8 February, 2015
Self and Society The debate between Walter Lippmann and John Dewey is based on whether or not the public has the capability to to learn how to govern itself correctly in a democracy. Dewey had a great faith in the public's capacity, while Lippmann was skeptical of the public's policy-making ability. I think that both of these arguments hold water and a combination of the two is what is needed in order to form an effective democracy. Lippmann contends that the masses are naturally and structurally unable to form intelligent, democratic publics. Lippman advocates that the masses have a basically passive role in the democratic process as spectators rather than participants, whose sole responsibility is to choose between one of two parties with few general differences. Lippmann argues that the main crisis of democracy is not too little of it, but too much democracy. He believes the solution for this crisis is to redistribute intelligence and the critical agency of political decisionmaking away from the masses and toward a centralized body of intelligent elites. Lippmann wants a democratic elitism system with as few participants as possible. John Dewey on the other hand, writes that an informed public is not only possible, but necessary for not only the development and progression of a truly democratic state, but the end goal of the democratic state as well, and that the only way to achieve this is through a truly participatory democracy. The main problem that Dewey says there is, is creating and maintaining this well informed public. He believes that a democracy can be a form of education as well as a government; but he does admit that a flaw in our current democracy is that it maintains an uninformed and ignorant public. I agree with both Lippmann and Dewey on parts of their arguments for an effective democracy and how the public should be involved in it. My first reaction is to want to be on Dewey’s side and believe that the public can be educated and informed enough to have a significant and positive impact on our government and create as pure a democracy as possible, but I just can not. With the media as it is, and people being as close-minded and ignorant to many things going on around them I do not see a scenario where the public is educated and informed to the point where everyone has a part in our government. Every piece of information that is conveyed to the public has some sort of bias to it. It is very hard for people to create their own original opinions about politics and events going on in our society, and as such they cannot be considered as properly educated or informed. I do however agree with Dewey that the public still deserves to have as large a part as possible in government. A democracy is a government made by the people, for the people, and should be run as such.
In addition, I also agree with Lippmann that we should have the most intelligent people in our country run our government. The term he uses, “elites” kind-of scares me because it sounds like a caste system but I understand what he is getting at. Our most educated and experienced individuals in our society should trusted to make the best decisions for the public. I still believe