American Politics Reappraised: The Enchantment of Camelot Dispelled

American Politics Reappraised: The Enchantment of Camelot Dispelled

American Politics Reappraised: The Enchantment of Camelot Dispelled

American Politics Reappraised: The Enchantment of Camelot Dispelled

Excerpt

Sacred cows should be poked, kicked, or painted purple-- anything but treated with reverence or deference. We had this thought in mind in writing this book and we hope that the reader as citizen, and as a student of democracy, keeps it in mind now and then. An important difference between an educated and an uneducated person is that the former has some glimmering of what he does not know, the latter often has great difficulty distinguishing between his knowledge and his ignorance. We hope to add just a bit to the stature of the reader by helping him to better understand what is known and what in not known about American democracy and its public policies. This book therefore raises more questions than it answers, because most public policy is adopted in ignorance of its probable results and is not importantly shaped by empirical data.

The problem we face initially is that of defining sacred cows. Most readers probably think we are talking about the Catholic Church, the National Guard, the seniority system in Congress, or the Reverend Norman Vincent Peale. Sometimes we are. But these are really only semisacred cows. They, in fact, get laced into by someone almost every week. The true sacred cows are those honored by the mass media--the kind of people and organizations no one dares challenge lest Tom Wicker and the entire New York Times editorial staff frown and drum the challengers out of the nation's cultured elite. We take our chances and refuse to treat as taboo such free spirits as Garry Trudeau, Hendry David Thoreau, Ralph Nader, the Sierra Club, Consumers Union, or even William F. Buckley, Jr.

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