country. Same with people whose children are affected.

    But what he's saying is that if your fighting for a country, you should take the time to understand what your voting for, otherwise it's meaninless. If your children will be affected by things a government does, than you should take the time to learn about what and who you're voting for.

    It's not a question of deserving to vote, it's a question of knowing what you're voting for and why.
     
  8. erebh
    Offline

    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,620
    Likes Received:
    467
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Who picks these 5-10% of knowledgeable voters?
    Does someone set a test and only those who pass can vote?

    In most countries there isn't a choice, as TK says, so many parties are leaving the left and the right to come centre in order not to gain favour but not to alienate - obviously there are panderers but people tend to vote for change rather than more of the same old shit that's been served up for years.

    I can understand TK not voting, I can understand Kelson wondering why people die fighting for the right for others to cast a ballot.

    Whether we like it or not, all people are affected whether it's regarding medical care or taxes or marching into a foreign country so everyone has the right to vote, people also have the right to stick their fingers up to whatever crawling snivelling politician is courting that X on his card.

    We will never see another MLK or Gandhi or Mandella because they will be killed before they get the chance or they'll eventually be bribed or blackmailed or forced back into the margins by other means. The status quo won't change. Our options are always two-fold, BurgerKing or McDonalds, Coke or Pepsi, Democrat or Republican, Fianna Fail or Fine Gael, Tory or Labour and when you look at it in any depth - there is no choice - just distractions.
     
  9. Kelson
    Offline

    Kelson Member

    Joined:
    Jul 29, 2013
    Messages:
    36
    Likes Received:
    4
    Location:
    Indiana
    Thanks JJ,

    I also want to clarify that my statements should not be construed as directed at Thirdwind because they are not. Even my statement about the notion being ridiculous. Of course I do not even know Thirdwind properly yet :) I just jump into discourse as if it is rhetorical and imagine that I am speaking to the debater.

    I still beg to differ though JJ. I do not agree that someone willing to sacrifice everything in combat should necessarily be well versed in politics. Also my statement about rather speak German or Japanese pertained to that.

    I believe that the collectivism of democracy won every war we've been in since the revolution without people having the ideals of the state forced upon them. (In fact I am a social anarchist.) Three great friends of mine in WWII talked shared the same observations at different times and separately from each other. They spoke about how often the German's, Italians, and others from annexed nations gave up quite easily whenever the opportunity presented itself.

    (They did not say the same about the Japanese but I believe that is a whole different issue.)

    This is a great conversation!

    Kelson
     
  10. NeonFraction
    Offline

    NeonFraction Member

    Joined:
    Jul 31, 2013
    Messages:
    91
    Likes Received:
    6
    Location:
    South
    Actually, lots of American government is set up in a way to 'guard against the whims of the people.' Supreme court justices come to mind. The founding fathers were actually very anti-direct democracy, and very pro-representative democracy for this reason. Hence why we have a representative democracy and not a direct democracy (usually).

    In some ways though, informed is not always better and the whims of the people can be very important. Social issues, like women's rights and gay marriage would be considered a whim of the people. Making slavery illegal would also be very difficult if you stopped all the uneducated slaves from voting. People with good educations are also more likely to be more privileged and wealthy, making them out of touch with the very poor.

    This is a fun conversation!
     
  11. IronPalm
    Offline

    IronPalm Banned

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    21
    I remember reading a bunch of articles when I was in my teens about the flaws of democracy (or a democratic republic, like the current US government). An uninformed citizenry is just one of them, as are many others, some briefly mentioned in this topic.

    Just remember; the cycle of government goes democracy -> monarchy -> oligarchy -> democracy according to Machiavelli. Our democracy is crumbling, the politicians in powers (especially the President) are rapidly growing more powerful, the union between press and government is the same as it was back in the USSR (where I was born), the Constitution is irrelevant (as it was back in the USSR, whose Constitution was as good as the American one, but no one followed it), and we're openly moving towards socialism, so the US can look forward to an era of tyranny, repression, and sustained economic misery in the very near future.
     
  12. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    For the record, I'm not advocating elitism (but I'm not completely against it either). I simply wanted to get a discussion going.

    I don't have time to address all the posts at the moment, but hopefully I'll get to them tomorrow.
     
  13. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Educating the citizens in politics is probably even harder in a country as populated and vast as the US, but I'd love to believe in the power of education (most citizens receive the basic ed), and that it should be our schools (and parents, of course) who plant that seed of awareness, curiosity, and activism in our kids. It's lofty, possibly really quite naïve, but that's the only way I can think of how to make democracy work -- without setting up some elitist group, which is a loathsome idea anyway. As [MENTION=52161]erebh[/MENTION] pointed out, how would we pick that group anyway?

    I can't remember the name of the Simpsons episode in which Homer ran for office in the Springfield city council, promising to the lazy citizens an all-encompassing garbage disposal service. The easily influenced people believed his crazy promises and he was elected -- democracy works! -- but then he ended up turning Springfield into a dump -- democracy works? -- so that was a pretty funny parody of how democracy sometimes behaves.

    You probably have them in the States too, but what helps an uninformed citizen or a layman to make their decision are voting advice applications.

    Oh... you seem to have Vote Compass! LOL at the Wikipedia page:
    Fail.
     
  14. IronPalm
    Offline

    IronPalm Banned

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    21
    In the US, the public schools are utterly worthless and teach nothing, thus making for an easily controlled, incredibly stupid electorate.
     
  15. erebh
    Offline

    erebh Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Jan 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,620
    Likes Received:
    467
    Location:
    Los Angeles
    Do you think this is done by design?

    People have always been kept in the dark. Schools were burnt in Ireland by the British for hundreds of years and learning took place in secret. The catholic church promoted big families in Ireland to keep people poor, to poor to go to school or buy books, much like the black slaves who were taken from Africa to the US - they too were banned from education in order to keep them ignorant, uninformed and unable to 'compete'. Women were banned from voting for how long in many countries as we all know because they weren't deemed intelligent enough to have a say.

    There is a reason for all of this; so the same old same old retain the power. In the UK every year we hear how the curriculum changes, one year it is dumbed down so schools look better, then when it can't get any dumber they make a song and dance about the number of passes. Of course with the higher number of passes comes more college entries. On the news last night a girl was saying how this summer break her college fees have gone fro 2300 pounds to 9600 p/a.

    Are kids not being taught about politics for the sole purpose of keeping them 'un-informed'?
     
  16. Kaze Araki
    Offline

    Kaze Araki Member

    Joined:
    May 3, 2012
    Messages:
    54
    Likes Received:
    1
    The only solution for Aristotle's dilemma is Anarchism.
     
  17. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    There are definitely problems with having a minority uphold democratic values. Like you said, there is corruption, etc. And the minority could easily enforce their will on the majority. So there would have to be a way to protect the majority from the will of the minority, which I think is easier than protecting the minority from the will of the majority.

    Dostoevsky grappled with this idea of elitism in his diaries and also in one of his novels (I want to say The Brothers Karamazov but I'm not sure). He was pondering the idea of 90% of the population working to advance the happiness and welfare of the top 10%. He ultimately rejected it, though I can't remember if it was on religious grounds or some other reason.

    I'm not sure. Maybe pick people who have studied politics and/or law. Sort of like how we select the most qualified doctors or engineers to take on difficult jobs.
     
  18. IronPalm
    Offline

    IronPalm Banned

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2013
    Messages:
    301
    Likes Received:
    21
    Of course. And by the way, Britain and especially Australia are equally guilty of this.

    Actually, they are, but contemporary political propaganda is very different from an actual education. I remember this proposal being passed when I was in high school[/url], and while the irony of government-funded schools teaching that the current government administration was evil is funny, what's even more amusing is that this specifically passed in the San Francisco and Oakland school districts.

    Not coincidentally, it's part of the most wretched, lowest-performing, highest teen pregnancy, highest drop-out, and most violent high schools in the Bay Area.
     
  19. NigeTheHat
    Offline

    NigeTheHat Contributing Member Contributor

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2008
    Messages:
    762
    Likes Received:
    580
    Location:
    London
    I'm not sure it's possible to be informed - any information put out will be put out by people with their own agenda, and anyone who looks at raw data is more likely to use that data to find reasons why their gut instinct is right rather than form an opinion based on it.

    That's no grand conspiracy - it's just people being people. I work in marketing, and I've seen many times how easily swayed people are by things they want to believe in.
     
  20. T.Trian
    Offline

    T.Trian Overly Pompous Bastard Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 12, 2013
    Messages:
    2,246
    Likes Received:
    1,449
    Location:
    Mushroom Land
    Mildly OT rant:
    The same goes for Finland (and I'm sure a bunch of so-called democracies). Nowadays we're a democracy only nominally and year by year we move closer to a corrupt, totalitarian class society that does its damnest to separate the rich elite from the majority that keeps getting poorer and poorer.
    At this point I don't really see any other sensible solution to truly fix this country than a coup, but since the Finnish people are so tame, they'll never rise to the barricades even if our government wasn't presently actively persecuting gun owners (in many ways they are treated worse than convicted murderers, drug dealers, pedophiles etc) and making private gunownership all but obsolete despite our long-standing hunting culture. The most the Finns who want to do something can do is to write snappy letters on discussion boards / to newspapers, but even then some mediums censor some of the material that's a tad too anti-government (read "not red enough").

    A good example of such censorship of less popular ideals is when the police raid the homes of private gun owners: the press (which, in truth, is mostly yellow) posts large headlines about these evil, evil gun stashes, think of the children etc. until it turns out the raid was illegal, the private citizen had committed absolutely no crimes whereas the police had (searching homes without proper warrants, "accidentally" losing some guns / ammo without offering monetary compensation to the victim etc), but once this happens, once the truth comes out, instead of writing headlines that redeem the private citizen's smeared reputation (which could get them fired / makes it very difficult to get a new job / loans from banks etc), the articles regarding the matter suddenly stop and the whole incident is swept under the carpet.

    Another sign of how the times are changing is that nowadays the police can be bought (off the record, of course) by the ruling elite as long as you have enough money / power. E.g. one private land owner refused to sell his lands to a government-owned company (they wanted to run power cables or some such through his lands), so lo and behold, the police appeared on his doorstep and essentially started hassling him. Eventually they confiscated his guns as well as those of his adult son (who lived elsewhere entirely) and his lands were sold in a compulsory auction, so the land owner was paid peanuts instead of the real value of his lands / forests.

    These incidents are just the tip of the ice berg and it's really no surprise that even though companies are making record profits, they also terminate jobs in record numbers, kicking out folks who have toiled for them for decades, schools are closed down left and right, corners are cut all around youth / children's mental health, and then we wonder why troubled teens start shooting their fellow students / teachers in schools, why the nation is suffering while thousands upon thousands are wasted on utterly pointless things (members of parliament got themselves blankets that cost 127e/$170 a piece, they use government-owned limos / drivers for private purposes, they spend tens of thousands of government funds on parties etc), and so on. A couple of years back one government-owned company laid off all their summer workers (who had already signed contracts) only to hand out the funds reserved for summer workers' wages to the company CEOs in the form of bonuses.

    Elitism? You betcha. I mean, what else would you call it when pensions are lowered (or kept the same while living expenses sky-rocket), and the age of retirmenet raised repeatedly, except for members of parliament who can pretty much retire at 39-45yo and still get 3500-4000 euros ($4600-5300) a month for the rest of their lives? Some CEOs get tens of thousands per month when they retire early while my dad, e.g. has to keep working part-time just to make do even though his health is failing and what he should be doing is resting and enjoying the rest of his days after working pretty much 7 days a week for decades.
    The funny thing is, the ruling party has changed quite a few times over the past years, but the direction where this country is headed hasn't really changed in any significant way, which further solidifies the notion that no matter which way you vote, it won't make a difference, that the democratic ideal has long since died and presently the government Buffalo Bills its skin just to appear democratic to the outside world while telling its citizens to put the lotion in the basket.
    All this despite the likely truth that "there is no conspiracy. Nobody is in charge. It's a headless blunder operating under the illusion of a master plan."
     
  21. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    You're absolutely right. No matter which political party is in charge, people are going to get screwed over. There's also this vicious cycle where elite families never give up their power. I used to volunteer at a school in a low-income neighborhood, and it was so sad to see how many students were reading below their grade level. Now compare that to a school with upper middle class/wealthy students; these students do far better because of more opportunities, resources, etc. Of course, this is a bit different than being purposely kept in the dark, but it's still an important issue.

    I was hoping that we'd have more informed voters now than we did, say, a decade ago because of the internet and all the resources out there. But I think the main problem is that most people just aren't interested in politics. They vote for the party their family/friends vote for and don't pay attention to any of the issues. They vote simply because they can. On the bright side, at least people aren't required to vote, so I feel like we've eliminated a large number of uninformed voters.
     
  22. KaTrian
    Offline

    KaTrian A foolish little beast. Staff Supporter Contributor

    Joined:
    Mar 17, 2013
    Messages:
    5,566
    Likes Received:
    3,563
    Location:
    The Great Swamp
    Our government is completely at a loss when it comes to budgeting. The minister who used to be in charge of that is now the prime minister and is doing a shitty job at that while he was in his element as the finance minister. A lot of taxes disappear elsewhere because no actions are taken against hunting down companies that avoid taxing through Luxembourg, Cyprus, Cayman, etc. unlike e.g. in Sweden. Big corporations also get hefty tax reliefs, but because of said tax havens and a small number of share holders, and stagnant export of goods, it seems to be all for nothing.

    And these are the people our republic voted to the government.

    Oh, and a few years ago we had this uprising of a True Finn party who advertised themselves as non-crooks who don't exploit the power they'd get if we voted for them, who'd side with the little people.

    Bullshit. They are the worst now that they were given that power, but we can't do anything about it before the next election, and this also shows how democracy doesn't work, because the masses buy into empty promises year after year. That's why I'd like to develop our education system to such a direction that it'd raise more critically thinking adults -- not just in the elite schools or the teaching schools of universities, but in less funded sub-urban schools too.
     
  23. thirdwind
    Offline

    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

    Joined:
    Jul 17, 2008
    Messages:
    7,351
    Likes Received:
    2,891
    Location:
    Boston
    If anyone is interested, I came across a great article titled "Has America become an oligarchy?"

    It touches on some of the points people have brought up in this thread. It's a little long but worth reading.
     

Share This Page