Thursday, April 22, 2010

Nimoy's Talk at NSS - Article and Video

Media Blvd Magazine just published a story about Nimoy's talk at the National Space Symposium. It has a great recap of some of the stories and jokes that he told, and off to the right has video of him actually giving the speech. Definitely worth taking a look at!

Also, it looks like I got the chance to meet him just in time - he's now retiring from acting, and even from the convention circuit! (Star Trek fans in mourning as Leonard Nimoy announces his retirement)

Anyway, here's the article:

Nimoy Receives High Honor From The Space Community
(Media Blvd) April 21, 2010, By Kenn Gold
Leonard Nimoy, best known as the iconic half-Vulcan, half-human Spock from Star Trek was given the 2010 Douglas S. Morrow public outreach award last week by the Space Foundation.  In front of a crowd made up largely of NASA and DOD space scientists and engineers, and aerospace company executives, Nimoy was the honored speaker at the award ceremony and dinner held on the final night of the 26th National Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

He spoke of the good memories of being with the rest of the Star Trek cast in 1976 in the Mojave desert as the space shuttle Enterprise rolled out.  “It was thrilling to be there,” he said.  A mail in campaign by Star Trek fans had led to the naming of the shuttle after the star ship from the series.

Nimoy says that people often confuse actors with the characters they play, but that he is not a scientist, though he recognizes that the cast members of the series are role models, and is proud of that fact.  He related an experience from a few years ago when he was invited to speak at Caltech, and then was given a tour of the projects that the students were working on.  “I met some of the very brilliant young people, 20, 21, 22 years old, working on extremely sophisticated projects.  And they were explaining these things to me.  It was not my language!  I didn’t have a clue what they were talking about, but I nodded very sagely, stroked my chin a little bit and was very thoughtful.  They said, “What do you think?”  And I said, “You’re on the right track.”

Nimoy attributes the shows popularity, in part, to the real life NASA space race, and to the 1969 Apollo 11 moon landing.  “It had a great impact on the Star Trek reruns.  I think people began to look at Star Trek in a new and different way.  There seemed to be a potential reality to what we were doing,” he said.  Instead of drifting away, the show became even more popular, which would lead to the future film franchise, and multiple television spin offs.  “The show began to find a tremendous new audience,” he said.

Nimoy spoke of the return of the movie franchise as a result of the popularity of the reruns of Star Trek, but acknowledges that the first film has its problems.  “We did three seasons.  People are shocked that we only did three seasons, but that’s all it was in 1966, 67 and 68.  Then we shut down and were out of business for awhile, for 11 years.  Eleven years later, as a result of the success of the Star Trek reruns, and as a result of the success of George Lucas’ Star Wars, Paramount woke up and said let’s do a Star Trek Movie.  So in 1979, we did Star Trek: The Motion Picture.  And frankly, it was not our best effort,” he said.

He agreed to a death scene in Wrath of Khan, thinking that the movie was going to be a low budget take on the Star Trek saga, and wouldn’t be very good.  “I thought, “We’re going to scrape the barrel and turn out a cheap Star Trek movie, how good can that be?  Ok, I’ll go out as a hero and save the crew and the ship, and go out in a blaze of glory.”  So we began working on the second film, and obviously, it was going to be a good one.  The script was good, the direction was good.  And we were all having fun, and were back to the kind of chemistry that we had when we were doing our best television work.  So I thought, maybe I might have made a mistake,” he said.

After seeing the second film, Nimoy thought he had made a mistake in letting Spock die, but was hopeful after seeing the final scene with his burial tube in tact, that he would be around for more feature films.  “And sure enough, they called me and said, we’d love you to be involved in the next Star Trek movie, and I said, “Thank you very much, I’d love the opportunity to direct, and they let me.   I did two of them, Star Trek 3 and Star Trek 4.  It was in 4 where people think maybe Bill tried to drown me, I’m not sure.  Anyway, we had a great time.  We made six of them, then the next generation took over,” he said.

null Working with J.J. Abrams was a high point for Nimoy, and he is very grateful that the franchise was re-invented.  He also spoke of his work on Fringe, and gave some ominous hints to the future of William Bell.  “Now I’m doing some occasional work on the Fringe television series.  It’s a darn good show, very well produced, and I just finished some work in Vancouver about there days ago, which will be on the air in May.  Watch for it, I think you will enjoy it.  It’s some very interesting work.  My character, William Bell meets up with Walter, and we have a very interesting process that we have to work out together,” he said.

Nimoy is happy with his career, and was honored by the award he received.  “I’ve had a great, great, great time.  As far as the honor issue is concerned, here I am tonight honored by the Space Technology Hall of Fame.  How much more honored does it get.  I’m a very happy guy.  I believe in living a creative life.  I believe in bringing more to the party than is required or asked for.  I believe in showing up and using both sides of the brain,” he said.

At the end of his speech, as in the beginning, Nimoy was greeted by an enthusiastic crowd and a standing ovation as he said, “I thank you all, may you all live long and prosper.”  As CEOs, engineers, rocket scientists, military officers, and at least two astronauts (literally) rose, many with hands outstretched in the iconic V- Vulcan salute, Nimoy knew he was among friends.  And he knew that many of the people in the room were at least partially inspired in their own careers in the space field by his Mr. Spock and the rest of the Enterprise crew.Nimoy announces his retirement

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Room

I'm not sure how I've never heard of this before, but this movie, "The Room" is definitely one of the worst movies ever made. It's in the same category as Buckaroo Banzai and Zardoz... and it may ever surpass them in horrible-ness.

Jeff and I got together with Paul Colling and his friend, Kris. I'd gotten an intro to the movie similar to the one I included above. Apparently, it plays at the Uptown theater in Minneapolis one weekend each month as a midnight movie.

The movie has tons of plot holes, horrible acting, an extremely awkward script, and lots of other errors that they just don't bother to fix (more than once, the main character is called Tommy, his real name, rather than Johnny, the character's name).

People go to the midnight movie each month and yell things out at the screen, quote along with the movie, and throw spoons. Yep, throw spoons. There is a mantle in one of the (two) rooms in the movie that has a framed picture of a spoon. Whenever it comes onscreen, people yell "Spoon!" and toss plastic spoons at the screen.

I had a great time at the movie - its really is hilariously, painfully, unbelievably bad. And if you're considering seeing it, also be warned that it has sex scenes - and they are somewhat nauseating. That said, if you want to challenge yourself to make it through one of the worst movies ever, or if you can find a place that's showing it, and you know where to buy plastic spoons, I'd definitely check it out - it's quite the experience.

(And to anyone in DC reading this blog - it plays once a month at the E Street Cinema, and I will be planning a group outing.)

Visiting Friends

It's really difficult to visit all the people I'd like to see when I just visit Minnesota for a couple days, like I did last weekend. Luckily, I did get a chance to visit some really good friends.

Annette come over to visit on Saturday afternoon. We hung out a bit in the afternoon, and then went on a short trip to visit my friend Rachel.

Rachel, who is another friend from high school, had a baby since the last time I saw her. Her new son, Ari, is now about two and a half months old. He was tiny and adorable - he didn't cry at all the whole time we were visiting, even as Annette and I took turns holding him. So cute!

Jeff, Annette, and I then got Buffalo Wild Wings for dinner, and went back to my house where we chatted and hung out with my dad for a while. Fun evening!

Watching the Twins at Target Field

The Minnesota Twins new baseball stadium just opened this season - there have only been a handful of games played there so far. My brother was able to find tickets so that him, Emily, Jeff, and I could all go to the Saturday game against the Kansas City Royals.

It was a beautiful day - high sixties and sunny. It was pretty incredible to have outdoor baseball in Minnesota - all I've even known is the metrodome.

The stadium is awesome - apparently tickets are hard to get - every game is selling out - but I'm hoping to make it to another game when I visit home sometime this summer!

Oh, and we won. :)

Monday, April 19, 2010


When I bought the plane ticket to attend the conference in Colorado Springs, it turned out that my return flight had a layover in Minneapolis. I decided to turn the one hour layover into a weekend layover by ditching the second half of my trip to DC and just buying a one-way to take me back on US Airways (officially extending the layover was really expensive for some reason, so this was a better option.) Jeff got a great deal on a ticket and came for the weekend, too.

We had an awesome trip, with Saturday being the most eventful day. I was exhausted when we got in on Friday, so we mostly hung out with my parents, watching Doctor Who and eating Chinese food.

On Saturday, we saw a Twins game at the new stadium and visited friends - but these are things that will get their own post, since I have pics and more to say.

On Sunday, we had a pretty quiet day - lunch outside at Panera with my parents, some monkeying around with electronics trying to figure out how to record from our DVR to a DVD, and then dinner at my brother's house (with amazing food - thanks Emily!).

It was especially nice to go home this weekend, because my parents are selling the house, and it could easily (hopefully) be sold before I get back to Minnesota again. I've been in that house since I was about 5 years old, so though it's exciting (and makes sense) for my parents to move, it's crazy to imagine going to Minnesota and not going to that house. Lots of memories...


One of the highlights of the conference this year was the opportunity to see Leonard Nimoy (Spock from the original Star Trek series) speak. He gave a talk at the final evening dinner.

I have never seen him in any role but Spock, and was impressed and pleased to find that in real life, he's energetic, funny, and just a great speaker overall. I think even people who aren't big Star Trek fans really enjoyed his talk.

He talked about moving to Hollywood when he was 18, getting drafted after only having done a movie or two, how he was originally chosen to play Spock in the Star Trek pilot, what it was like having (kind of crazy) fans, how he came up with the Vulcan greeting and the Vulcan death pinch, and all sorts of other fun and funny stories. I'd love to put them all in the blog, but I think they're much better told in person - so just ask me next time you see me, and I'll tell you all about it!

I was also very lucky to catch him on his way out of the room, say a quick hello, and get a picture.

NSS - Evenings

One of the really fun things about this conference is the collection of creative networking events in the evenings. Opening Ceremonies was on Monday, featuring the band Barrage, which was very good - they have a bunch of violins, an electric guitar, and other instruments - very unique. There were stormtroopers around for extra security.

On Tuesday, there was a casino night, which is always a lot of fun. I ended up playing Texas Hold'em, and I didn't do too bad. Playing with fake money makes it much less nerve-racking, though. :)

Wednesday was 'hospitality night,' where each company hosts a suite with some special theme. This year one suite had a rock and roll theme, and gave out feather boas and crazy sun glasses. It's really fun to chat with people in this more laid back and fun environment.

One of the evenings, Jaisha and I toured the exhibition center and spent some time chatting with this robot.

I also got a chance to meet the first Chinese Taikonaut!

Thursday there was a new event this year - the New Generation dance party (though people of all ages were invited). I thought it went really well - it was fun to end the week having everyone together in one spot, and getting the chance to dance and relax a bit.

National Space Symposium

Last week I flew out to Colorado Springs for the 26th National Space Symposium (NSS). The symposium is put on by the non-profit that I work for. Thousands of people from all areas of the space industry attend. It has amazing speakers and panels during the day, and lots of fun networking events in the evening.

My job last year at NSS was to take notes during the speakers and panels, write up summaries, and get them posted on the web. This year, to get the information out faster, we decided to post information directly on Twitter. Having never really used twitter before (I have an account, but have only 'tweeted' about 20 times ever), it was a bit daunting. However, I think it ended up being pretty useful for people. I found that I'm a pretty prolific tweeter. In fact, twitter actually cut me off at one point - there was a really interesting panel with lots of Q&A and back and forth among panelists, and I tweeted so much so quickly trying to capture the exchange that twitter told me I'd hit my limit and I'd have to try back in a few hours. Yikes. In any case, I got positive feedback from people on the tweeting, so at least I know others enjoyed it. It made it possible for people at home, or people who stepped out for a moment to understand what was going on. (If you want to follow the Space Foundation twitter account - the username to follow is just SpaceFoundation.)

The conference itself was very good, as it is every year. On Monday I attended the Cyber 1.0 event, also as the official tweeter. At one point, a speaker was talking about the decision not to allow USBs on military computers (since they can spread viruses, malware, etc.) The speaker was arguing that we have to find ways to make technology safe, not just ban it. He provided my favorite quote of the day: "Self-denial of service is not the future of cyber warfare."

There was a great panel about the future of NASA that included the NASA associate administrator, as well as people from commercial industry, the FAA, academics and others. The back and forth on the issues, benefits, and challenges with NASA's new direction was really interesting. (This is the panel where twitter had to cut me off.)

There was also a really interesting panel that included the directors of the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) over the past 50 years or so. In fact, since the existence of the NRO was only declassified relatively recently, some of them were the head of the office when no one even knew it existed. My friend, Jaisha, was a master moderator on the last day, when this panel was given.

There were lots of really good and interesting events - I always feel like I learn a lot over the course of the week.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Yuri's Night

This past Saturday, Jeff and I celebrated "Yuri's Night" with some friends. Yuri's night was developed as a worldwide celebration to commemorate the first person in space - Yuri Gagarin.

We got together at Jaisha's apartment first. Jeff tried on Kris's Darth Vader helmet - At first Jeff's version of Darth was not prepared to fight.

But then he got it together.

Later in the evening we headed to a Yuri's Night party - which included a space-themed burlesque show - at the Capitol Skyline Hotel.

The party was fun - there were lots of people in costumes, a space pop-art show, a moon-bounce, and a bar with an on-going sci-fi trivia presentation.

They gave out free stuff - like these nifty light-up rings that Jaisha and I got.

And of course, there was the show. It was... an experience. I've never been to a burlesque show before, and I'm not sure it's really my thing. But the space theme was pretty funny. For example, "Trixie and the Evil Hate Monkey" performed an act that included a re-enactment of sending the first monkey into space... plus a little stripping. The show was definitely unique.

Also, there was a cool robot guy playing bass in the band.

They also had a costume contest. Stephanie and Arthur won a prize for their Princess Leia and Han Solo costumes - pretty awesome!

Overall, definitely a fun night.

Friday, April 9, 2010

The Rational Public

By Benjamin Page & Robert Shapiro

The thesis of this book is that American public opinion is rational, and changes in reasonable ways, based on events and information. The authors use data from public surveys from 1935 to 1990 to show that public opinion tends to change very little over time, and when it does change, it changes in meaningful ways based on changing conditions, information, and events. The authors cover a wide variety of domestic and foreign policy issues, providing numerous examples of these rational changes in public opinion. They show that though different groups within America (by sex, race, religion, income, etc.) may have different views, in most cases, these groups change their views in parallel. They suggest that the primary causes of change are economic changes in society over time, events, and information. They warn that though some sources provide legitimate education for the public, it is also possible for the public to be mislead or manipulated, particularly when one group (such as the government) has a monopoly on information, and there are not many contradictory voices. They suggest that the best method for improving democracy would be to improve the system for providing information to the public.

1. Rational Public Opinion
This book shows that the American public, as a collectivity, holds a number of real, stable, and sensible opinions about public policy and that these opinions develop and change in a reasonable fashion, responding to changing circumstances and to new information. It bases these claims based on data from surveys of the public about policy preferences from 1935 to 1990.

The Uniformed Citizen/ Early Survey Evidence/ The Extent of Public Knowledge
Conventional wisdom and some early survey work suggested that public opinion was not rational or stable. Even Madison and others argued in the Federalist Papers that the government needed to be insulated from the “temporary errors and delusions” of the public. Early survey data tended to reinforce this claim. Surveys showed that individuals seemed to change their answers, and did not provide reliable, predictable answers on one survey to the next. This was taken as evidence of “nonattitudes” and lack of understanding of public policy. Further, studies showed that the public lacked significant knowledge about politics. Only 52% of American adults knew there were two U.S. senators from their state, and only 23% knew the SALT talks involved the U.S. and the Soviet Union.

Shapiro and Page argue that these early studies of public opinion were faulty. First, early surveys didn’t take into account the effects of measurement errors and changes in question wording, which explains some of the variance in individual responses. Also, even if individuals are not well informed about political trivia, this will not prevent them from having real and rational opinions on public policy issues.

From Individual Ignorance to Collective Wisdom
Individuals all have fundamental needs and values that are enduring. They also have uncertain beliefs about how public policies relate to these needs and values. Finally, they collect incomplete fragments of information that help them create the beliefs about how public policies relate to their needs and values. If this model is correct, it suggests that additional information will affect these beliefs and peoples policy preferences will change. Changes in opinion based on new information may look like “nonattitudes,” but over long periods, an individual’s average opinions would reflect their underlying needs and values.

Collective public policy preferences are created by aggregating individual preferences. Therefore, even if there are random deviations from preferences, these will cancel out in a large sample, and the true, long-term of opinions of individuals will be reflected. Even if individual opinions are ill-informed, shallow, and fluctuating, collective opinion can be real, highly stable, and based on all available information.

Another idea that supports this conclusion is the Condorcet jury theorem. This theorem shows that if a number of individuals independently try to answer a question of fact, and if each has the same fairly good (more than 50/50) chance of being correct, then a collective decision by majority vote will have a much higher probability of being correct. This suggests that the public as a whole will have a high probability of correctly reflecting the interests of the majority.

2. The Myth of Capricious Change
To answer questions about public opinion, the authors gathered aggregate data from all available national surveys on public policy preferences that took place between 1935 and 1990. These included 1,128 survey questions asked with identical wording at two or more points in time. In examining public opinion change, they have considered any change of more than 6 percentage points statistically significant.

The first finding was that more than half (58%) of the 1,128 repeated policy questions showed no significant opinion change at all, with domestic policy was slightly more stable than foreign policy. This helps provide support for the theory that public opinion is stable, not wildly changing. Even in the 556 instances where changes were detected, most changes were only 6-7% in magnitude. Only 13% of the 556 instances of significant change involved changes of 20% or more. These large changes usually occurred gradually over long time periods, and were primarily related to issues of civil liberties, abortion, and other social issues.

Abrupt Changes in Preferences
Abrupt changes in policy preferences are defined as a change in the rate of 10% or more in one year. This type of change occurred in 41% of the 556 instances of change. Abrupt changes were much more likely in foreign policy (31%) than domestic policy (12%). This is probably because circumstances change more quickly in international affairs. These abrupt changes are often not very large, and do not represent violent movement of opinion. The largest changes can be seen as a reasonable response to changing conditions. The number of people wanted to reduce military effort in the Vietnam War went up significantly after the Tet offensive (a successful North Korea attack).

Fluctuations in Preferences
Fluctuations in public opinion were defined as two or more significant changes in opposite directions within two years, or three or more changes within four years. Only 18% of the 173 questions that were asked frequently enough to detect fluctuations actually showed fluctuation. Often these were in response to “shifting referents” where the question wording remained the same, but the reality was changing. For example, asking whether taxes are “too high” when the actual tax rate is changing over time.

Gradual Shifts of Opinion
More than half (59%) of the 556 instances of change were neither abrupt nor fluctuations, and instead represented gradual shifts of opinion. This also helps to support the theory that public opinion does not fluctuate wildly.

3. Opinions about Social Issues
Though the statistics about the stability of public opinion support the argument that public opinion is rational, to show that this is truly the case, it is necessary to look at instances where public policy changed (or stayed the same) and see if these changes were reasonable given the circumstances. Chapters three and four of the book examine a large number of specific domestic issues, matching data on public opinion trends with the current events at the time. Chapter three examines social issues including: civil rights and racial equality, civil liberties, crime, punishment, and gun control, capital punishment, women’s and minorities’ rights, birth control, abortion, life-styles, and traditional values. Authors find some of the largest public opinion changes they found were on issues of social policy, such as civil rights, which gradually increased a great deal from 1935 to 1990. These changes cannot be explained by any particular event or set of events. Instead, the authors suggest that these changes are part of a larger global trend towards toleration and liberalization. Data on social issues also show that the public is able to make distinctions among alternative policies, and that the types of changes that occur are reasonable.

4. Economic Welfare
In chapter four, the specific issues examined include: social security, employment, income maintenance, redistribution, medical care, education, cities and race, labor-management relations, strikes, economic regulation, private property and capitalism, inflation and price controls, balanced budget, energy, nuclear power, the environment, health, safety, deregulation, re-regulation, progressive taxation, and other domestic issues. The opinion changes on economic issues are smaller than those found in social issues. It is found that opinions about employment, inflation, taxes, and other issues vary according to actual changes in prices, unemployment, and tax rates. This helps to prove that public opinion reacts rationally to changes in conditions. American public opinion displays a support for individualism as well as a limited, but still substantial, welfare state. Americans support government action on education, jobs, and medical care, and show a willingness to pay taxes for these purposes (though they tend to think taxes are too high, in general). These differences help to show that public opinion reflects important distinctions among policies based on basic values.

An example of misleading information is shown in the example of nuclear energy, where most information came directly from government officials. People were not aware of the dangers and full costs of the new technology. Opinions on this issue changed abruptly after the Three Mile Island incident. However, when multiple sources of information exist, Americans are able to judge what is in their interest.

5. Foreign Policy: World War II and the Cold War & 6. Vietnam Détente, and the New Cold War
Chapters 5 and 6 cover foreign policy, primarily in chronological order. Chapter 5 discusses isolationism and internationalism, party leadership, Hitler’s Germany and World War II, President Roosevelt’s Role, Wartime and Postwar Opinion, the Soviet Union and the Early Cold War, the Korean War, and the United Nations. Chapter 6 covers the Peaceful Eisenhower Decade, the Vietnam War, the Gulf of Tonkin and Escalation, Vietnam Disillusionment, Vietnam Withdrawal, Effects of Vietnam, China, the Middle East, the 1982 Lebanon Invasion, Détente, a New Cold War, Iran and Afghanistan, Central America, and Renewed Détente.

By comparing changes in public policy with actual historic events, the authors show that Americans are able to make distinctions among alternative policies. For example, depending on current conditions, they may favor sending arms rather than American troops. In general, opinions on foreign policy are stable, with changes caused by events and new information. Hitler’s conquests in Europe led to increased support for sending aid to allies. The outbreak of the Korean war increased support for military spending. While the authors recognize that not every citizen receives all information, individuals form an opinion based on partial information, cue-taking, and debating, creating a rational collective public opinion.

Foreign policy provides more examples of the public being misled or manipulated. Because foreign policy information tends to be highly centralized (with the government releasing facts, rather than a wide variety of sources or contradicting voices), it is easier for this manipulation to occur. The public can only form opinions based on the relevant information. Also, it is possible for the government to manipulate or cause events on its own (provoking the attack at Tonkin, for example), which is another method of manipulation. In some instances, however, attempts at manipulation do not succeed, such as Reagan’s efforts to get the public to support Nicaraguan “freedom fighters.”

7. Parallel Politics
Though this book focuses on collective public opinion, it is important to recognize that different groups within the United States (defined by age, sex, religion, etc.) often have different opinions. However, examining survey response from different groups, we find that though they do have different opinions, opinion change almost always occurs in parallel. The chapter looks in detail at the difference in opinion and the difference in opinion change among groups including: men and women, blacks and whites, income groups, young and old, Catholics, Jews, and Protestants, Republicans, Democrats, and Independents, Northerners and Southerners, City and Country Dwellers, and the Schooled and Unschooled.

Often they find significant differences in policy preferences among these groups. This reflects the fact that the U.S. is a pluralistic nation with many distinct groupings, and public opinion is not uniform across groups. For example, women tend to be less supportive of the use of force and more supportive of social welfare programs than men. However, most of the time, the policy preferences of different subgroups changed in the same ways – the trend lines were mostly parallel. When trends are not parallel, this is often due to convergence of opinions. For example, over time the opinions of Southerners tended to converge with those of Northerners in support of civil rights. An exception is seen in the opinion changes among partisan groups, which do tend to diverge with relation to actions by political leadership. The phenomenon of parallel public reflects the stability of public opinion. The lack of divergences in opinion shows that policy preferences seem to be formed not just on self interest, but on the public good and the national interest.

8. The Causes of Collective Opinion Change
Now that we understand that public opinion often moves in parallel, we can search for the overall causes of these changes. Examination of the trends and historical events show that public opinion has generally shifted in comprehensible ways, not wildly or randomly. Events tend to be one of the major causes of change, but it is also very important how the events are interpreted and shown by the media. Gradual changes are hard to explain, since they do not reflect clear reactions to individual events. Instead it is likely economic growth and accompanying changes in society that have been a fundamental cause of some of the slow changes in American public opinion. These include industrialization, the shift from farming to industry to service, the migration from rural areas to cities and then to suburbs, increased income, increased leisure time, increased consumption, and increased education. Further, increased travel and communication made possible by technology has exposed Americans to more diverse people and ideas.

The media plays a particularly important role in influencing opinion. The authors found that news commentary often has a dramatic positive impact on opinion, possibly because they are held in high esteem. It may also be possible that the commentators are simply reflecting a more general bias in TV coverage of an issue. Experts are also able to have a large positive impact, likely because they are seen as impartial and credible. Presidents have a relatively small impact on public opinion, though popular presidents have nearly twice the effect of as the unpopular. Interest groups often have a negative effect on public opinion. For example, protesters often lead the public to provide more support to the thing they are protesting against.

The authors suggest that public opinion changes based on complex web of information flow among: World and national events, interpretations by experts, commentators, and officials, mass media reports, policy actions, gradual social and economic trends, organized interests, corporations, and social movements.

9. Education and Manipulation of Public Opinion
A central point that the authors make is that the public can only base their opinions on the information that is available. Opinions will be based on education or on manipulation. If public system is often or easily manipulated, then it doesn’t make sense for government to rule based on public opinion. However, though manipulation does occur, the authors don’t believe that this is always the case.

To understand how the public forms opinions, we must use clear definitions of education, misleading information, and manipulation. Individuals or institutions that influence public opinion by providing correct, helpful political information can be said to educate the public. Those who influence public opinion by providing incorrect, biased, or selective information, or erroneous interpretations, may be said to mislead the public. If government officials or others mislead the public consciously and deliberately, by means of lies, falsehoods, deception, or concealment, we say they manipulate the public – implies conscious, intentional human action.

Educating the Public
The public can get education from a number of sources. Formal schooling teaches many citizens about politics and policies, but it falls short in teaching Americans about geography, world history, and some other relevant issues. Experts can also play an important role in educating the public by providing accurate and useful information. People like Rachel Carson and Ralph Nader may play this role. Politicians may be thought to educate the public, but often they provide only symbolic arguments and not facts or information that truly educate. Social movements can draw attention to problems, corporations can fund research, and direct experience among citizens can inform opinion.

A particularly important source of information and public education comes through collective deliberation. The deliberative process in the United States is highly decentralized and does include omni-competent citizens. Instead, researchers apply their knowledge to relevant policy issues. Experts, analysts and commentators examine and test the results. The media and others report on these findings. This allows the public to become more than the sum of its parts, in keeping with philosophical ideals such as those expressed by Dahl and Dewey.

Misleading and Manipulating the Public
It is also possible for the public to be mislead or manipulated. This can occur if those in power manipulate the agenda, so the issues the public learns about are limited. Studies show that the amount of media coverage given to a particular issue effects how important the public believes the issue to be. Foreign policy provides more opportunities for misleading and manipulating the public. The “missile gap,” the Gulf of Tonkin events, the conduct of the Vietnam War, and the Soviet Scare of the 1970s are all events in which the president and other officials mislead or manipulated the public by not provided full information. Also, covert operations, by nature, mislead the public. Manipulation of domestic public policy is less common, but is possible, as in the case of nuclear energy, as discussed earlier.

The authors suggest that a pattern of misleading or biased information can be detected in the United States over time. These include a nationalist and ethnocentric bias (Americans focus more on the U.S. and Europe than on problems in Asia and Africa), anti-communist bias, pro-capitalist bias (taught in schools, by industry), minimal government bias (government is seen as wasteful), pro-incumbent and pro-status quo bias, and partisan bias (the party that holds power in Washington can shape the debate.)

10. Democracy, Information, and the Rational Public
The Political Capacity of the Public
1. American’s collective policy preferences are real, knowable, differentiated, patterned, and coherent.
2. Collective policy preferences are generally stable; they change in understandable, predictable ways.
3. Citizens are not incapable of knowing their own interest or the public good.
4. The public generally reacts to new situations and new information in sensible, reasonable ways. (Note that this refers to something more than the “predictable,” “understandable” responses of proposition 2.)
5. Collective deliberation often works well.
6. Political education in the United States could be improved.
7. Lack of available information may permit government non-responsiveness to public opinion.
8. Elites sometimes mislead the public or manipulate its policy preferences.
9. The “marketplace of ideas” cannot always be counted upon to reveal political truth.

Improving American Democracy
In conclusion, the authors argue that if democracy is not working, it cannot be blamed on the public. Politicians should pay attention to polls and public opinion. The chief focus for improvement should be on the political information system. We should improve public education, both experience and information, for citizens.

They close with a quote from Thomas Jefferson (in an 1820 letter to William Jarvis): “I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves, and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their own control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion by education.”

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The State of Democratic Theory: Deliberation against Domination?

Chapter 2: Deliberation against Domination?
By Ian Shapiro

Shapiro suggests that deliberation can play a role in decreasing domination. He suggests that those with insiders’ wisdom are best able to judge how deliberation can help enhance an activity. However, he argues that the government should give increased deliberative power (power of delay, appeal, or veto) to those whose basic interests are at risk. The government should put in place institutional devices that seek to force deliberation as an intermediate form of regulation between proscriptive intervention and full deference to insiders’ wisdom.

Shapiro begins the chapter 2 by asking how should we think about the appropriate role of deliberation in promoting the common good? First, we define common good as that “which those with an interest in avoiding domination share.” Then, the question of whether deliberation promotes the common good is reframed as the question of whether it diminishes domination. The challenge is to figure out ways to manage the power dimensions of human interactions to limit domination while also minimizing interference with the non-power dimensions of human interaction. He argues that deliberation can help in this situation.

Deliberation can be misused by the powerful to procrastinate. It is also possible that institutional methods of promoting deliberation might just lead to bargaining. Shapiro aims to deal with this by limiting the right to demand increased deliberation to those who are vulnerable in a given situation because their basic interests are at stake.

2.1 Thinking about Power
Some in the power literature argue that power trumps institutional arrangements, so studying institutions is uninteresting. Others focus on defining the three faces of power: decision-making, agenda-setting, and repressing preferences that would otherwise be expressed and acted on. These studies do not explain the institutional implications of their theories – i.e. they don’t explain how decisions should be made, how agenda setting power should figure into the debates about institutional reform, or how quiescence should be dealt with when it is identified.

There are also Foucauldian points of view that argue power relations are ubiquitous and ineliminable, but this also doesn’t help to choose among institutional possibilities. Clarissa Hayward makes case that domination is minimized to the degree that freedom is enhanced, where this is understood as enabling people to shape their own fields of possible action. She suggests that political institutions should be structured such that their effects on other social practices and institutions are freedom promoters, but she doesn’t say how this is to be achieved.

Power relations suffuse contexts as various as workplace, family, and church, but things other than exercises of power also go on in these areas. The challenge for democratic theorists in this area is to devise mechanisms for structuring the power dimensions of human interaction so as to minimize domination while limiting interference with these other activities as much as possible.

2.2 Insiders’ Wisdom and Superordinate Goods
The benefits of deliberation are not unequivocal; deliberation can sometimes create costs that outstrip its advantages. It is possible that third parties (such as the government) may not know how much and what sorts of deliberation will enhance other activities. For example, if increasing some types of deliberation could make firms more efficient, it seems likely that those in the firm would be best at identifying these opportunities. If deliberation would make a sports team better, those on the team would have incentive to identify and engage in these activities to ensure that they win. These examples suggest that there is insiders’ wisdom: those skilled in a particular activity are more likely than anyone else to know how to do it well (or to know how much and what sorts of deliberation will enhance it).

It’s possible that economic efficiency and winning at sports are misleading examples. Consider, instead, evaluating scholarship in the context of tenure promotions at universities. These decisions are based on judgments rather than objective criteria. Still, there is no reason to think that the government would be better at making these judgments than those within the university.

It is possible that insiders could be wrong about how to enhance an activity. Managers in a firm may undermine the interests of shareholders or make short term decisions. It is important to distinguish arguments for intervention designed to protect the interests of vulnerable employees from arguments that assume outsiders know how to run firms efficiently.

In a traditional democracy, the people are supposed to govern themselves. However, modern democracy uses a division of labor. In this system there are insiders who are expected to have expert competence. For example, outsiders should not be able to tell the Supreme Court justices when or how long to deliberate, and they should not be allowed to adjust the rules of the House and Senate. However, governing does differ from running firms, families and other endeavors. A substantial part of the super-ordinate good involved is the exercise of legitimate power in a given territory or domain. This warrants control of politicians via democratic competition for power.

Some suggest that government should institute increased deliberation among citizens because it is inherently (rather than instrumentally) valuable. Hegal suggested that we only become truly human in justifying ourselves to one another. This is one credible view of the human condition, to be sure, but there are others, and it is difficult to see why it should be privileged over those other views. People should be free to deliberate, but should not be forced to do so. However, it should also be ensured that people with an intense preference for deliberation don’t exert disproportionate influence on outcomes by monopolizing control of agendas.

2.3 Limiting Domination Through Deliberation
Decisions about how to pursue superordinate goods are best left to those with insiders’ wisdom, but their freedom to make them should not be unfettered. Because superordinate goods are bound up in power relations, the government must regulate their pursuit to limit the possibility of domination.

The right to deliberative participation should vary with the degree to which people are trapped. As the costs of exit increase, the importance of voice also increases. For example, if a stockholder is unhappy with a firm, she can sell her shares. An unhappy employee of the firm doesn’t have the same freedom of action, so the employee has a stronger claim to deliberative participation. When the affected party cannot participate in decision-making (they have no voice), then others should insist on significant deliberation. This is the case with juries in criminal cases and with decisions on ending life support for the terminally ill.

When exit costs are low for everyone, there is no reason to require deliberation: by definition the interests at stake are not hostage to the decision. No deliberation is required if exit costs are high for everyone and the interests at stake are all the same. For example, an ex ante veil-of-ignorance decision by a healthy population about how to ration future organ transplants would provide all people with high exit costs and equal interests at stake.

The kind of interest at stake (not just the costs) need to be taken into consideration when deciding whether or not deliberation is appropriate. For example, South Africa’s white minority stood to lose more than nonwhites, but they should not have been entitled to rights of delay or appeal.

The right to deliberation, including delay, appeal, or veto, should be activated when basic interests are at stake. Basic interests include obvious essentials they need to develop into and survive as independent agents – similar to lists provided by Rawls, Dworkin, and Sen. Anyone in a position to threaten a person’s basic interest evidently has great power over him. An employer may have high exit costs (stocks, etc.) for leaving company, but we assume their basic interests are not involved. An employee is more likely to have his basic interests at stake. This type of consideration led to the National Labor Relations Act of 1935, which allowed labor unions to form.

Government regulation can create varying amounts of “voice.” For example, some regulations give citizens the right to challenge unfair leases in court. As a normative matter, we can say that the more one’s basic interests are threatened, the stronger one’s claim is to insist on deliberation, but that beyond some threat threshold even this is insufficient.

Generally, we can think of institutional devices that seek to force deliberation as an intermediate form of regulation between proscriptive intervention and full deference to insiders’ wisdom. In this spirit, we might replace proscription voucher schemes in education with a solution in which parents that do not opt out of public schools are given a delay, appeal, or maybe veto rights if the promised benefits of their children’s education do not in fact take place. In this case, those promoting vouchers would need to convince these parents to allow the program. The government would decide how strong to make the deliberative rights of the non-participating parents, but would not just proscribe vouchers. This solution recognizes the cognitive limitations of government without abdicating their responsibility to regulate the power dimensions of social life to limit the possibility of domination.

In general, rather than having the government evaluate the merits of innovative funding schemes, it could use its power to make those who advocate them persuade those whose basic interests are plausibly at stake. Strengthening the hand of the vulnerable in this way is intended to encourage the search for cooperative solutions when interests conflict.

Petit suggests extending strong “contestatory” rights to all minorities in democratic systems, in an effort to move us closer to a world in which “what touches all” will be “considered and approved by all.” However, unless we limit the rights of delay to those whose basic rights are threatened, we privilege the status quo.

2.4 Deliberations versus Bargaining
Some may argue that Shapiro’s proposal that government should strengthen the hand of weaker parties whose basic interests are threatened is sufficient to guarantee more equal bargaining, perhaps, but not deliberation. Shapiro acknowledges that this may be true. Since deliberation requires solicitous goodwill, creative ingenuity, and a desire to get to the best answer, it is doubtful that government can ever insist that people deliberate. Even juries can’t be forced to deliberate if they decide to bargain instead (because they want to go home, etc.) However, government can increase the likelihood that insiders will deploy their wisdom to search for the deliberative solutions that may be waiting to be discovered. And though it is true that bargaining may sometimes be inferior to deliberation, but domination is always inferior to both

The Idea of Public Reason Revisited by John Rawls

By John Rawls

The idea of public reason deals with the way citizens should debate with each other in a well-ordered constitutional democratic society. It is important that citizens make arguments only based on public reason coming from a political conception of justice. The public reasons should only include arguments that other citizens could reasonably be expected to accept – they should follow the principle of reciprocity.

The idea of public reason is part of Rawls conception of a well-ordered constitutional democratic society. Public reasons helps to define the form and content that citizens should use to debate with one another. Rawls argues that public reason is necessary because any democratic society will have reasonable pluralism (multiple conflicting religious and moral comprehensive philosophies). Public reason doesn’t criticize or attack any comprehensive doctrine, unless it’s incompatible with the essentials of public reason – i.e it doesn’t accept a democratic regime and legitimate law.

1. The Idea of Public Reason
1.1 Public reason identifies the basic moral and political values that determine a constitutional government’s relation to its citizens and their relation to one another. It doesn’t try to define the whole (comprehensive) truth, but only a political conception. The idea of public reasons has five aspects that make up its structure: 1) the fundamental political questions to which it applies, 2) the person to whom it applies (government officials and political candidates), 3) the contents, which are found in political conceptions of justice, 4) the application of these conceptions in discussions about legitimate law, and 4) citizens ensuring that the principles of the conceptions of justice satisfy the criterion on reciprocity.

Public reason is public because 1) it is the reason of the public (fee and equal citizens), 2) it is used to think about questions regarding the public good, including constitutional essentials and matters of basic justice, and 3) it has a nature and content that are public, since it is made up of political conceptions that satisfy the criterion of reciprocity.

Public reason only applies to questions in the public forum. This can include the discussion of judges in making their decisions (especially in the supreme court), the discussions of government officials (especially the president and congressmen), and the discussion of candidates running for public office (particularly in their public statements and party platforms). The idea of public reason doesn’t apply to the background culture or to the media.

The ideal of reason occurs when judges, legislators, and others explain their reasons for a decision in terms of a political conception of justice. Citizens can use public reason by thinking of themselves as if they were legislators and asking what statutes they would support and for what reasons.

1.2 The fundamental political relation of citizenship has two basic features:
(1) It is a relation of citizens within the basic structure of society, entered only by birth, exited by death.
(2) It is a relation of free and equal citizens who exercise ultimate political power as a collective body.

Citizens are reasonable when, viewing one another as free and equal in a system of social cooperation over generations, they are prepared to offer one another fair terms of cooperation, according what they consider to be the most reasonable conception of justice. Citizens will differ as to which conceptions of political justice they think most reasonable, but they will agree that all are reasonable, even if barely so. When deciding on a matter of basic justice, if everyone acts from public reason, then the opinion of the majority is legitimate law, and morally binding on him or her as a citizen.

Political legitimacy based on the criterion of reciprocity says: Our exercise of political power is proper only when we sincerely believe that the reasons we would offer for our political actions – were we to state them as government officials – are sufficient, and we reasonably think that other citizens might also reasonably accept those reasons. The criterion of reciprocity is usually violated when basic liberties are denied (religious liberty, slavery, women’s suffrage, etc.).

People who insist that fundamental questions should be answered by their own idea of the whole truth (including their comprehensive doctrine) instead of reasons that might be shared by everyone, will reject the idea of public reason.

1.3 The focus of public reason is on a well-ordered constitutional democracy (deliberative democracy). In a deliberative democracy, there are three essential elements, 1) the idea of public reason must exist, 2) the democratic institutions must create a framework for deliberative legislative bodies, and 3) the citizens must be able to understand and use public reason and be able to realize it in their political conduct.

The immediate implications of these elements are: public financing of elections and providing for public occasions for serious discussion of issues of public policy. If this wasn’t done, politics would be dominated by corporate or other interests who could distort political outcomes by giving large contributions. The constant pursuit of money makes the political system unable to function. It is important that citizens be informed about the basic aspects of government and about pressing problems.

2. The Content of Public Reason
2.1 A citizen engages in public reasons when he deliberates using a reasonable political conception of justice. The political conception must express political values that others, as free and equal citizens might also reasonably be expected reasonably to endorse. The content of public reason is given by a family of political conceptions of justice (Justice as Fairness is just one of many). However, all of them must include the criterion of reciprocity

Each of these conceptions endorses the underlying idea of citizens as free and equal persons and of society as fair system of cooperation over time. They all include protection of basic rights, such as religious liberties and freedoms. However, each may use different formulations and different rankings of political principles. It’s important that there are always a variety of permissible forms of public reasons to ensure that ideas arising from social change are not repressed.

2.2 Public reason does not simply mean secular reason. Comprehensive secular doctrines (like comprehensive religious doctrines) are too broad for public reason. Political conceptions should have three features: 1) their principles apply to the basic structure of society, 2) they can be presented independently from comprehensive doctrines of any kind (though there may be overlapping consensus with comprehensive doctrines), and 3) they can be developed using fundamental ideas that are implicitly in the public political culture of a constitutional regime (citizens are free and equal persons, society is a system of fair cooperation, etc.).

Public reason requires using a political conception to debate. However, Rawls proviso states that this requirement still allows us to introduce into political discussion our comprehensive doctrine, provided that we give properly public reasons to support the principles and policies our comprehensive doctrine is said to support.

2.3 A political conception must be completely defined – you cannot simple proceed from a comprehensive doctrine to several political principles and particular institutions. A full political conception must express principles, standards, ideals, and guidelines for inquiry. It must be able to give a reasonable answer to all or nearly all questions about basic justice. Finally, the ordering of principles must be reasonable via political reasoning.

2.4 Rawls provides a few examples to illustrate the content of public reason compared to moral reason.

Example 1 Autonomy: Political autonomy includes the legal independence and integrity of citizens who are able to share equally in the exercise of political power. Moral autonomy promotes a particular way of life (Mill’s idea of individuality).

Example 2 The Good Samaritan: Public political culture allows us to use the Gospel story, but public reason requires that we justify our proposal in terms of political values.

Example 3 Desert in fair distribution of income: A political conception of fair distribution of income might argue that persons in various offices should have the requisite qualifications and should have fair opportunities to quality themselves for these positions. A moral conception of fair distribution of income might argue that goods should be distributed in accordance with moral desert or moral worth of character.

Example 4 State’s interest in the family and human life: A political conception recognizes the need for the state to perpetuate itself leads to need to regulate the family (in a form that is just), provide arrangements for rearing and educating children, and provide institutions for public health. A moral conception might propose that the state should enforce monogamy or prevent same-sex marriages because of religious or other reasons.

2.5 It is important to remember that secular comprehensive doctrines are not allowed – the same way that philosophical and religious comprehensive doctrines are not allowed. These fall outside the domain of the political. This can be seen if we consider what each type of doctrine might ask with regard to making homosexual relations among citizens a criminal offense. A secular doctrine might ask, “Is it precluded by a worthy idea of the full human good?” A religious doctrine might ask, “Is it a sin?” A political conception would ask, “Will legislative statues forbidding those relations infringe on the civil rights of free and equal democratic citizens?”

3. Religion and Public Reason in Democracy
3.1 How is it possible for a citizen of faith to support a democratic society in which their comprehensive doctrine may not prosper? We can consider the example of Catholics and Protestants in the 16th and 17th century. They tolerated each other, but if either could have gained control, they would have imposed their comprehensive doctrine on everyone. This type of situation might lead to a similar system to the one we have – it would involve a constitution to protect religious liberty and would require debate in political terms to avoid open religious conflict. However, the stability would exist for the wrong reasons – it would not be secured by a firm allegiance to society’s political ideals.

Instead, in a well-ordered society, while no one is expected to put his or her religious or non-religious doctrine is in danger, they must give up forever the hope of changing the constitutions so as to establish their religions’ hegemony, or qualifying or obligations so as to ensure its influence and success.

3.2 This is possible if religious doctrines understand and accept that, unless they endorse a reasonable constitutional democracy, there is no other fair way to ensure the liberty of its adherents consistent with the equal liberties of other reasonable free and equal citizens. Our political conception requires that we protect religious liberty of all citizens.

4. The Wide View of Public Political Culture
4.1 Reasonable comprehensive doctrines (religious or nonreligious) may be introduced into public political discussion provided that in due course, proper political reasons are presented to support whatever the comprehensive doctrines are introduced to support (the proviso). We can acknowledge that there may be positive reasons for introducing comprehensive doctrines into public political discussion, however, the details of satisfying the proviso must be worked out in practice, not in advance.

4.2 Citizen’s knowledge of each others’ religious and non-religious doctrines is important, because they recognize that the roots of democratic citizens’ allegiance to their political conceptions lie in their respective comprehensive doctrines. Mutual knowledge about citizens’ comprehensive doctrines provides a positive ground for introducing and discussing those doctrines. When considering an issue such as abolition or civil rights, all sides should introduce their comprehensive doctrines as a way to explain how these doctrines support basic political values (which are also supported by reasonable conceptions of political justice).

4.3 Public reasoning aims for public justification. The goal is to argue from premises that we accept and that we think others could reasonably accept. In doing so, we should declare our own comprehensive doctrine, though we do not expect others to share it. We can show how our comprehensive doctrine leads us to endorse a reasonable political conception. For example, we might cite the story of the Good Samaritan and then go on to give a public justification of the parapble’s conclusions based on political values. We can also use this kind of reasoning to conjecture about how other people’s comprehensive doctrine could be used by them to support a reasonable political conception.

5. On the Family as Part of the Basic Structure
5.1 The family is part of the basic structure, since one of its main roles is the orderly production and reproduction of society and its culture from one generation to the next. Reproductive labor is socially necessary labor. The central role of the family is to arrange in a reasonable and effective way the raising and caring for children. Within a family, the elders have a certain moral and social authority.

5.2 In order for public reason to apply to the family, it must be seen as a matter for political justice. This is the case, because political justice is concerned with the basic structure of society. It is necessary to apply the principles of justice to the internal life of families, otherwise we cannot ensure equal justice for wives along with their husbands.

The argument that political justice should apply to the internal workings of groups, not just to societies structure, could be applied to all associations - churches, universities, etc. However, we don’t require that Bishops be elected or that the church hierarchy satisfies the difference principle. Not all of the liberal principles of justice need to apply. However, we do impose some essential constrains. For example, the public law does not recognize heresy or apostasy as crimes, so members are always free to leave their faith. Similarly, not all political principles apply directly to internal family life, but they do impose constraints on the family as an institution. All members of the family are guaranteed basic rights and liberties, freedoms, and opportunities. The appropriate constraints may vary depending on the nature of the group or association. As citizens we must impose constraints on associations based on political principles of justice. But as members of associations we aim to limit those constraints to leave room for a free and flourishing internal life appropriate to the association in question.

6. Questions about Public Reason
6.1 Some might argue that the idea of public reason would limit the topics that are available for political debate.

For example, some people might believe that public reason tries to settle political reasons in advance, such as in the case of prayer in schools. However, we can see that when Patrick Henry argued for establishing the Anglican Church for Virginia, he argued that Christian knowledge would correct the morals of men, restrain vices, and help preserve the peace of society. He argued using political values (peace in society, etc.), not by saying that Christian knowledge was intrinsically good. Madison rebutted this argument by saying that the religious establishment wasn’t necessary for ensuring an orderly society. This example shows that public reason is not about a specific set of political institutions or policies, it is about the types of reasons that citizens can use when making political cases. The reasons for separation of church and state should be based on principles that can be affirmed by all free and equal citizens, given reasonable pluralism. This law protects religion from the state and the state from religion. No religion has to fear being outlawed, or having another religion be officially endorsed.

Some people may think that public reason will lead to a stand-off and will fail to bring decisions. However, this can happen in all forms of reasoning, including science and common sense. In the case of stalemate, a reasonable process must be endorsed. For example, if a judge thinks the legal arguments are balanced on both sides, he can’t just appeal to his own personal political values. For citizens, this is the same – if a decision can’t be made based on public reason, they can’t simply fall back on their comprehensive views – this would fail to satisfy the criterion of reciprocity.

For example, the issue of abortion is one that may lead to stand-off between different political conceptions. In this case, citizens must vote according to their complete ordering of political values. However, reasonable political conceptions of justice do not always lead to the same conclusion – we should not expect unanimity of views. However, the outcome of the vote is legitimate as long as everyone uses public reason, and voting occurs within a constitutional regime.

An individual may not view this as the true or correct outcome, but is should be considered a reasonable and legitimate law, binding on all citizens. This system does keep open the opportunities for citizens to continue to argue (using public reason) to change a law, even if they don’t win a majority. It is not a fault that public reason does not always lead to general agreement of views – debate using public reason deepens our understanding of one another.

6.2 It may be objected that any political conception of justice will be too narrow, and that it will be necessary to rely on comprehensive doctrines to show what is right. Public reason is compatible with forms of non-public reason. It merely requires that ideas about what is right (even if they are based on comprehensive doctrines) are expressed in terms that are politically reasonable to all citizens.

6.3 It is important within political liberalism that citizens have both a comprehensive and a political conception of justice. The overlapping consensus of comprehensive doctrines allow for a political conception of justice supporting a constitutional democratic society. If a comprehensive doctrine can’t support a democratic society, it is considered unreasonable. This type of comprehensive doctrine (such as fundamentalist religious, or a doctrine of divine right of monarchs) does not satisfy reciprocity and does not establish equal basic liberties. Political liberalism rejects as unreasonable all doctrines that override the political values of a constitutional democratic society

A true judgment in a reasonable comprehensive doctrine should never conflict with a reasonable judgment in its related political conception. If needed, citizens can affirm, revise, or change their political comprehensive doctrines. A religious person may argue that religious values such as salvation and eternal life are more important than any political values. However, these considerations do not need to override reasonable values. In endorsing a constitutional democracy, a religion may say that such are the limits God sets to our liberty

6.4 Another possible objection is the idea that public reason is unnecessary and serves no purpose in a well-established constitutional democracy. Public reason would only be necessary if a society is sharply divided or includes many hostile religious or secular groups. This objection is incorrect, if citizens’ did not use public reason and civility, hostilities would assert themselves over time. Harmony among doctrines is not a permanent condition of social life.

7. Conclusion
7.1 Can democracy and comprehensive doctrines, religious and non religious, be compatible; if so, how? To answer, political liberalism makes the distinction between a self-standing political conception of justice and a comprehensive doctrine. Conflicts between democracy and reasonable religious doctrines and among reasonable religious doctrines are greatly mitigated within the bounds of reasonable principles of justice in a constitutional democratic society. Citizens practice political toleration, and provide both religious and non-religious reasons for toleration. It is acceptable for concordant judgments made within political conceptions of justice on one hand and comprehensive doctrines on the other.

Three main kinds of conflict set citizens at odds. 1) Differences may arise because comprehensive doctrines are irreconcilable. To solve this, citizens affirm political conceptions of justice and public reasons that others can agree with. 2) Differences may arise because of differences in status, gender, race, etc. Reasonable principles of justice will help to ensure that these kinds of conflict need not arise. 3) Conflict may arise because of differences in judgment. This type of conflict will always exist.

7.2 Reasonable persons are characterized in two ways:
(1) They stand ready to offer fair terms of social cooperation between equals, and they abide by these terms if others do also, even should it be to their advantage not to;
(2) Reasonable persons recognize and accept the consequences of the burdens of judgment, which leads to the idea of reasonable toleration in a democratic society

Some fundamentalist religious doctrines, or dictatorial rules will reject ideas of public reason and deliberative democracy. They will assert that the religiously true overrides the politically reasonable. This type of doctrine is politically unreasonable. These unreasonable doctrines pose a threat to democratic institutions, since their existence prevents the full realization of a reasonable democratic society with the ideal of public reason and legitimate law. In reality, every actual society will contain some unreasonable doctrines. Society must determine how far to tolerate these doctrines based on appropriate principles of justice.

7.3 There is a fundamental difference between “A Theory of Justice” and “Political Liberalism.” “A Theory of Justice” attempted to develop a comprehensive liberal doctrine – something based on the social contract and superior to utilitarianism. However, the comprehensive doctrine contradicted the fact of reasonable pluralism. “Political Liberalism” proposed that a reasonable political conception of justice could be formed based on overlapping comprehensive doctrines. In “A Theory of Justice” public reason is given by a comprehensive liberal doctrine. In “Political Liberalism” public reason is a way of reasoning about political values shared by free and equal citizens that does not trespass on citizens’ comprehensive doctrines, so long as those doctrines are consistent with a democratic polity.

Democracy and Disagreement: The Sense of Reciprocity

Chapter 2: The Sense of Reciprocity
Amy Gutman and Denis Thompson

Gutman and Thompson promote the principle of reciprocity as the basis of deliberative democracy. They emphasize that reciprocity is based on mutual respect. Political arguments should be based on reasoning that can be understood and accepted by other citizens interesting in reaching agreement. In cases, such as the abortion issue, where there is fundamental deliberative disagreement, Gutman and Thompson present the principles of accommodation. These principles promote the importance of affirming the moral status of their own views as well as acknowledging the moral standing of their opponents views. Based on mutual respect, citizens should aim to find an ‘economy of moral disagreement,’ emphasizing areas and solutions based on mutual agreement.

Deliberative democracy asks citizens and officials to justify public policy by giving reasons that can be accepted by those who are bound by it. It relies on the principle of reciprocity. We can compare reciprocity to its two main rivals: prudence and partiality. The foundation of reciprocity is the capacity to seek fair terms of social cooperation for their own sake. Under reciprocity, individuals aim to use mutually acceptable justification for their reasoning in the sense that they can be acknowledged by each citizen in circumstances of equal advantage. Citizens are motivated by the desire to justify their reasoning to others. Under reciprocity, individuals use deliberation with the goal of reaching deliberative agreement.

Prudence only aims to show that a policy is mutually advantageous. Individuals are motivated by self-interest. They use the process of bargaining to reach a modus Vivendi (agree to disagree). Impartiality aims at reasons and justifications that are general (universally justifiable): they should be acceptable to anyone similarly situated in morally relevant respects (reasons should be based on social or economic status, for example). The reasons provided should be impersonal; citizens should disregard their own personal perspective when making policies or laws. People are led by altruism to make laws for the common good. They establish the truth of their comprehensive moral view through demonstration of its correctness.

Reciprocity can deal with moral disagreement better than prudence or impartiality. It allows some space for bargaining as well as for comprehensive moral views, as long as these are constrained by reciprocity.
Since citizens in a pluralist society are likely to continue to hold competing comprehensive views, the principles of democracy must provide some guidance for living with fundamental moral disagreement, not simply resolving it. Reciprocity provides this guidance by setting standards for practices of mutual respect (principles of accommodation).

Reciprocity and Its Rivals
In democratic politics citizens must cooperate to make their lives go well. Reciprocity regulates public reason in a deliberative democracy, where public reason is defined as the terms in which citizens justify to one another their claims regarding all goods.

What Reciprocity Requires
Deliberative reciprocity expresses two related requirements – one moral, one empirical. The moral require asks that citizens appeal to reasons or principles that can be shared by citizens similarly motivated. For example, one might argue for national health care based on a principle of basic opportunity for all citizens. This would not be satisfied by a person who refuses to press public claims in terms accessible to their fellow citizens. The empirical reciprocity requirement asks that empirical claims be consistent with relatively reliable methods of inquiry, or should at least be based on plausible claims.

Religious fundamentalists may argue that their appeals are accessible to other citizens, as long as the citizens live a spiritual religious life, as they do. However, any claim fails to respect reciprocity if it imposes a requirement on other citizens to adopt one’s sectarian way of life as a condition of gaining access to the moral understanding that is essential to judging the validity of one’s moral claims.

In summary, reciprocity tells citizens to appeal to reasons that are recognizably moral in form and mutually acceptable in content. By comparison, prudence questions need for morality (If its mutually acceptable, why do you need it to be moral?), and impartiality challenges the need for mutual acceptance (If its moral, why do you need it to be mutually acceptable?).

What Prudence Prescribes
Much of everyday democratic politics consists of various forms of bargaining (deal-making, pork-barreling, coalition-building, etc.), and takes place over issues without moral disagreement. The problem is that prudence rests on too thin a conception of what citizens owe one. In bargaining, have no reasons to promote the well-being of other citizens, and can justify attempting to maximize our own advantage over the well-being of others. Citizens confront each other as adversaries rather than cooperators. Bargaining is even worse when considered under non-ideal (real life) situations in which we can expect conditions of inequality. The outcome of bargaining will not seem fair to a person that had a poor bargaining position.

What Impartiality Implies
Impartiality argues that political reasoning should be moral, but that it doesn’t need to be mutually acceptable in the way reciprocity prescribes. If moral claim is correct from an impersonal perspective, then that is all the justification it needs. In the face of disagreement, impartiality tells us to choose the morally correct view and demonstrate its correctness to our fellow citizens, who, if they are rational, should accept it. Disagreement is just a failing of moral reasoning – citizens should simply take a more impersonal view to solve it. This method creates a shared comprehensive moral view that applies to a variety of human activities. Some groups, such as communitarians seek such a comprehensive morality (within a particular community).

Abortion Example
A challenge for these competing views is seen in the abortion debate. It does not seem possible to find conclusive reasons that can be accepted by all citizens who are motivated to find fair terms of social cooperation (reciprocity). Some believe fetus is a constitutional person with rights that trump those of the pregnant woman. Others believe the fetus is only a potential person, and therefore has no constitutional rights. Impartiality cannot address this issue, either. It would either lead to the majority suppressing the minority point of view, or in banning the issue from the political agenda to ensure toleration (just as religion is banned from the political agenda to ensure religious toleration). However, neutrality on this issue is not possible. Not legislating against abortion could be seen as legalizing abortion. Even if toleration were justified on impartial grounds, it would not leave open the option to resolve these moral disagreements in the future – it would lock in the moral divisions.

This type of persistent form of moral disagreement can come in a number of forms. There may be conflicting reasonable beliefs (about status of the fetus, for example) or a different balance of competing moral considerations (relative risks to the guilty and the innocent in capital punishment). In these cases, there is no mutually acceptable position from which either can be rejected.

Reciprocity in Practice
An example of reciprocity can be seen in the Hawkins County 1983 text book example. The Hawkins County Public schools aim to help students “become good citizens in their school, community, and society.” However, some parents objected to portions of a new textbook, because they felt it conflicted with Bible. Among the issues were the fact that 1) the book contained a story about a Catholic settlement in New Mexico, which the parents felt teaches children Catholicism, 2) it contained a story in which a boy cooks and girl reads, which parents felt undermined the gender differences taught in the bible, 3) contained an excerpt from Anne Frank’s Diary saying that nonorthodox belief in God may be better than no belief at all, which parents felt conflicted with bible teaching, and 4) included a passage about the Renaissance idea of “a belief in the dignity and worth of human beings,” which parents argued is incompatible with true religious faith.

The principle of prudence could not deal with this issue well. Bargaining may result in the school board having to change the text book, regardless of the merits of the arguments. Impartiality would simply result in a face-off between the two comprehensive moral views.

Reciprocity requires reasons that can be justified to all parties who are motivated to find fair terms of social cooperation. The parents reasoning appeal to values that can and should be rejected by citizens of a pluralist society committed to protecting the basic liberties and opportunities of all citizens. Teaching about issues such as “human dignity” is essential to the basis of deliberative democracy. The parents’ claims were not based on mutually acceptable reasons. Also, their empirical claims were not justifiable. For example, it is not clear that if students read about a religion, they are more likely to convert to it. The court of appeals decided in favor of the school board (not to change the text books).

At the Edges of Reciprocity
Many political disagreements cannot be resolved through reasoning that satisfies only the requirements of reciprocity, but it can provide standards for regulating the processes by which they may be resolved, and for sustaining the practices of accommodation when they cannot be resolved.

Bargaining in its Place
It is possible that at times moral stakes may be high, but the disagreement is not primarily over moral issues. For example, in debating NAFTA, both opponents and proponents expressed an interest in helping vulnerable workers and protecting the government. Lautenberg: argued that NAFTA would impose hardship on “the most vulnerable members of our economy,” while Bradley argued that rejection of NAFTA would make things worse for the most vulnerable workers in U.S. and Mexico. The disagreement was only on how to achieve the particular moral claims, and empirical methods were inadequate to resolve the disagreement. In this situation, bargaining would be more appropriate than leaving the issue unresolved. The collective results of individual deals should be considered on the merits, but it is possible to use bargaining to make a deal acceptable to all.

Bargaining is permitted by reciprocity even in some cases when deliberation would be morally preferable. For example, if some groups refuse to deliberate or if deliberation would put them at a further disadvantage. For example, Candidates should not refuse PAC contributions unless their challengers also refuse them, even though it’s better for the system if PAC isn’t taken at all. However, it’s not true that lying is ok, just because the other candidate is lying. In these cases (when bargaining is necessary because deliberation is unfair), reciprocity prescribes institutional change – reciprocity is not only a disposition of individuals, but also a quality of institutions.

Dealing with Deliberative Disagreement
A deliberative disagreement is a disagreement in which citizens continue to differ about basic moral principles even though they seek a resolution that is mutually justifiable. This can occur if moral understanding does not tell us which position to reject or if competing moral claims are incompatible. Though reciprocity cannot resolve these issues, deliberation can continue.

The public controversy over legalizing abortion is the paradigm of a deliberative agreement: both sides make fundamentally different, but plausible, claims that are reciprocal in their moral and empirical content. Pro-choice advocates make the moral argument that the fetus is only potential human being, and that women should have liberty to decide whether to bear a child. Pro-life advocates make the moral argument that the fetus is human being with constitutional rights, and that innocent persons should not be killed. Though both sides agree that innocent people should not be killed, and that women have a basic liberty to live their own lives and control their own bodies, they have radically different conclusions about abortion. This is due to disagreements about the status of fetus, and the different hierarchy of claims used by each. Pro-choice advocates make empirical claims about the effects of unwanted pregnancy and childbearing on women. Pro-life advocates present the scientific facts about the development of an egg into a sentient fetus. These empirical claims are testable or at least plausible. Given the different moral and empirically relevant claims, there is no way to rationally resolve the argument. Disagreement on this issue is fundamental and irresolvable, at least within the limits of our present moral understanding.

Some have tried to resolve disagreement based on common ground leading to a mutually acceptable conclusion. Ronald Dworkin argued for an agreement based on the fact that a fetus is a human life (pro-life view), but since it is not conscious or sentient, it has no interests, and since it has no interests, it should not be considered a constitutional person (pro-choice view). However, this rests on the assumption that human beings cannot have constitutional rights unless they have prior sentience or consciousness, and this claim is not defended on mutually justifiable grounds.

Deliberative democracy recognizes that the government must take a stand on questions involving such disagreement, even if reciprocity and its other constitutive principles do not determine the answer. Some might argue that in these types of cases, individuals should be uncertain of the truth of their own positions, and should just reach their own best judgment, avoiding dogmatism. The moral strength of their opponents’ case should be irrelevant to their political actions.

However, Gutman argues that unlike ordinary moral conflict, deliberative disagreement places some citizens in opposition to others who are no less committed to finding fair terms of cooperation, and who are offering reasons that cannot be shown to violate those terms. For this reason, one could respect someone arguing for abortion in a way not possible for someone arguing for racial discrimination, for example. It is important to acknowledge that opponents have some moral standing

The Meaning of Moral Accommodation
The principles of accommodation are based on mutual respect – the same value that makes up the core of reciprocity. This principle makes possible to cooperate on fair terms. It requires more that simply agreeing to disagree, it also requires that one have a favorable attitude toward and constructive interaction with the person one disagrees with. People should remain open to changing their minds or modifying their positions at some time in the future. This keeps open the possibility of a different, more accommodating solution in the future. Mutual respect discourages dogmatism (i.e. Either you’re for killing babies or your against it!) as well as moral skepticism (No one can tell who’s right, so let’s not try).

Mutual respect can be beneficial only if it’s translated to practices that guide actual political life – these are the principles of accommodation. The principles of accommodation explain how citizens who, after deliberation, still fundamentally disagree about an issue should treat one another – even when their deliberation results in legislation that favors one side of a dispute. The principles of accommodation make two kinds of demands on citizens. 1) How citizens present their own political positions, and 2) how they regard the political positions of others. These refer not mainly to style or rhetoric, but to attitudes in public action.

Civic Integrity
The first principle, civic integricty, states that citizens should affirm the moral status of their own political positions. They can do this through:
1) Consistency in Speech: Citizens should hold the same positions regardless of circumstances in which they speak. This indicates that a person holds the position for the reasons of morality, not (only) for reasons of political advantage.
2) Consistency between Speech and Action: Apparent inconsistencies call for candid explanations.
3) Integrity of Principle – Individuals should accept the broader implications of the principles presupposed by one’s moral positions. If you oppose abortion out of respect for fetal life, you should also be interested in other efforts to care for children adequately.

Civic Magnanimity
The second principle of accommodation calls on citizens and officials to acknowledge the moral status of the positions they oppose. This is done through:
1) Acknowledgement in speech: Citizens should treat the opposing position as expressing a moral rather than a purely strategic, political, or economic view.
2) Open-mindedness: Though they may hold firm convictions, individuals should maintain the possibility that citizens can be convinced of the moral merits of their adversaries’ position. Both the political mind and political forums should be kept open to reconsidering decisions that have already made.
3) Economy of moral disagreement: Citizens should minimize rejection of the position they oppose, and avoid unnecessary conflict in characterizing the moral grounds of their opponent’s argument. One should aim to search for points of convergence between one’s own understanding and others.
The Economy of Moral Disagreement in Action
Judith Jarvis Thomson narrows the range of reasonable disagreement between pro-life and pro-choice advocates to cases in which pregnancy results from largely voluntary sexual intercourse. However, her argument doesn’t deal with situations not involving rape or other force.

Roe v. Wade did not claim that fetuses is person, but it did state that the state has an interest in protecting potential life (though fetuses are not constitutional persons). This allowed states to continue to ban abortion in the third trimester, on the grounds that the state’s interest in potential life is compelling once the fetus is viable.
The court went further than normal pro-life or pro-choice arguments by arguing that the state has a compelling interest in protecting the health of pregnant women even against their own will. This was an argument against second trimester abortions, since they are riskier than normal childbirth. This resulted in people arguing about the effect of abortion on maternal health when their actual purpose was to protect prenatal life.

In Planned Parenthood v. Casey the court upheld state restrictions on first and second trimester abortions (such as 24-hour waiting periods) so long as they do not impose an “undue burden” on women’s liberty or pose “substantial obstacles” to women who want to have an abortion. This shows one way that pro-life concerns can be accommodated without giving up commitment to women’s liberty.

Some have suggested a moral compromise, such as making abortions legal, but not providing government funding for elective abortions. The idea is that pro-choice advocates should not have to give up legalization, but they should give up policies that would increase the number of abortions. However, the refusal to fund abortions for poor women, when childbirth is funded, creates an almost irresistible pressure on indigent women to carry a child to term and violates the basic liberty of the indigent woman to choose between these alternatives. Therefore, this is not a justifiable means for limiting the number of abortions. Though perhaps a scheme allowing citizens to elect whether or not to put some of their tax money towards funds for abortions would be a legitimate compromise.

Accommodation calls on citizens to promote policies where their principles converge, even if they would otherwise place these policies lower on their list of political priorities. For example, programs that help unwed mothers care for their own children may become more important as areas of mutual agreement.

Mutual respect likely requires institutional changes. Forums of political discussion should be designed to encourage officials to justify actions with moral reasons and give others the opportunity to criticize those reasons. Perhaps legislators, like judges, could explain in writing the basis of their decisions. Another possibility would be to create incentives for reconsidering important moral decisions and policies at regular intervals.

Democracy within the Limits of Reciprocity
Reciprocal democracy accepts the need to promote sustentative moral principles in politics – principles that could become part of a public morality for the society as a whole. In cultivating the virtue of open-minded commitment among citizens and in encouraging an economy of moral disagreement in politics, reciprocity orients citizens and public officials towards a deliberative perspective compatible with continuing moral agreement. The principle of reciprocity supports a political process that promotes moral learning. Deliberative democracy does not require consensus on public policy or constitutional law. Since politics cannot be purged of moral conflict, it seeks a common view on how citizens should publicly deliberate.