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PUBLIC OPINION - NO VALUE

 
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chater
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Your media alert of Feb. 17, "PUBLIC OPINION - NO VALUE" rightly criticises the paternalist point of of view that governments always know best. But it raises more questions about the nature of democracy than it answers. Not everyone thinks the same on a given issue, so what is the will of the people, how do we determine it, how do we enact it -- and is it always a good idea to enact it? In Iraq, for example, the voices of the Shiite majority should be listened to, but shouldn't we also also be aware that the Sunnites may need protection? And supposing that in the USA and the UK a majority supported the death penalty (I believe statistics show this) -- are we then to conclude that states or nations are morally obliged to adopt it?

James Chater
Wed Feb 18, 2004 5:44 pm
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David C
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Joined: 12 Jan 2004
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Hello James,

Thanks for your posting in response to the alert. I'm not necessarily attempting to answer questions; if I can raise a few questions, well and good.

It's not so much that our government is "paternalistic"; it's that they systematically serve elite/corporate/establishment interests that are almost diametrically opposed to the general public interest (welfare, education, public transport, healthy environment, etc.). There's a long history that reveals the chasm between, on the one hand, grand rhetoric for public consumption - about 'freedom', 'democracy' and 'rights' - and, on the other, privately-expressed fears and contempt about "the risks of [true] democracy", not to mention actual state-corporate policy.

States and nations are not moral (or immoral) entities, so I don't think "moral obligations" come into it.

But yes, I agree that a decent society should protect the weak and vulnerable and also not pursue, for example, a policy of capital punishment. How such a society can be attained is another, though important, matter about which I am vastly ignorant!

best wishes,
David Cromwell
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Fri Feb 20, 2004 4:51 pm
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BlairRight



Joined: 19 Apr 2004
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Quote:
supposing that in the USA and the UK a majority supported the death penalty (I believe statistics show this) -- are we then to conclude that states or nations are morally obliged to adopt it?


I favour the death penalty for murder, and I think it is the sort of issue on which New Labour can make real political capital by outflanking the Tories from the right, as Tony Blair did so well when he was Shadow Home Secretary. Why shouldn't someone who commits a murder be killed themselves? Do we think their lives are worth more? Part of the New Labour belief in equality means treating people equally and giving special status to killers doesn't qualify. I'd hang them all, to be honest, although my preferred method is lethal injection.

Quote:
I agree that a decent society should protect the weak and vulnerable and also not pursue, for example, a policy of capital punishment.


Unfortunately, it was unelectable ideas about what a "decent society" must and must not do that kept our party in opposition for eighteen years. A decent society must not let homeless people sleep on the streets. A decent society must not lock up thieves. A decent society must ensure public ownership of air traffic control and the railways. Politics isn't about some extremist idea of decency: it's about winning the votes of the people, and as chater says, the majority of them support capital punishment.[/quote]
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"I have taken from my party everything they thought they believed in. What keeps it together is success and power." - Tony Blair.
Mon Apr 19, 2004 10:41 am
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