Controlling Nuclear Weapons: Democracy Versus Guardianship

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Controlling Nuclear Weapons: Democracy Versus Guardianship

By Robert Dahl
Syracuse University Press, 1985
113 pp. $14.95

This is not a new plan for arms control but an inquiry as to whether democratic institutions can cope with the major problems of public policy today. Robert Dahl, dean of American political scientists, points out that decisions on nuclear weapons (or disposal of nuclear waste, reactor safety or industrial pollution, to cite a few examples) are too complex and technical for the average citizen; yet if they are turned over to an elite of experts or "wise men" or guardians, there is no guarantee that those men will have the moral and other qualities needed to serve the public good-delegated power in these circumstances tends to become alienated power. Dahl has a partial answer, if perhaps an over-optimistic one: make use of the new communications technology to raise the level of public knowledge and understanding. The entire argument is well presented and well worth reading.

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