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Deliberation Day: A New Answer To A Ancient Question.

Matthew Klammer

Deliberation day is both the name of a article and a holiday that Ackerman and Fishkin propose to answer the issue of a under-informed voter in a democratic society. Plato spoke a great deal about this issue, but would be unlikely to have supported it, due to critical flaws regarding the nature of education the individual citizen might expect to receive at such a event. It is my belief that such a meeting would quickly turn into a staging ground for the same type of base pandering and corruption that Plato warns about, and would therefor be a bad idea in execution.

Ackerman and Fishkin solution is simple in its concept, bring voters together to exchange ideas and inform themselves about the major issues in the election. In theory it makes for a good answer by informing voters they hope to provide a answer to one of Platos foremost issues with democracy, that the average citizen is poorly educated and not inclined to educate themselves. He feels they will tend toward the easier option of casting there vote for the politician that appeals to their base needs the most.

During this deliberation day, registered voters would be made to attend small meetings among there peers prior to major elections. During this time, individuals would discuss issues

important to that election. By doing so they would gain a wider prospective one the issues and be more mindful of the needs of others in their community. This would make them better voters, leading to significantly improved leaders.

Plato listed many reasons in his arguments against democracy. Among these where a under educated population, the selfish nature of the citizen, the corruption and ineptitude of politicians, and the ability of the majority to crush and silence one brilliant individual. While Plato would likely be open to, or in favor of, more education for the masses, I doubt that he would view deliberation day as such. Plato would be quick to point out many critical flaws. most glaring among these is the nature of the political system as he sees it. Plato belied that politicians in a democratic society where more interested in reelection than properly leading. They would see this kind of gathering as another way to influence the masses, rather than a chance to produce a better voter. The political machine would absorb this event too, and create another situation in which one good voter that be made to vote differently due to the peer pressure imposed by his fellow voters.

The views of Plato, Ackerman, and Fishkin all share one critical flaw. They depend on a fallible and illogical creature known as humans. Ackerman and Fishkin attempt to solve one problem raised by Plato, but leave other standing. Platos alternative government is in essence a state with lessened human impact on governance. At almost every point Plato erects rules to attempt to control the actions and lifestyles of his citizens. This form of government shows that Plato wants to minimize peoples freedom to destroy themselves.

While Plato might have never intended for his system to be used, he admits that it may well be impossible to implement. The founding fathers of America took a fair level of influence from Platos ideals. They too felt that people where not good bastions of trust for protecting there own well-being. Rather than try to protect the masses from themselves, however, the founding fathers sought to protect Platos brilliant individual. Much of what the framers of the constitution put in place was with the goal of limiting what the masses could do through government. Most importantly they created strict limits on what the government could do to its citizens. This was because they believed that the masses would always missuses there power, and therefore a republican form of government was the best way of limiting that power.

I believe that the founding fathers where on the right track when they implemented a limited government. But that they failed when it came to ensuring that government would not grow out of control, and eventually break free of its bindings as it did during the American civil war. My ideal government goes a step further than the founding fathers by implementing a very powerful executive branch with the sole job and power of defending the limitations placed on the legislative branch. This would create a government with very limited power, that would be unable to grow large enough to become a totalitarian state. Unfortunately the job of defending the rights of the individual is to important to leave to the masses. Therefore this executive branch must be in many ways inhuman. They must be made incorruptible, by removing the vices that corrupt. They must be made vigilant, by removing distractions. And they must be insensitive to the needs of other humans, as to remain logical in there reasoning.

This hypothetical executive group, in other words, must be striped of the things that make us human. This kind of job would demand that the participants be made unable to benefit from the pleasures of vice. They must be unable to see and hear distractions, but also be able to see danger and hear turmoil. Most ruthlessly they must be removed of empathy, and empathy makes logical reasoning impossible.

Unfortunately, there is no way for a human to reach this state. Nor is there any way to guaranty that the people chosen will always be ideal. Because of this the perfect and absolute executive must not only meet all these requirements, but must also be immortal so that another leader must never be chosen. Theirs is only one entity that includes all these elements into one.

Computer programs are absolute. They cannot be enticed with gifts, they are immune to vice, and they are innately incapable of displaying empathy. Not only do they exemplify the qualitys of a perfect ruler, but they do not live, and therefore cannot die. So while human legislatures can make and pass laws. A computer program can guard and maintain the rights and limitations placed on a government to specifications perfectly and eternally.

Ackerman and Fishkin's proposal is ambitious but ultimately flawed. And while Plato offers a completely alternative form of governance, both rely on the actions of human individuals too much. Humans lack of competent self governance can only be answered through science and technology, as it has in the past, and will once more.