3.27 - March 27 Public Opinion Caitlin Ahern...

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March 27 – Public Opinion – Caitlin Ahern, [email protected] Class notes (very low on possible IDs, let me know if you think of more!) Pessimists think public opinion has small role, since public is uninformed. Optimists think public opinion is important (look at Vietnam) Spin is important, but people don’t believe everything; media is limited in effectiveness Def. of public opinion : “The aggregate preferences of publicly active Americans.” Democracy : conduit by which public opinion turns into foreign policy (if only half of US pop votes, is that public opinion?) Thucydides: democracy should mean “rule by the average” Median Voter Theorem: parking your hot dog stand at the beach. Best location is right in middle. Best location for second stand is right next to first. Journalists, politicians should be in the middle. Max Weber, “Politics as a Vocation.” **Weber’s definition of a state: “a human community that (successfully) claims the monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force within a given territory.” State then permits others (institutions, individuals) to use force Most important aspect of a leader is charisma : the domination by virtue of the devotion of those who obey. Leader’s staff is bound to him by: 1) obedience, 2) money/material gains, 3) social honor. Weber describes at length what is necessary to be a career politician, which doesn’t seem too relevant. We always need to make losers less worthy (I left my wife cuz she wasn’t good enough for me; We won the war because we were right). A nation can forgive unless its honor has been offended. Ethics and Politics: either ethic of absolute ends (ends justify the means) or ethic of responsibility: one isn’t always right. Weber believes sometimes it’s OK to use “morally dubious” means to achieve good ends: all of history has shown us this is true, and that sometimes doing good things brings about bad results. Politicians need to accept paradoxes in ethics in order to do a good job: Politics is always at odds with ideas of benevolent, loving gods in religion, sometimes violence is necessary. Eric Posner, “Incommensurability.” This is a short section in which Posner explains incommensurability—that two things cannot be equated. People prove their trustworthiness by making incommensurability claims, but they are rarely true. Ex: someone living on a mountain says “no amount of money would make me give up this beautiful view”—he is making an incommensurability claim to show he is not a bad person. BUT people always make tradeoffs in their daily lives, so one has to use other examples: man would not take money, but man would give up view if it would reduce unemployment in the region, for example. This had to do with the values and morals society places on certain things—in the first scenario, the man is seen as greedy and materialistic; in the second, the man got a “reputational gain” by putting workers before himself.
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3.27 - March 27 Public Opinion Caitlin Ahern...

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