Goals for 2100: Calibration of Decisionmaking Power to Knowledge

14Feb08

It is important to give everyone a chance to be heard, to provide input into how s/he is governed.  Good government cannot ensue, however, when the person providing that input lacks time or knowledge to understand the issues on which s/he would opine.

That principle applies at all levels.  Some may consider it most applicable at the grassroots level, where people sometimes express strong opinions on matters they do not comprehend.  Others may consider it more applicable at the level of journalism, advertising, and other broadcasting, where the power to influence opinion can easily exceed the degree of responsibility with which one exercises that power.

Still others may consider the principle most importantly applicable within the halls of government, where the pressures of time are such that judges and juries do not understand the cases they are deciding and legislators vote on bills they have not even read, much less explored.  The principle may even be considered to apply, broadly, to any instance in which executive power is vested in one person, in public and private sectors alike, when those powers result in ill-informed, corrupt, or otherwise unjustifiable decisionmaking capable of causing great pain or damage.

It is possible to research the extent to which people understand the important issues on which they are voting or acting.  When people cannot or will not acquire competence in those issues, good government and the health of society call for devolution, power-sharing, or other temporary or permanent reassignment of decisional power to those who can and do demonstrate mastery of the issues.

Fundamentally, the principle recommended here is that it is better for the right decision to be made by the wrong people, than for the wrong decision to be made by the right people.  That is not an infallible principle; there are times when it will be incorrect.  Reassignment of the powers exercised by voters, journalists, executives, and government officials should not be done lightly.  But in cases when there is an extensive track record of incompetence or irresponsibility in the handling of serious decisionmaking duties, it may be reasonable to make adjustments to prevent further abuses of power and privilege.

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One Response to “Goals for 2100: Calibration of Decisionmaking Power to Knowledge”

  1. 1 Roman

    Now we’re getting somewhere! ..but the “extensive track record” begs more comment. I hope we see it!


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