Sunday, April 10, 2005

the importance of political expression and discussion

Lonna Rae Atkeson & Ronald B. Rapoport write the following in an article titled: "The More Things Change the More they Stay the Same; Examining Gender Differences in Political Attitude Expression, 1952-2000:"

Although elections set very braod parameters for the direction of politics, perhaps even more important to the formation of public policy is the role of political expression and discussion. It is in the public forum where public policy is formed in open debates as different groups pursue their conception of the public good.

First, let me say that I could not agree more with that statement.

Second, it makes me wonder what "public policies" a sectarian public forum, like Lebanon's, can yield. When different groups compete to prioritize healthcare, tort reform, environmental conservation or economic liberalization, the potential benefits from all of these policies are felt by a country's entire population. So, in a sense, it really doesn't matter which public good comes in first place on a government's priority list, because the resulting benefits can be felt by almost everyone.

When the groups that compete to pursue their different conceptions of public good are sectarian however, that diffusion of potential benefits is limited to members of the 'victorious sect.' And since, every single Lebanese is a member of a sect (versus, for example, lawyers - a small minority of the population), we all become vested interests in a zero-sum political game! What the sunni gains, must come at the expense of the maronite or the shi'ite, etc....

There lies the greatest bane of Lebanese politics. In my opinion, it must change, or else Lebanese history will continue its vicious and bloody cycle!


hummbumm said...

raja, read the naharnet article about the elections in for the beirut engineers association and weep. civil society needs to be strengthened, the engineers society is ovbviously not going to be a lobby for engineers when every leadership memeber has a political and sectarian background. No chance of them ever forming a common platform to push the association's needs and thus prod government.

Raja said...


that's the exact thought that came to my mind when I read the article! I was so furious!!!