The information needs of democracy

I have written an article analyzing what kind of information voters need in order for the democratic process to function according to the norm, and whether the mass media can satisfy these requirements.

You can see my draft at http://www.agner.org/cultsel/informationneeds.pdf.

I would like to hear your comments and suggestions before I submit my article to a peer-reviewed journal.

*Please note I am writing this as I read your article so you may already point this out.

So far, I think that the article is great… I am learning quite a bit here. :stuck_out_tongue:

a few things you might consider harping on. When a candidate runs for office, assuming he or she presents a platform, invariably, each plank will often required specialized knowledge or increased access to information for voters to properly formulate what one might consider “an informed opinion”. Mass media is a very poor tool in providing information concerning each and every individual issue. Just going by my own personal experience, often when a candidate is being discussed,individual issues are lumped together (with some being ignored).

This is a very good point. I think you should go even further and argue that, if individuals in the media all operated according to cost benefit analysis as it is sometimes assumed that voters might, then there is really no reason to assume that individuals in the media will provide anything but slanted material. You leave it to be inferred, but I believe it should be clearly stated. Perhaps you could then extrapolate the recent upsurge in claims of media bias on both sides of the political spectrum.

Under Deliberative Models you wrote

By general agreed criteria do you not basically imply majority opinion? if so, how do you rectify that with this statement?

For example, what if a minority holds a position that is generally regarded as socially unimportant, the media is then under no obligation to inform the majority of the Minority’s position. nor the resultant complaints that will fester over time as the minority in question continues to go ignored.

Anyway, minor quibbles. I enjoyed the article very much. Thank you.

Thanks for your comments.

You found a weak spot in my argument. The public agenda is a limited resource and there are differing opinions on what should have high priority on the agenda. I tried to evade this question because I can’t see any solution that everybody can agree on. You have to make a compromise between issues that are important to the majority and minority issues.

I hear you ask, who should make this compromise? Now we are back to the basic question on who should control the media. The worst solution is government censorship. The second worst solution is the invisible hand of market competition. The solution that has worked best in practice is the European model with some kind of independent nonprofit institution.

Another dilemma in my theory is my reliance on experts. Some people may call this paternalism, but I really don’t see any other solution. There is no way an individual voter can have an informed opinion on every one of the complex issues that come up. A voter who doesn’t understand a particular issue properly is very vulnerable to manipulation. Then it is better to have experts discuss publicly and let the voter follow the expert that he/she trusts the most. A deceptive or incompetent expert would most likely be exposed if media allow disagreeing experts to voice their criticism.