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  1. #1
    Regular irick's Avatar
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    Is there a civic duty to seek out education in a modern democrocy/republic?

    So I've been thinking. It's a common pastime for me.

    Today people seem far less versed in the liberal arts and sciences. I wanted to say less informed, but that's simply not true. We have unprecedented levels of information exchange and connectivity in our social lives. As a whole we are much more aware of social issues (aware, not necessarily knowledgeable). However: it is a rare thing to find someone who actively seeks out knowledge.

    I don't mean to imply the increased awareness of our social lives is a bad thing, but it also means that emotions, moods, and other such things catch like wildfire. Our culture has become so much in the now that national crisis can come and go over the course of two days. Everyone will know about it, everyone will have some knee jerk opinion to go with it, but people don't really think on it.

    The large scale proliferation of memetic culture allows this interesting democratization of information, but it also means that a relatively small amount of people actually consider the implications of any given social trend or policy. Typically we delegate these functions to other individuals whom hold a lot of social clout or recognition. Over the past four years we've seen that the simple surface level recognition that the uninformed citizen may make decisions based on can literally be bought. The only defense we seem to have here is... cultivating an informed electorate.

    We have, rather successfully, drilled into the public mind that it is their patriotic duty to vote. We have seen record number of voter turn out in recent elections. I see this as a double edged sword. The fringe cases that would have been affected by this sort of social pressure seem to see the actual act of ticking off their choice as voting. The process of research and cultivating their individual political theory as well as staying informed seems to be woefully missing. (as evidenced by the increasing divide between the two political parties and the general lack of reaction to the obstructionist policies as well as political heavy-handedness that several recent events have been handled with)

    I see this as a troubling possibility. The increase in low information voters combined with the practically limitless funding that one can now have poured into wide spread recognition seem to have made the political process a pay to win system.

    So I come back to a simple question: is there a moral duty for a citizen not only to vote, but to inform themselves?

    My own answer is yes. I don't think it's enough just to go out and vote. I actually think that going out to vote without a good understanding of the issues undermines the foundations of liberty.

    It makes me think of a bit of a historical tidbit that I came across not too recently. Liberal arts are called that because, traditionally, they were considered essential fields of study for a citizen to maintain their liberties. You needed to be able to defend yourself in court, check over ledgers, understand the basics of architecture and have your mind open to the wonders of science and your heart softened by the beauty of art.

    To me, it seems that we should adopt this sort of mindset: I think it should be considered a civic duty to educate oneself so that one is more capable of defending their liberty.

    But I'd love to hear other perspectives on the issue.
    We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
    -- Carl Sagan

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  2. #2
    Regular Flygon's Avatar
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    I'd argue this depends on the country, but I'm not up for making a long winded post about jibbler jabber that could easily cause flamewars. Also, I can't figure out your country of origin, and furnet's /whois is not giving me any answers. So, in effect, I am incapable of actually replying to your post in an articulate manageable way without a very high risk of making an ass of myself.

    But I will say this. From my view of the US system, the whole 'first past the post' thing has really kind of ruined things for everyone. People aren't so much voting for who they want, so much as for who they disagree with least.

    What I'm trying to say is, is that this problem, on such a large national scale, actually makes putting in an educated vote impossible.

  3. #3
    Retired Staff piņardilla's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flygon View Post
    I'd argue this depends on the country, but I'm not up for making a long winded post about jibbler jabber that could easily cause flamewars. Also, I can't figure out your country of origin, and furnet's /whois is not giving me any answers. So, in effect, I am incapable of actually replying to your post in an articulate manageable way without a very high risk of making an ass of myself.

    But I will say this. From my view of the US system, the whole 'first past the post' thing has really kind of ruined things for everyone. People aren't so much voting for who they want, so much as for who they disagree with least.

    What I'm trying to say is, is that this problem, on such a large national scale, actually makes putting in an educated vote impossible.
    First-past-the-post does completely ruin the viability of third parties. As soon as anyone gains enough traction to generate a spoiler effect, the subsequent backlash will doom them. However, I think people vastly underestimate the primary process.

    Consider the Tea Party. For all their ugly, hateful, and/or outright insane views, they have undeniably been effective in forcing the Republicans to cater to them in their policy positions (for the worse, of course, but that's besides the point). A mirror image of that on the left (call it the Coffee Party :v) with people getting involved in the Democratic primaries to promote genuine progressive policies and punish corruption might actually be able to do a lot of good.
         
       
    Now,
              let's go play, together...
       
    Together under the
                     clearest of
    blue skies.

  4. #4
    I find the whole limitless funds thing laughable. Leaving candidates to walk away with millions just for running. And people do it. As far as if it's going to help? Never has in the past. Don't think it will now. All that's done is make people think the money they donate will help. Who ever made the quote "There's a sucker born every minute" would be proud.

    As far as what candidates say wile they run. Anything to win. Take daddy Bush. "No new taxes!" Nothing about raising the old ones. But people bought into it. The same can be said about any of the candidates. Winners or losers. It's hard to be informed when the source is playing to the crowd.

    The republicans weren't forced to take on the tea party. The republicans have been grasping at straws. Before they joined the tea party they tried turning President Reagan into a saint. Going as far as trying to make him outshine Lincoln. That didn't work. Then they called the tea party their friends. Called them a true American grass roots movement. Something America could be proud of. When that didn't work they dumped them. After years of quotes like. "There's no one in America that goes without food" or "If the poor are tired of being poor they should just get rich." they found out this wasn't getting them anywhere. So they dumped their tea party 'friends' and vowed to fight them at every turn. What's being called the republican party isn't the same party as it was when Reagan was president. They need all the propaganda they can get to make themselves look good.

    As far as more people voting that's a good thing. I'm hoping to see even larger turnouts in the future. If you don't vote don't complain.

  5. #5
    Regular irick's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Flygon View Post
    I'd argue this depends on the country, but I'm not up for making a long winded post about jibbler jabber that could easily cause flamewars. Also, I can't figure out your country of origin, and furnet's /whois is not giving me any answers. So, in effect, I am incapable of actually replying to your post in an articulate manageable way without a very high risk of making an ass of myself.

    But I will say this. From my view of the US system, the whole 'first past the post' thing has really kind of ruined things for everyone. People aren't so much voting for who they want, so much as for who they disagree with least.

    What I'm trying to say is, is that this problem, on such a large national scale, actually makes putting in an educated vote impossible.
    I'm from the U.S.A., yes, but i'm not posing a question about a specific democracy/republic. I mean to bring up discussion on the framework of democracy as a whole. (I'd like to avoid the discussion degenerating into partisan bickering if at all possible.) My question isn't one of practicality, but duty.

    Is it the duty of the citizenry to educate themselves so that their vote is representative of their own individual understanding or does the duty to inform the citizenry lie with some other party? I figure there is some sort of duty to have good votes in a modern democracy, and my view is that that duty lies squarely on the citizenry.

    My argument is that the people are charged with the maintenance of the republic on that basic level, even if the system of democracy is not direct but via a representative. I feel that every voting citizen has a civic duty to educate themselves to the degree required to understand the general impact of their representative's actions so that they may at the very least select a representative with some general understanding beyond party affiliation

    (unfortunately the other replies are skirting a bit too close to partisan political observations for me to feel comfortable directly addressing. Just to make this clear, I'm not commenting on a specific party, but a general trend in the framework of modern representative government. my own experience is in the US system, but I do feel that for the large part this is a notion that is universally applicable to any democracy/republic. While the discussion of the particulars of U.S. political parties is an interesting topic, it's unfortunately off topic for this particular noodling and it's likely to get heated.)
    We live in a society exquisitely dependent on science and technology, in which hardly anyone knows anything about science and technology.
    -- Carl Sagan

    I'm on furnet IRC! Please drop by irc.furnet.org's #hackerfurs and say hi.

  6. #6
    Sorry if my reply sounds partisan. Just stated a historical fact about a crazy thing said derring a campaign. This was to address your statement about our duty to research and know who we are voting for. The rest was to comment about the republicans relationship with the tea party.

    Unfortunately it's going to be hard to get a real unpartisan conversation going. Propaganda from both sides have riffed this country.

 

 

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