Friday, February 21, 2014
Your turn #4
We discussed too many things for me to remember them all. Here is what I remember (and you know who said what).
1- Mill's defense of a democratic citizen. Only when citizens have the opportunity for choice do they develop into true thinkers and moral agents. Why? Because of participation and inclusion. Here the discussion started. One could argue that there is a difference between authentic deliberation and mere voting. With the advent of the politicization and polarization of the media and lobbying groups, political issues of importance get pretty slanted --as we've seen time and again. For a democratic decision to be legitimate, one could argue, it must be preceded by authentic deliberation & not merely the aggregation of preferences that occurs in voting. Now, what counts for true deliberation? Deliberation amongs amongst decision-makers that is free from distortions & interest groups.
Is this possible? Of course it is, but we must be vigilant.
2- Our epistemological approach to political issues. How do we know how people (groups) become politically motivated? It cannot just be "I think so," or "the people I know", or "so and so channel says." We need reliable methods (polls) and data. Where to find it? Well, here it pays to put aside political bias for a second. Example, Last elections Romney was led to believe (because of political bias) that he will win the elections, only to find out he was loosing by a wide margin. Lesson: self-deceit is the worse thing. Polls can be potentially inaccurate. Here are some intrinsic problems:
a) response bias (the answers given by respondents do not reflect their true beliefs),
b) non-response bias (the characteristics of those who agree to be interviewed may be markedly different from those who decline).
c) presentation of questions (wording of the questions, the order in which they are asked and the number and form of alternative answers offered can influence results of polls),
d) coverage bias (the use of samples that are not representative of the population as a consequence of the methodology used).
Is this not enough to curb hasty inferences and rash generalizations?
3- Thursday the issue indiscriminate government power came up (NSA and its civil ramifications). Of course the opinions varied.
The issue here is how much do you protect individual freedoms. Remember that the government is an abstract hierarchy, with bureaucratic interests, some of which may be in the shadows. Should you not suspect a bit more from you government just to cover your bases from such a huge and all-pervasive power? This is the argument from the liberal & the libertarian side.
4- Trickle down economics. The basic idea is that capital accumulation and economic progress depend on saving and innovation and that these in turn depend on the freedom to make high profits and accumulate great wealth. The problem is that unrestricted this promise ends up (as the 2009 crisis showed) in the futile attempt of some men gaining at the expense of others by means of looting and plundering.
So what to do? The discussion comes back to the distinction between liberty & equality. Philosophers take a look at arguments and balance. How do you balance these two? Well, need freedom to talk about individual rights (i.e., rights from non-interference), private property, civil liberties, business deals, etc. We need equality to address issues of justice: equal opportunity, fair distribution of wealth (the Rawlsian "before" and "after" moments we discussed in class). There is reliable data to support that in the US we're going through a phase of unprecedented inequality.
If there is anything else you want to talk about go ahead. Later I'll post the take-home exam. Now, let's do this.
Nota bene: I commend you for the level of discussion in the class. I see that we have different points of view in the class but feel in a family discussing it. We don't stop saying what we feel we have to say but we're mindful of civil standards of discussion. Today this is a rarity.