(Original post by LV Her Husband)
Can you reduce this to a series of propositions that logically follow (in the form of "1. ... 2. ..., 3. therefore, ..., etc" ), just so it's easier for me to follow your logic.
Would it make a difference if only a small minority were affected by oppression, but the suboptimal policies affected a large majority of people? In this case, following a strictly utilitarian view, would it not make sense to accept the suffering of a tiny group for the increased pleasure of the large majority?
The two are inextricably linked; because I would measure policy competency by the quality of life achieved.
How do we measure policy competency? This turns on the ends we choose, which goes back to my initial probing of your post. You are the one making an argument, thus the burden is on you to substantiate it, not on me (in so far as I can substantiate my probing of your logic - as I am not making any positive arguments).
Well, since we are dealing in theoreticals (dealing in empiricism provides far less scope for logical discourse), I think the comparison has to be between (i) a perfect democracy; and (ii) a benevolent dictatorship (e.g. Plato's philosopher kings). In the latter, "benevolence" and competence are assumed.
Sorry, I'm on my phone so I'm just going to have to answer in a series of paragraphs, rather than splitting your post up into smaller quotes. Anyway:
What, specifically, do you not follow with this? What I'm basically saying is that people are generally happier with more civil rights and more freedom to 'choose their own destiny', so to say. An autocrat has no checks to their powers should they decide to take these away. A democracy does, as the government will not be re-elected. Thus, a democracy is a better way than an autocracy to ensure that rights and freedoms are maintained, which means a democracy is the better form of government for ensuring a good quality of life (comparatively - you could argue that democracy is necessary but not sufficient).
If you're talking about following a utilitarian doctrine purely in terms of numbers, then yes - I agree - the suffering of a few would be desirable to maintain the happiness of many. But this disregards the scale of oppression suffered by this minority. Let's say an autocrat introduces policies that leads to economic growth of 5% per year, but decides that all people with green eyes should have no legal rights. On the other hand, a democratically elected government puts policies into practice that lead to economic growth of only 3%, but they cannot oppress people with green eyes because they will not be elected again in the next GE (and parliamentary debate would likely prevent this from happening anyway). This is what I mean when I say "suboptimal policy making". Do you not think that the second situation is preferable? (In both situations, non-green-eyed people (i.e. 'the majority' ) benefit from income growth of 5% and 3% respectively, for the sake of the argument).
Yes, I agree that good policy generally leads to a good quality of life. But suboptimal doesn't have to be bad - just not optimal, and even if it is bad (let's say a 2% economic contraction in the situation above) then it has to be considered with respect to the proportional suffering of the oppressed group. By its very nature, this makes each individual situation to be considered highly variable, and quite frankly we could be here for days making random examples like the one above. You can have suboptimal policy and still have a good quality of life, but an autocrat has no checks on their power to ensure that quality of life is maintained amongst the populous.
My measure of policy competency is simply how close a given policy is to the optimal outcome, given the resources available to achieve that outcome. I didn't mean to come across as confrontational with it, but you appeared to be asking for empirical evidence, so I was just asking how you would measure 'competency' otherwise (since empirical evidence is difficult with the nature of this debate).
I have read The Republic
and I agreed with Plato on many of his points. In theory, a benevolent dictator (who always knows which policies will most benefit society and does not encroach on the rights of the individual) would be preferable to democracy. But I'm trying dealing with a realistic comparison, in which case there is no guarantee of a benevolent dictator being installed. As this is the case, democracy is preferable for the reasons I have stated.
(Just for the record, for a while I was very much in favour of a real life equivalent of Plato's Philosopher Kings being installed in government, but upon further examination I don't think it would be possible in anything but a hypothetical scenario. Also, sorry for any typos since I'm on my phone and this is quite a long post - let me know if a sentence doesn't read well enough to reply to).