A primary principle of capitalistic economic theory suggests that efficiency and specialization directly correlate. It gives way to the import and export system- one country, region, area, sector, whatever it may be specializes in the production of a specific good or idea and then becomes an expert. This person or group of people is then able to analyze information or create a good at a faster rate than someone who is not an expert. Therefore, more goods can be produced or ideas thought in less time. I have qualms with this theory, many of which have to do with the definition of efficiency and how much you are willing to accept it as a guise for corruption, but alas that is for another day and another post.
The largest problem that I have with this economic principle is that it is viewed as universal. We took one idea that allowed bananas to be distributed worldwide at all times of the year, in mass quantities and have applied it to our distribution of information and formulation of opinions. We have allowed and even encouraged the rise of information gatekeepers. They specialize in investigating information and relaying it to the public at large. They are “experts” and they have an exorbitant amount of power in dictating what types of issues are discussed or deemed important enough to think about. We all remember the 24 hour looped recaps and rushed conclusions spewed on countless networks after the Boston bombings or the countdown clocks to the governmental shutdown that have risen in popularity over the past few days.
However, not only do we have gatekeepers of information but of opinions too. Not only are we too busy to seek out information for ourselves but to even think about the information that we are given and formulate our own opinion is a hassle. We are constantly bombarded and influenced by buzzwords and convince ourselves that because an opinion gatekeeper is an “expert,” their opinions are the most informed and thus we should adopt them as our own.
People are too busy for politics. It is not their field, their area of expertise, and so they elect someone who they deem to be enough like them to make all of the decisions for them. ALL OF THE DECISIONS. That is really what we do? We watch interviews and debates during election season, hear a slew of vague answers, and decide to vote for the person who is the perfect mix of Ivy League prestige and hometown charm. We elect someone based off of personality and charisma and expect them to represent us equally in all issues that government touches, which are all issues, the environment, gun control, banking, agriculture, healthcare, the list goes on. One person, an expert in all of that? That is ridiculous. And because many people’s political participation stops at elections, they view that fact that Congress is composed of a bunch of goons who think “shutting down the government” ie- refusing to fulfill their largest responsibility of passing a budget, is the voters’ fault. If only we had elected a different person this would not have happened. No. If only one person was not given so much trust and power and blind faith to represent thousands of people for future issues that cannot be foreseen at election time, then we might have different outcomes. They do it without even the threat of getting slapped on the wrist by their employers ie- their constituents. Even though Congress’s approval rate is laughably low their incumbency rate remains high. And we ask- how can this exist?
The answer lies in the opinion gatekeepers, we may see politicians as dirty scoundrels but the Hannitys, O’Reillys, and even the Stewarts (I hate to lump you with them Jon, I’m sorry, I still love you.) are relatable, looking out for the little man and “explaining” the rhetoric and legislative language that politicians use to confuse us. Yet they attempt to find clarity with even thicker rhetoric and incredibly simplistic representations of issues as a means to persuade us to adopt the opinions that they present.
It is insulting. The stereotypical ignorant American is not a naturally frequent phenomenon or at least it does not speak to their inability to comprehend issues but rather their choice not to. People have the intellectual capacity to think logically about areas more complex than what is debated on Crossfire, to see through the asinine blame game of a two-party political system but because it is not their area of expertise, they choose not to. Generally, they are consumed and exhausted by their field- their 9-5 followed by soccer practice carpool- to find the drive to analyze more information. There is a vested interest in making it convenient for these citizens to not have to think and to regurgitate predigested answers to political questions instead. There is a vested interest in keeping people engulfed in whatever area of which they are an expert and to leave the thinking and opinion forming to someone else.
Politics is not an area of expertise, not something you can pass off as a subject matter that you do not wish to understand. It cannot be ignored and left to someone else to digest. Political participation in this country is not just a right but a duty, one that many have been neglecting while simultaneously asking- how did we get into this mess? The dysfunctionality of the political system stems from the apathy of those who control it, the citizens. As long as we remain content with forfeiting our opinions to gatekeepers rather investigating the situation ourselves, we cannot expect anyone to be held responsible. We are just as guilty of irresponsibility. It is time that we stop outsourcing the mass production of opinions. It is time that we resume thinking for ourselves.