Thursday, September 28, 2006

Two things

First, Dan told me that the other night he heard me mutter "Sweet!" in my sleep. I really wish I could remember the dream

Second, those of you who were at Movie Night the week before last might remember me talking all this philosophical to Yagathai. That was in response to a question he'd asked me weeks before, which boiled down to this: Should an elected official deceive his/her constituency into supporting a policy that benefits the national interest? It was a tough question, so I took some time to think it over, and now I'm ready to share my answer with the world (or at least the tiny sliver of it that reads this blog). Here goes.

The question put me in mind of a debate in a college political science course over whether democratically elected officials are representatives or trustees of power. At the time I was certain they were the former, simply enacting what they believed the voters would want. Nowadays I tend towards the latter, wanting officials who can responsibly exercise power in our behalf but not necessarily according to our preferences. Of course a good politician (if such exists) would have a bit of both. Anyway that was the framework into which I placed Yagathai's question, and after some consideration I'm finally going to answer the question I promised to answer in the last paragraph. Just to piss off grammar Nazis, I'm going to start a new paragraph.

I think there can be circumstances in which an official could justifiably deceive the electorate into going along with something he/she truly believes serves the public weal. Voters aren't a remarkably analytical bunch, responding better to slogans than sound arguments, and that's a fact no realistic office-holder can (or should) ignore. However, much depends on the policy in question. If we're talking about setting fuel standards or regulating greenhouse gases, deception can be OK; if we're talking about war (the current Iraq fiasco was the back-drop for Yagathai's question), only the truth will serve. The former policies will at worst waste some government money; the latter waste lives. Since a life is the most anyone has to give, no one should be sent to his/her death based on a lie. Yeah, yeah, I know that lies and war are often found in the same company, but that wasn't what I was asked.

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