Gary Gutting: Should We Cancel the Election?

Gary Gutting is a professor of philosophy at the University of Notre Dame, and an editor of Notre Dame Philosophical Reviews. Mark Fredrickson found a post of his on the New York Times online opinion pages. The post is set up as a dialog between the author and Socrates. It is a typical mix of valid points and elitist dogma.

SOCRATES: I’m against it.

GUTTING: I see what you mean. It’s going to be nasty, brutish, and long — not to say immensely expensive — but of course if we want a democracy, there’s no alternative.

S: I disagree. You shouldn’t hold the election at all. You should flip a coin instead.

G: You don’t see any difference between Obama and Romney?

S: Oh, I do. I’m very impressed with Obama, no question. He’s intelligent, courageous, self-controlled and has a good sense of justice. Just the sort of person I had in mind for my philosopher-rulers. But none of that’s going to make a difference to the American voters. The election’s likely to be close, and in any case the outcome will turn on the October unemployment report, the price of gas, an Israeli attack on Iran, who has the most money for attack ads in the last two weeks or some other rationally irrelevant factor that you don’t yet have any hint about.

G: But surely you’d prefer to let Obama make his case to the American people rather than let blind chance decide the outcome?

S: I think letting the American people decide is no different from leaving it to chance. The vast majority of you don’t know enough about the issues or the candidates to make anything like a reliable decision. (It was the same in Athens in my day.)
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