Saturday, February 13, 2010

Yeah, I'm Pretty Much With Julian On This One

Ed, quoting Julian Sanchez:

From Julian Sanchez, reacting to the ruling in Citizens United:
On the one hand, maybe for all our folly we're basically engaged enough--or the people who decide to vote are engaged enough--that we can sift through the media maelstrom and figure out, on average, whose principles, character, and record best represent our community. On the other hand, maybe we're a bunch of chimps who will vote for the shiny thing. I incline toward the latter, but I've never been all that big on the intrinsic virtues of democracy. I just have trouble wrapping my head around the view that combines these two beliefs: (1) The wisdom of the people, on the whole, justifies not just the installation of Candidate A over Candidate B, but a whole array of coercive state policies, and also (2) We're really easily led, and will sell our firstborn to Altria if a slick ad says to. It seems strange for both those things to be true.
Reactions?

I'm with Julian in spirit; I think that there is objectively such a thing as a "better" and "worse" candidate. Who/what counts as "better" or "worse" may vary by voter, but that's irrelevant as long as each voter evaluates candidates rationally according to some list of preferences. Julian's critique is that many, perhaps most, voters make the determination based on non-rational considerations and, as such, can't be said to be exercising their agency effectively in this regard. I find that holding to be uncontroversial.

I disagree with him on one point, specifically:

The wisdom of the people, on the whole, justifies not just the installation of Candidate A over Candidate B, but a whole array of coercive state policies...

I don't think it's the wisdom of the people which justifies A over B, but rather their explicit consent as embodied in the voting process. There is, of course, the concern about the tyranny of the majority, which is why I'm glad we have a Constitution and why we should all pay more attention to civil liberties in general.

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