LETTER: No need to ask all
It would be unfair to expect the public to assess complex policy proposals
Prof Steven Friedman’s column (Seeking Public Comment Will Just Raise the Usual Noises, September 4) on finance minister Tito Mboweni’s economic policy proposal seemed to rely on a fundamental misunderstanding of the way modern political systems operate.
Such systems operate by a combination of direct and representative democracy. It is up to the representatives of the people to deliberate and assess complex policy proposals, such as Mboweni’s economic policy paper, which draws upon many of the proposals of the national development plan (NDP) of 2012, and to receive and incorporate in its deliberations the input from civil society, organised interest groups such as business and labour, and concerned citizens.
It would be unfair to ask the public at large to become policy experts or to expect them to have the time and will to gather the relevant information, assess it carefully and reach a considered judgment.
In a modern society with a complex division of cognitive labour and political institutions such as parliamentary committees entrusted with the discussion and evaluation of complex policy proposals, it is neither necessary nor desirable to ask ordinary citizens to become involved in the assessment of complex policy issues, or to become themselves policy experts.
Maurizio Passerin d’Entreves
Professor emeritus, UCT