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And, yes, I DO take it personally: The essence of freedom is an informed citizenry empowered by critical thinking
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Saturday, April 02, 2011

The essence of freedom is an informed citizenry empowered by critical thinking

as i am moving slowly here in dubai of a sunday morning and contemplating boarding the flight to kabul, i am reading glenn's post on the trust we blindly are expected to place in our elected leaders, in this case, obama...
I don't dispute that trust plays some proper role in deciding for whom one will vote. Part of the reason I advocated for Obama's election over John McCain's is because I believed -- and still believe -- that Obama was much smarter, more thoughtful, more intellectually open, and more knowledgeable than McCain. That Obama is very intelligent is not reasonably disputable, at least not in my view.

But there are other vital attributes that determine the quality of decision-making besides intellect: courage is one; an ability to form (and a willingness to defend) moral and ethical convictions is another; genuine empathy for others is still another. An amoral, cowardly, unprincipled genius is likely to make worse decisions than a stalwart, principled, moral person of average intelligence. That said, whatever factors one assesses, it's certainly legitimate -- when it comes to elections -- to form comparative preferences for politicians based on the trust one has in their decision-making ability.

But that's in a different universe than deciding that -- once they're in power -- you're going to relinquish your own critical faculties and judgment to them as a superior being ... .


But "thinking" that way is an absolute abdication of the duties of citizenship, which compel holding leaders accountable and making informed judgment about their actions ... . It's also dangerous, as it creates a climate of unchecked leaders who bask in uncritical adoration.


Even the most magnanimous leaders -- perhaps especially them, given their belief in their own Goodness -- are likely to veer into serious error, corruption and worse if they are liberated from a critical citizenry. Mindlessly cheering for a politician -- or placing trust in their decision-making -- is understandable a couple of months before an election when you've decided their re-election is important. But it's wildly inappropriate any other time. And subordinating your own critical faculties to a leader's is, at all times, warped, self-destructive and dangerous
why in god's green earth would one want to uncritically trust one's leaders without reservation...? the myth that they have some inherent superiority in their ability to analyze situations and make correct decisions is just that, a myth... might they have access to information we don't...? sure... might they be pretty smart cookies...? damn, i would hope so... but completely subordinating our ability to make sense out of what's going on and arrive at intelligent conclusions is abandoning the essence of our power as human beings, a power we abdicate at our great peril...

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