10 -- Part 11: THE AMERICAN LEGAL SYSTEM AND THE COURTS
Many of the evaluations we make of people, places, and things in our lives are made on the fly.
While we are busy leading our lives, we assemble impressions and reactions.
We might sound ignorant if we don't know why we like or dislike a person, and we might not be able to explain why.
Even if we can't identify what they are, they may make sense.
We can only absorb a small portion of the information, and even then it is difficult to understand it and make sense of it.
Most of us don't research all the scientific data and technical specifications when we buy a computer or car.
We ask people who are like us, who we think should know, and who we can trust.
Technology allows us to gather information from multiple experts, and we get others' opinions online, from those we follow on social media, and from comments and reviews made by others.
We gather their advice, consult our own intuition, and buy.
We get close to making an optimal purchase without having to become experts ourselves.
The same thing happens politically.
The two-step flow allows us to act as though we are well informed without having to use all the resources that being informed entails.
Throughout the book, we have talked about how technology can be used to build and spread narratives that compete with the powerful.
With this status and opportunity comes responsibility, to be sure that the stories you create and pass on are correct and thought out.
We end up being smarter as a group than we might be if we were evaluated on an individual basis.
Groups of voters do a great job of sorting out which party or candidate best represents their interests, even though many voters may be confused about which candidates stand where.
Labor unions vote for Democrats, while members of the religious right vote for Republicans.
Even though there are a few confused voters in the electorate, they tend to cancel each other out in the larger scheme of things.
This is what most of them do.
The states with the most liberal citizens--for example, New York, Massachusetts, and California-- have the most liberal policies.
The South and the Rockies have the most conservative policies.
We began the chapter by asking why polling is disliked by politicians.
In a democracy where the people's will is supposed to weigh heavily with our elected officials, we have uncovered some conflicting evidence.
The United States has two traditions of citizenship that are more political and self-interested than the ideal democratic citizen.
In America, the ideal citizen marches side by side with the more self-interested citizen who does not put politics ahead of other daily responsibilities.
Some of the more apolitical and self-interested citizens can cast intelligent votes and have their views represented in public policy with the help of some mechanisms.
If the people the majority choose can make it through the institutional barriers to power, then responsiveness of policies to public preferences is in good working order.
Give examples of how public opinion affects the relationship between citizens and government.
Let's revisit: What's at stake.
In this chapter, we argue that public opinion is important in policymaking and that politicians respond to it in a variety of ways.
Voters would seem to have something to gain in such lawmaking reform.
It would give a new meaning to government by the people.
It would be difficult to point the finger at those in Washington for bad laws.
As has been the case in states with initiatives, citizens can get legislation passed if legislators refuse to vote for it.
Term limits and balanced budget amendments are examples of prime examples.
Term limits and balanced budget amendments would force politicians to make hard choices about taxation and spending cuts they don't want to make.
Voters might be worse off on the other side of the calculation.
While policies like the two mentioned threaten the jobs of politicians, they also carry consequences that may or may not be very good for the nation as a whole.
The Irish referenda show how voters can free politicians to pass laws in line with changing times and values, while the experience of the people who voted to leave the United Kingdom shows that they don't want to live with it.
The public might suffer if it is left to its own mercy on questions of policy it does not understand.
The founding fathers of the Constitution would not have approved of a national referendum.
It brings government closer to the people and wreaks havoc with the system of checks and balances.
The House and the Senate were supposed to check popular opinion, as well as the other two branches of government.
This delicate balance is upset by bringing public opinion to the fore.
Many scholars warn that the hallmark of democracy is not just hearing what the people want, but allowing the people to discuss and deliberate over their political choices.
Home computer voting or trips to the ballot box do not allow for such a key without the moderation of debate and discussion that can lead to majority tyranny.
It is possible that the flip side is also true.
The tyranny of an intense minority who care enough to campaign and vote against an issue that a majority prefer is the opposite of majority tyranny.
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