CAN DEMOCRACY BE SAVED?
Or is It Doomed?
Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted
with their own government. Thomas Jefferson, 1789
It has been long acknowledged that a democracy requires an informed citizenry. But it could also be said that a democracy requires informed politicians, political pundits and public media. Today in America, is the majority well-informed? (Informed = possessing reliable information; knowledgeable, educated)
I confess that I am pessimistic about the future of a free speech, majority rule democracy in America because of the current reliance on falsehoods as the basis of political discourse. My pessimism may be the result of the TV news I watch, the political pundits I listen to, the editorials and articles I read and the people I talk to. How can I become more optimistic? Warning: A lie can travel halfway around the world before the truth gets its shoes on. Mark Twain
Here are some signs that democracy might be doomed.
- Democracy relies on words and dialogue rather than force or money.
- Opinion and prejudice instead of science and reason dominate our political dialogue.
- Truth, science, objectivity, fact and reason are fundamentally different from opinion, prejudice, feeling and irrationality.
- Politicians and voters, the people making decisions about how the country runs — aren’t blank slates. They already have beliefs and “facts” in their minds.
- The information and misinformation glut (Big Data) has made it easier for people to be wrong, and at the same time feel more certain that they are right.
- A belief or opinion, even if it is wrong, still has consequences in reality.
- Misinformed people often have the strongest political opinions.
- It is well known that mankind is susceptible to ignorance and misinformation.
- Money has been the main force dooming democracy — but illusion is catching up.
Here are some signs that democracy might be saved.
- I can’t think of any right now. Can you?
(If modern technology, the internet and social media can establish and work toward a goal of improving and enlightening political discourse, that would be a positive sign).