March 31, 2006

Will democracy destroy the planet?

Posted in Democratising Britain at 2:10 am by David Gould

Focus groups have become a fundamental tool of politicians ever since Bill Clinton defeated George Bush. The same tactics were used by John Major in his 1992 victory and Tony Blair until at least 2001.

Focus groups were originally solely a tool of marketeers. Edward Bernays, Freud’s nephew, invented them to find out how to satisfy mostly-unconscious fears and desires (MUFD) with products.

Politicians found the best way to get elected was to satisfy MUFD of swing voters with spin.

Here’s the problem – our MUFD are often our least enlightened attributes eg greed, self-importance, fear of immigrants etc. If Government policies exclusively pander to MUFD, the country goes downhill extremely quickly.

One slight reprieve is that swing voters’ MUFD vary. Blair found that New Labour got blamed for the problems with the railways, even though they didn’t feature in the same voters’ MUFD a year earlier.

Can spin fill the gap between sensible policy and catering for our MUFD?

Let’s recap

Governments in democracies are (re-)elected for anticipating and satisfying voters’ MUFD either with spin or actual policies.

Now, when will voters’ MUFD start reflecting the urgent need to cut CO2 emissions? Probably only when the media makes them feel guilty about it. Why would the media want to do that? The BBC might, as it doesn’t have to worry so much about losing sales. The Independent too, as it occupies a niche for people who feel they ought to know about such things.

But the rest don’t.

Therefore, democracies tend to elect governments who, while paying lipservice, avoid making voters pay for protecting the environment until it’s too late.


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