Directions for Social Welfare in Canada: The Public's View

Directions for Social Welfare in Canada: The Public's View

Directions for Social Welfare in Canada: The Public's View

Directions for Social Welfare in Canada: The Public's View

Excerpt

A useful justification for this study was furnished by two academics who were impatiently trying to explain to me that it has no justification.

"Why? Why do this study?" demanded one, a social planner whose apparent mission is to protect the academic purity of policy research. When I suggested that the public might have a valuable contribution to make on directions for social welfare in Canada, he smiled at me tolerantly. Perhaps, he conceded, a poll could be conducted and the results used by a political party, say the NDP, to manipulate public opinion. But then why not just turn the project over to a polling agency?

His companion, a self-described "hired gun" of social research (a self- contradictory concept) added that the public's opinions are deter mined mainly by what it saw the previous evening on television. If this happened to be a touching case of physical disability the public is all for supporting the disabled. If it happened to be a grisly murder case, what a pollster will get the next day is a demand for tough crime control. But what about reliability? And after all, what good is such data?

It was clear that my critics were identifying the general public with the stock character "John Q. Public," who is impulsive, easily swayed by images on television, and hardly capable of serious analysis of public policy issues. It follows from this image of the public that we must rely on another stock character, the "wise and informed professional," to protect us from the impulsive fluctuations of public opinion. Public opinion is to be manipulated and controlled, not looked to for guidance.

At this point I realized that my critics might have identified a useful pair of stock characters, but with their roles reversed. One can make a . . .

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