The Public as Experts

The American public thinks U.S. taxes are unjust. They think that middle and low income families pay too much and the rich pay too little. This while the rich pay as much as 35% of their income to the government and individuals pay, on average, about half of that. In my opinion what is missing from this article is some indicator of how well the same sample of the American public understands the current tax code. Or even, how accurately the American public understands what “the rich” pay in taxes. The U.S. tax code might well be unjust but public opinion has little to do with where it is or isn’t.

Polls and the collective American opinion has become the de facto standard by which all things are judged. In a time when the American public seems to consider Attention Deficit Disorder to be a desirable quality. The American public seems quick to express opinion and even believes that opinion should be respected despite the fact that the giver of that opinion understands little or nothing about the subject. Acknowledged experts in economics are at odds about whether the economic growth during the Clinton years was the result of Clinton’s policies or those of President Reagan before him. Understanding the complications of the affects of taxation on the national economy is, in my opinion, beyond the realm of Joe Six Pack.

Likewise the war in Iraq and the current reconstruction is unpopular. The American public would like a sound byte explanation of the reasons for the war. “It’s all about oil.” That’s simple to say and seems obvious on the face of it. Yet, people like Kenneth Pollack, who has spent a life time studying Iran and Iraq doesn’t think it is so simple. Pollack believes that a war with Iraq was inevitable and that oil was one of several causes. Now we are entangled in the process of building a government in Iraq. This is difficult task in the best of circumstances. Iraq is far from the best of circumstances.

Understanding America’s opinion is an important aspect of American politics. The people elected to office have the responsibility of representing their constituents in matters of law and policy. However, I think we need to be cautious when it comes to consideration of public opinion. It would be unwise to make financial decisions based on the thoughts and opinions of a stranger who has not proven her expertise in finance. Likewise, the details of national fiscal, foreign and domestic policy should not be guided by the inexpert opinions of the American public. The will of the people should be reflected in national policy but the details of those policies should be defined and guided by those more knowledgeable than the general public.


On a completely different note, I managed to run twice this week. Felt good to run but today I’m really sore. I swear, this time, once I get into shape, I’m going to stay in shape.


[posted with ecto]

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One thought on “The Public as Experts

  1. The Public as Experts Again
    This video furthers my point that polls and public opinion are not the measure by which all things should be judged. It seems pretty undeniable that the US economy is in good shape. This is not to suggest that…

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