Thursday, October 22, 2009

Deeply Troubling

Will writes:
Look, I think cap-and-trade is bad policy on the merits. But global warming is a) a real problem and b) deserves a serious response. I am also baffled by the idea that a survey of non-experts (namely, the American public) should determine whether we take climate change seriously.

This is deeply troubling. Leaving policy questions to experts because only they comprehend the issue is an extremely undemocratic force in modern politics. An appeal to authority, or more precisely expertise, is heard often on scientific issues.

But what if we replace science with economics? Should public opinion have no bearing on our economic policy? Or should we simply leave it to economists because the public is ignorant? Or pick whatever field with its experts that you'd like.

I'm with Will that climate change is a serious issue. But the foremost tactic anybody should be engaged in is informing the public so that they drive change. Yes, it's frustrating and painfully slow. It's more expeditious to simply defer to so-called experts, but it also undermines our democracy in fundamental ways.

I trust the fate of our nation to the intelligence, wisdom, and decency of its people. They don't always get everything right in the quickest manner, but they've made do for two centuries. As I've said about everything from gay marriage to now climate change, even if I disagree with the opinion of the public, it's far, far better to work on convincing them of the correctness and urgency of your position than to pursue undemocratic methods, such as court rulings or deferring decisions to experts. In fact, I don't see any other way than to trust the people and when you think they are wrong to try to convince them. If they get it wrong, then the whole thing goes up in flames, but better that than the alternative, which seems to be subjugating them to the prerogative of various bodies of experts.


Withywindle said...

Hear, hear.

Will said...

I agree with a lot of this. In the context of global warming, however,I think the science of climate change should be left to the experts. Our policy response, on the other hand, should be the subject of robust public debate.

FLG said...


This supposes a fact-value distinction that I have difficulty with.

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