An intellectual comment on slash?

February 15th, 2008 Comments Off

Let me preface this comment by saying I am not an American, but an observer of American politics and culture.

It is a sad testament to the strength of anti-intellectualist tendencies in American culture that American politicians tend to have little academic expertise on the issues pertaining to the policies they espouse (e.g. Ted Stevens’ “internet = series of tubes”).

The benefit provided by academic expertise is not simply the number of degrees one acquires, but dialogical engagement with other experts who dedicate themselves to finding fault in arguments (via journals, conferences, etc). Thus, the arguments presented by an academic to the general public may well be bastardized (because simplified) versions of the arguments they would present within academia, but we (the public) can assure ourselves that those arguments could be elucidated in ways that stand up to some level of harsh criticism.

To put one’s faith in the honesty of a politician whose views and arguments arose in an academic setting, then, is a better bet than putting one’s faith in the honesty of a politician who may only be concerned with rhetorically covering up his/her true influences (e.g. pressure by lobbyists or campaign contributions). Lessig for congress is, in my eyes, a good move regardless of how much/little I may agree with him politically. This is simply because the development of his views and arguments is well documented in his books and articles, and with reference to an academic context which is accessible to anyone interested in putting the time into investigating it.

As I see it, this would be a move towards transparency in government, which is a prerequisite for true democracy.