Saturday, September 4, 2010

Wisdom of the Past

From a NY Times blog post by Paul Krugman, this shows that people don't learn from the past. The same counter-productive "don't spend more money on government stimulus" and "cut my taxes!" responses were given in the 1930s to the Great Depression as they are given today. As George Santayana pointed out: if you don't learn from the past, you are condemned to repeat it.
Do you think government spending should be increased to help get business out of its present slump?
Gallup Poll, Mar, 1938

37% Yes
63% No

In your opinion which will do more to get us out of the depression: increase government spending, or reduce taxes on business?
Gallup Poll (AIPO), Mar, 1938

15% Increase government spending
63% Reduce taxes on business
21% No opinion
One reason why the founders of the Constitution in the US had property requirements for voting and chose representative government and not direct democracy: the average "joe in the street" has no clue about how sophisticated technical things like economics work. So if you simply vote for politicians who "reflect popular sentiment" you will get demagoguery. People shouldn't vote on policies. They can't be informed enough or smart enough to know how their representatives should vote. People should vote to put in place people with a "world view" that reflects their own, or people that they feel they can "trust". That is a good enough stabilizer to get you a working democracy.

Don't expect democratic "perfection". The famous saying is that Le mieux est l'ennemi du bien, i.e. "The Perfect is the enemy of the Good."

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