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Thankfully we're not a pure democracy...



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 Monday, 20 December 2004
Monday, 20 December 2004 15:37:44 (Central Standard Time, UTC-06:00) ( )

The founders were wise not to trust the whims of regular citizens overmuch. Masses of people are fickle and generally thoughtless, and given direct control over the government they'd wreak havoc upon us all.

For instance, in the (rapidly lengthening) wake of 9/11 we have study results showing that nearly half the people in the US think we should curtail the civil rights of Muslims in the US.

Where was the outcry after Oklahoma City to curtail the civil rights of people like Timothy McVeigh. You know, ex-military types. Yup, we should register the locations of all ex-military people at all times just like we do with sexual predators.

Because that's what this study is suggesting. Nearly half our population is ready to treat all Muslims in the same manner we treat sexual predators - or maybe even worse.

''Our results highlight the need for continued dialogue about issues of civil liberties in time of war,'' says James Shanahan, Cornell associate professor of communication and a principal investigator in the study.

And this makes sense. It is even rational. Except for one little problem. This particular war is likely to go on for a few decades. Because he's not talking about the war in Iraq (which is also likely to last a very long time), but rather about the war on terror itself.

Given that terrorism has existed throughout the history of mankind, it seems reasonable to expect that we'll be fighting this war for about as long as we'll fight similar wars - like the war on drugs. Yup, that war is also being waged against something that has been with mankind essentially forever.

My point being that any decision made based on the war against terror had best be a decision we can live with for decades. Very likely for longer than our lifetimes as adults.

Personally I am unwilling to sanction the indefinite curtailing of civil rights for an entire category of Americans. I guess I didn't like the whole idea of Apartheid coming to the US after we worked so hard to support its removal in South Africa... Heck, even Sharon in Israel is making noises about going the other direction - specifically to avoid the prospect of Apartheid.

I guess my problem is that I get my news off the Internet and don't watch enough television...

''The more attention paid to television news, the more you fear terrorism, and you are more likely to favor restrictions on civil liberties,'' says Nisbet.

Without fair and balanced coverage of the news I just don't have enough fear... Me and just over half the US population.

Which brings me back to my original point. By creating a representative democracy in the form of a republic, the founders were pretty darn smart. It is very clear that popular opinion, translated directly into policy, would rapidly lead to some devastating choices. Pure majority rule is one of the most scary things imaginable for a nation.

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