jeudi, juin 09, 2005


Mediocre public debates do not reflect impreparation

When one Brazilian President proposed another reform of the Social Security system, by which again retirement pensions would be cut, he used an odd argument to defend it from critiques: that his proposal was supported by State Governors too, as if this fact could somehow counterbalance or revoke the damage caused to workers who would loose income as they got older. The proposal itself was nothing new: almost every President either cuts pensions or changes the name of the national currency. But the ad hominem argument he used was exceptional in its complete irrelevance and lack of Logic.

The thing is that debates in the political arena have nothing to do with correspondence to the facts or with the formal properness. Politicians discuss issues and presents arguments in a teleological manner: they already have a desired result in mind and everything they say or do in a debate must conduct the action towards such results. If an argument or objection may derail the course of action to a different outcome, then such argument must be either discarded or counter-attacked by any other (valid or invalid argument) that puts the debate back to the direction towards the intended result.

This observation explains why political debates are often intellectually poor and mediocre or even irrational arguments are evoked without shame. But then there is the problem of how does one politician persuade another in such debates? The reason is that no politician actually persuades another. It is the points of views and goals of the most powerful group that prevail, regardless of their merits or demerits. The theses embraced by those with less or even no power are often the ones defeated, even when they the only correct ideas.