"Obama's Choice"

by Acemoglu / Robinson

The first possibility is that after moving to the White House, Obama became aware of information he did not have as a senator, and this information convinced him that it was futile to worry about civil liberties, and led him to conclude that the intelligence community should receive carte blanche.

The second is that Obama’s scruples were about somebody else having the power to violate others’ civil liberties. Once he came to control that power himself as president, albeit indirectly, he became much more willing to tolerate it even if this meant jeopardizing civil liberties. [...]

The third is that Obama did not abandon his concerns and sensibilities wholesale, but is a victim of a typical case of “career concerns”. [...]

Though we don’t know for sure, the first possibility seems a little far-fetched. The most likely explanation is therefore a combination of the second and third possibilities.
And this, ladies and gentlemen, is yet another powerful reason why we should have plebiscites. It's not enough to have the possibility to vote someone in office who says he thinks what you think. He can change his opinion (or be a skilled deceiver).
A plebiscite can create exactly the law the majority of the votes was for. No intermediary, no detour. Plebiscites should be available for important issues.

The smallish routine legislation and executive branch work are for politicians who can allocate much more of their time on the issues than the average voter. But the big issues should be decided by plebiscite - at least it should be an option if the voters are dissatisfied with how the politicians decided.
Those who distrust the voters and think they would make bad choices at plebiscites shall either explain how voters are supposedly able to decide on entire parties and election platforms if they're unable to decide on a single clear issue. And in case they cannot explain this, they shall be considered secret authoritarians who distrust democracy generally.


I think the second possibility mentioned above is very, very visible in regard to German top politicians and their stance towards civil liberties, spying, internet censorship and similar topics:
Sure, there were evil people in power sometime and here are evil people in power somewhere else, but now we are in power and we would really not misuse this power.
The example of the U.S. shows us that they probably wouldn't wake up even after it becomes public that has already happened on their watch.

1 comment:

  1. The key thing with regards to the abuse of power, is that nobody goes in with, or publicly acts with: "We are evil incarnate and will remain so for the foreseeable future." Everyone thinks they're doing the right thing at the time; or they at least justify it as such. When that thing becomes abstract ('for the good of the Revolution,') or completely disassociated from the people ("for Volk und Vaterland,") then it's a failure of critical thinking skills.

    This is the most important and least often developed trait in Western societies. We purportedly stress critical thinking in our educational systems, and rarely do.