The ever active debate with no vaxxers is but the tip of the iceberg in a wider debate which I am trying to capture under the heading of “Q2V – Qualify to Vote”.
Democracy means literally “rule of the people”: one head, one vote. It assumes those who vote understand what they are voting on, because the previous system (only the elites decide) worked so badly, privileging the few to the expense of the masses.
The imbalance grew so extreme it sparked bloody revolutions, the 1789 on the France being the most egregious example. Democracy essentially replaced the previous system creating a less bloody way to overturn the privileged elites.
And this is essentially what’s happening all across the world: the elites have grown so rapacious, leaving behind so many people that these underdogs are voting for revolutionary candidates who promise to overturn privileges: Trump, Erdogan, Le Pen, Farage, Grillo…
The fact that most of these candidates are in reality the full expression of privilege should not surprise us, nor is particularly new: the French Revolution was bloodshed and anarchy until Napoleon arrived – even after he self-incoronated himself as Emperor, he was “the Son of the Revolution” and enjoyed immense popularity, so strong that even after his military defeat the restored aristocratic rulers did not have the nerve to serve him the death penalty, but preferred an exile in a faraway island.
Look who voted for Trump or Erdogan or Brexit and you see the same picture.
This in itself is not bad, as it gives clear signals to the ruling elites to self-reform themselves and re-balance what’s imbalanced, or else… at a much lower human life cost than a revolution.
The scary extension however is the temptation to defer to popular vote everything: energy policy, space exploration, microbiology, strategic infrastructures, vaccines, cosmology, high-energy particle physics: all these sciences need a degree of divulgation to garner popular support (as they rely on public money to continue their work) and to report back on the results of said monies expenditure, and this divulgation may give the impression people now understand them deeply enough to be able to make decisions.
Richard Feynman was the most egregious divulgator on Physics, as Neil deGrasse Tyson on Cosmology or Roberto Burioni on vaccines: their efforts to make the unwashed masses appreciate the essentials of their sciences should be lauded, but never mistaken for a shortcut replacing many years of hard study. These people are brilliant scientists with a knack for communications, not communicators who took a crash course.
Not all matters should be subject to popular vote, because most of us do not Q2V.