Michael Battalio

Friday, February 18, 2011

Serious Conversations (Part 24):

        This series is a continuation of my conversations with an atheist friend of mine. These are my edited responses from that conversation. The twenty-fifth entry is even more on leadership, power, and influence:

It is wrong to attempt to conceal your opinion inside a presentation of the facts.  An influential leader should clearly delineate what is fact and what is opinion, and no where in any of that should be any false presentation of information.  

There is a problem discerning who is grabbing for power simply to have it and who is seeking authority with the desire to better the world.  Those who have the betterment of society (and a well reasoned thought process) in mind when influencing are deserving of our attention.  Those who do not deserve our ridicule.  The problem is we often figure out after we have put someone into power whether or not they deserve our attention.  

I am of the opinion that our leader should represent the common good, so even if for example, Obama were to lead us away from oil against a majority opinion, he can still be wielding his influence for good because his reasons could be more just than the reasons for those who wish to remain with oil.  Example: a lot of people for continued offshore drilling are those that make money from it.  Again, it’s all about education.  If the random person on the street could see what is obvious to every scientist in the world - how much damage we are doing to the planet - we would have figured out how to rid our economy of oil decades ago. The random person on the street though believes what they are told by people they are influenced by, and those people might be influenced by ulterior motives (power, lobbying interests, money etc.) and don’t have the common good in mind.
But what represents the common good? It certainly isn’t majority opinion all the time. Even democracies can be fallible. A democracy after all is balanced carefully between the appeal to the masses fallacious argument (which is a fallacy every poll on any issue commits) and the appeal to legitimate authority (experts) which is a credible argument. The problem is how many people when presented an issue are an authority on the subject? Not many, so we have to hope that enough people understand enough of the subject such that adhering to a binding vote isn’t committing a fallacious argument. The line each democracy walks is very thin.

I think this is more of a question than we can answer: at what point is the exercise of power and influence too much by a leader of a democracy?  It depends I suppose.  We will know it’s too much when we see it.  The insurance against leaders eventually exerting too much influence and ensuring that any poll or vote is a legitimate referendum is education. By increasing the amount of independent thought, we can prevent one incorrect line of thinking from becoming too prevalent simply by means of being helped by influential leaders. To increase the education of the entire country helps everyone more than the mere sum of everyone’s individual education.  

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