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The Publicity Criterion

Tuesday, September 07, 2004
In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls argues that no political argument is acceptable unless it meets what he calls the criteron of publicity. This means that the argument that is being made is openly and honestly debated. The motivations, policies, and consequences of any action are obvious to all. This criteron prohibits the "necessary lie" of Plato and Strauss. Political leaders must not pretend to be something they are not, or mischaracterize their policies, or manipulate the people in a direction that the leader thinks is best for the country, whatever the people might believe.

So why am I boring you with philosophical abstractions? Easy- the contemporary political right is blatantly and aggressively violating the principle of publicity. The aim of the radical conservatives is to repeal the New Deal, the Great Society, and the Progressive Movement. They want to ditch any kind of protections or assistance to workers. They desire to shift the tax burden away from the wealthy and onto the middle class. They believe that corporations should be essentially immune from any legal sanction or regulation. And their policies, when added together, would force women back into the kitchen, barefoot and weak. (On the last point- what else would be the result of anti-choice, anti-welfare, no child care, etc?) They also want to carve out an America Empire, with a permanent war economy and our boys and girls forever dying on distant battlefields for the sake of U.S. hegemony.

If this set of policies were clearly enunciated, do you think the voters would embrace it? Neither do I. The right knows this, so they are careful to cloak their ambitions and distract us from the real issues at hand. The foundation of the conservative agenda is deception, because what they want is simply unpopular. Which is why the right has moved steadily away from democracy and toward authoritarianism. This is why they are willing to tamper with election results, corrupt the democratic discourse, and smear their opponents. Because to win, they have no other choice. And they think that they just know better than the people they want to rule.

In the future, we can expect more of the same, whether they win this election or not. These people will never stop until they are exposed, repudiated, and humiliated. And it is our job to do so.
Posted by Arbitrista @ 4:48 PM
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