Does your opinion count?
December 17, 2010 Leave a comment
Frank Chodorov has a great passage on the quality and scope of opinions in his essay on isolationism:
It has become standard procedure for sociologists and politicians to take opinion polls and to deduce behavior patterns from such data. Yet it is a fact that the subject matters of these polls do not touch on matters in which the questionees are vitally interested but are topics in which the pollsters have a concern. Putting aside the possibility of so framing the questions as to elicit replies the pollsters want, the fact is that the pride of the questionees can well influence their answers. Thus, a housewife who has been asked for her opinion on South African apartheid, for instance, will feel flattered that she has been singled out for the honor and will feel impelled to give some answer, usually a predigested opinion taken from a newspaper editorial; she will not say honestly that she knows nothing about apartheid and cares less. On the other hand, if she were asked about the baking of an apple pie she would come up with an intelligent answer; but the sociologists are not interested in knowing how to bake an apple pie.
The scientist immersed in the laboratory will weigh carefully any question put to him regarding the subject matter of his science and will probably not come up with a yes-or-no answer; but, he is positive that the nation ought to recognize the Chinese communist regime, because he heard another scientist say so. The baseball fan who knows the batting average of every member of his team, on the other hand, will denounce the recognition of the regime because he has heard that the "reds" are no good. The student whose grades are just about passing will speak out boldly on the UN, reflecting the opinion of his professor on that organization. Everybody has opinions on international subjects, because the newspapers have opinions on them, and the readers like to be "in the swim." That is to say, interventionism is a fad stimulated by the public press and, like a fad, has no real substance behind it. If a poll were to be taken on the subject, should we go to war, the probability is that very few would vote for the proposition; yet, war is the ultimate of interventionism, and the opposition to it is proof enough that we are isolationist in our sympathies. A poll on the subject of isolationism — something like "do you believe we ought to keep out of the politics of other nations and ought to let them work out their problems without our interference?" — might bring out some interesting conclusions; but the politicians and the energumens of interventionism would prefer not to conduct such a poll. Our "foreign aid" program has never been subjected to a plebiscite.