Columns

Reynolds ’17: Towards a united public opinion

By
Staff Columnist
Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Recently, I have begun to think more deeply about what I believe politically. This year I will be voting in my second presidential election, and I have changed a lot as a person since the last. I hope that any student planning on voting gives their political beliefs similar thought. Some might not find this all that important, especially given how out-of-touch most politicians seem. (I believe this has helped lead to the respective successes of U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-VT, and Donald Trump.) But one of the most crucial things people can do is understand what they personally believe good policy choices are and would be because then they can start to find patterns in these opinions and realize their core values and beliefs.

Many people agree on much more than they would think. This is partly why I am trying so hard to be a better listener this semester. When we all feel encouraged to say what we really think, understand and discuss rather than argue and disregard and build on ideas rather than tear them down, we can find our common core beliefs.

When we all feel encouraged to say what we really think, understand and discuss rather than argue and disregard and build on ideas rather than tear them down, we can find our common core beliefs.

That sounds a little “kumbaya, everyone should love each other,” and some people probably doubt that we all agree on much. But there is no harm in trying it out, and if we can come to a common ground, the rewards could be astronomical. As Timothy Walker once said, “public opinion is the opinion of millions. This is the power which creates a usage and the only power which can overthrow it.” In other words, we the people probably cannot change something unless we come to a common public opinion. And because some things need to change, it’s important that we come to a consensus.

For this reason, I want to use this column as a platform to try to create a common public opinion. To be clear, I do not want everyone to agree with me and move on; rather, I want to start a discussion about what we believe our society — and by extension our government — should be like. If you disagree, please respond telling me why, and we can try to figure out how to reconcile both of our beliefs and hopefully find a better idea that satisfies us both. If you agree with something I write, please let me know, and please tell other people; they may agree as well. Either way, we will all be helping to create public opinion. If we get lucky, some idea may get a lot of momentum and spread to other places as well.

For the most part, I lean libertarian. I believe that if a truly libertarian society played out in the right way, then society would be perfect. Everyone would find what they are best at, find a place that needs their skills and use it in their work. Markets would reach equilibrium.

But at our core, most people want this kind of society — a society where everyone gets what they need by pulling their own weight. I personally envision this happening without a lot of government interference, but even a believer in big government probably agrees with the central idea about the kind of world we seek. After all, most people like the idea of everyone earning what they need through hard, honest work; this is essentially wanting everyone to see success without taking advantage of others.

So let’s figure out how we can push this common goal. One way that comes to mind is to simply push for better government. At times we have a dialogue that turns into one side scrambling to gain any government growth possible and the other trying to stop it all costs. This compromise would require small government-minded people like me to stop thinking of all government expansion as evil. It also requires proponents of a larger government to stop thinking of all additional government services as good. This will be difficult, but if we agree to expand the government, but only when fully convinced that it will run efficiently and controllably, then I think both sides of this issue can be happy. Most importantly, this hard to do, so we all have to create public opinion that supports and creates well-run programs. If we do this, hopefully two opposing sides can come together to level the playing field without burning money or promoting tyranny.

George Reynolds ’17 can be reached at george_reynolds@brown.edu.

Please send responses to this opinion to letters@browndailyherald.com and other op-eds to opinions@browndailyherald.com.