02 February, 2005

Democracy: a polite fiction?

Bob Harris links to an amazing document, a Republican guide written for Senators and Representatives on how to sell social security privatization. Now, unfortunately I think this whole social security question is boring as all get-out; if you want the scoop on that, you should visit A Tiny Revolution, where my man Jonathan Schwarz is kicking up a regular Social Security Shit Storm. But the text is fabulous reading for other, anthropological reasons. Check out this paragraph, from a list of recommendations on how to talk to your constituents:
Keep the numbers small: Your audience doesn't know how trillions and billions differ. They know these numbers are large, but not how large nor how many billions make a trillion. Boil numbers down to "your family's share." Also avoid percentages; your audience will try to calculate them in their head–no easy task while listening to a speech–and many will do it incorrectly.

and, maybe more incredible, in a different vein:
Don't say, "Social Security lifts seniors out of poverty": People don't appreciate all that Social Security does, and believe that despite the program, many seniors are still in poverty. Instead, talk about how Social Security is a "floor of protection" that keeps seniors out of the most dire circumstances.

This isn't really what I imagine when I hear the word "democracy": the people are venal and ignorant; fortunately, they can be guided like cattle to the correct line of thinking that their leaders have determined. Ugh. +4 cynicism for me.

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