Sigh… Actually Tim, Australia is still pretty much a blank sheet, waiting for us to terraform into an environment that suits us better. Once we have done so we can sustain anything we want. There is nothing magical about the way it was before we started improving it any more than there is some special quality about its previous desperately unproductive state.
We were a country of nation builders but constant white-anting by the green left has eroded us to a collection of effete worriers, too uncertain to manage a trip to the corner store. That’s not ‘public wisdom’ but societal sabotage.
Australia is currently unsustainable in many respects. Change is coming. Will that change be wisely managed? Or will it be forced upon us in potentially catastrophic ways?
Wise management will require governments at all levels to make lots of decisions, and to make them much more quickly than they have been to date.
In this decision making, public opinion is a critical constraint. For example, an equitable road-use pricing system could solve our congestion problems, but doesn’t stand a chance in the court of public opinion.
Simply put, unless we can improve the relationship between government decision making and public opinion, we’re going to hit the wall. Hard.
Improving it will require, among other things, developing better ways to find out what the public really thinks. We usually assume that what the public thinks can be ascertained using standard opinion polls and surveys. Yet we also understand that those opinions are generally not very thoughtful or informed.
As many have pointed out, respondents are largely ignorant – indeed rationally ignorant – about the issues. Their opinions are subject to manipulation by powerful interests; and their opinions can be “manufactured” by the polling processing itself.
What we should be trying to find out is not the public opinion, in the standard sense, but rather the public wisdom. What would the Australian people think if they had the opportunity to be properly informed, to reflect, and to deliberate together?