1 POLICY ANALYSIS AND ARGUMENT (December, 2008) Roy Licklider The central question of this course is how do we decide what the United States government should doin various policy areas. To put it differently, we are concerned with normativeissues here. Empiricalissues, what has happenedand what will happen, are certainly important, but they are secondary. We thus face two related problems--how do we decide for ourselves what the government should do and, after deciding, how do we persuade others to agree with us. We will use the techniques of argumentto help us toward both objectives. Like all other intellectual activities, this course is based on a faith or a theology. I believe that by mastering the arguments on both sidesof an issue, we can each best determine our own positions. Once each of us thinks we know what we want to do, argument is essential because politics is the art of getting large numbers of people to act together, and persuasion is much more efficient than threats. However, it is also quite difficult, as we know from our everyday experience. How do we go about persuading someone to accept our views? (1) One strategy is personal authority. The clearest example of this is divine revelation, when God speaks to someone. To use a metaphor from card games, God "trumps" all other arguments; because God says it is true, it is true. This is not as silly as it sounds; more people are probably persuaded by what they believe to be direct revelations from God (in Her various forms) than by the other alternatives we will discuss here. My closest friend from high school, for example, runs his financial and personal life on the basis of direct commands from God; he's doing well enough in both so that I occasionally wish God would speak to me. So far this hasn't happened. This points up the major weakness of divine revelation; its authority is limited to those who believe in the particular religion or messenger, and in the United States today there is insufficient agreement on who speaks for God for divine revelation have much direct impact on American foreign and military policy. A more modern version of this strategy is expert authorityExpert authority often seems particularly useful in foreign affairs because of the need to understand things of which most Americans have little direct knowledge such as foreign cultures, economic systems, and complex issues of science in areas like nuclear . Experts are believable because they know more about their topic than other people. They often will offer plausible reasoning for their positions, but their ideas usually have to be accepted on faith, since most consumers are unable to really evaluate them. The term "guru" is sometimes used for such individuals, and it nicely conveys the semi-religious element of belief which is at the heart of expert authority. In another course this sort of authority is called “wisdom.”
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