Math and Democracy: A Multi-dimensional Ethical Dilemma (1)

PUBLIC participation in public policy making is the inevitable in this democratic era, more than everything. Whatever public policies will make, such as, central or local regulations (Undang-undang or Perda), budget allocations (APBN/D), or government’s programs and projects, all asking public opinion and interest groups accommodation as the requirement of democratic public policy making process. Isn’t it too much? We have academic paper for all policies made; we have so many experts, scientists, and professionals, are they irrelevant in this policy process? There are so many universities, profit and non-profit institutions which provide policy analysis as well, are they useless in this ‘political’ process?
THIS issue, actually, is the reflection of unfinished debate between positivism and post-positivism in public policy. Post-positivism prosecutes positivism as anti-democratic paradigm, because they are technocratic and use to many complicated mathematical and numerical language that cannot clearly understood by common people. Only elite-educated people know about this fancy policy process and language, therefore it harms democratic ethics. On the other hand, modern-positivism belief that their idea more friendly to democracy, because they have objectivity. Through this objectivity, policy process become more standardize and measurable. Therefore, no political interest or personal/group preference will be able to dictate the policy. Which one is true?

Multi-dimensional Dilemma

Laswell’s “policy scientist of democracy” model is the reflection of his dream which resulted from his sadness of elitism in policy process (Farr, et. all, 2006). Elitism in public policy process is anti-democratic, therefore we have to against it as hard as we could. This is the first dimension of the dilemma, which is post-positivism strongly belief that positivist and its mathematical logic and its numerical language is the cradle of elitism. This idea supported by the facts that in the real world, especially in Indonesia, there are so many more people who life in the very low level of education rather than well educated ones. Positivism makes public policy process merely belongs to technocrat, elite bureaucrat and small number of politicians, but not the people. For example, when our government increase fuel and gas price, how many people in Indonesia know the mathematical calculation of this policy? Therefore, how many people know whether or not this policy choice gives profit to most of the people or just for few numbers of elite?

In contrary, positivism accuses post-positivism as the prime cause of elitism. The reason is, if we do belief that policy process is similar with political process so public policy is the result of political conflict of interest competition. Say that competition is ended by win-win solution, but still that was lead elitism in the policy product. Why? Because the people who compete in the last round or made the compromise in the last stage is not all people, but only few elite people. As David Kirp said, post-positivism makes public policy has drawn in pessimism over instrumentalist optimism, passion over reason, and media sound bites over reasoned political discourse (Shullock, 1999). Who will take advantage from this anarchy situation? Elite! for example…. (?)

by Fadillah Putra
1st year LBJ School of Public Affairs Student University of Texas at Austin

To Be Continue

Math and Democracy: A Multi-dimensional Ethical Dilemma (1)

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