Matt's piece on polling literalism reminds me about something that sucks about California-style ballot initiatives. When you poll people about what policies they want, you're likely to hear wacky inconsistent preferences. They want low taxes, full funding of social programs, and no deficits. They want a flat tax, but think taxes on the rich should be higher. Matt's bit about John Kerry's "respected in the world" line is good too.
What happens when these people go into the voting booth for a poll that will actually decide policy? Well, they're going to step right up and express those wacky inconsistent preferences. They're likely to box their government into a situation where it really can't do anything. Representatives, at least, have to live with the consequences of their actions. If they cut taxes, they've increased the deficit, and a canny opponent may be able to make something out of that.
This problem is ameliorated a bit by the fact that the electorate thinks more about the issues before an election than they do before a poll. But I doubt that they think enough for these perceptions to be washed away.
The Speculative Ethics Forum
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