We Live In Public Essay

We Live In Public Essay-84
If George III was the author of this piece, then it provides a valuable perspective on his attitude to his subjects, his apparent faith in a reasonable alignment between public opinion and the good of the nation.

If George III was the author of this piece, then it provides a valuable perspective on his attitude to his subjects, his apparent faith in a reasonable alignment between public opinion and the good of the nation.

All three varieties of opinion are reassuringly guided by self-interest, but the nature of such self-interest naturally varies in each instance.

The public, according to the author, occupies itself with matters of general concern – ‘Politics, War, Legislation, Arts & Sciences’ – though in doing so it is prone to celebrate mediocre and accessible talents over exceptional and remote ones.

To do so was to sidestep the awkward questions of who the public actually was, how its opinion could be accurately gauged and what currency it would acquire if it ever were.

It is in relation to these questions and the general ambiguity of the concept that the ‘Essay on Public Opinion’ (GEO/ADD/32/1064-70) is particularly informative.

Cecil & Sully were only serviceable to their respective Countrys.

It may be urg’d that as the Public in their judgements only consults interest, the labourer & Ploughman ought to go before the Historian, Poet, Mathematician; to this we must observe that Public esteem is an imaginary treasure demanding a very wise & cautious distribution to make it of real Value, it must not therefore be lavish’d on work every man is capable of, grown common it would lose its imaginary Virtue, would no longer animate men to great & glorious undertakings; the public therefore wisely esteems the Art of Agriculture & not the Artist, besides is things otherwise equal as to utility, ^ public esteem is ever proportion’d to the difficulty attending them; a Stone Cutter furnishes the materials for building & without him an Architect would be useless, but every man is capable of quarrying Stone, few have a genius for fine Architecture, as it fares with Authors, one Single original problemn of Newton, a play of Home’s gains more applause than a Compilation of many Volumes in Folio like Gronovius’s Antiquitys, Historical Dictionarys & c.

The reason is not that the public is oblivious to its own needs, but that it considers some people replaceable whereas others are not.

As modern readers, we may well be appalled by the blunt, mercenary logic of this argument, but at its heart is a surprisingly useful and progressive idea: that public opinion, however vaguely defined, might be appreciated for its discrimination and its insight without its dictating the entire structure of society.

Transcription provided is the raw transcription, initial product of student transcribers. Download full raw transcription: RA GEO/ADD/32/1064_1070_Raw Transcription (pdf).

As individuals generaly judge of persons & things from selfinterestd motives, so to private societys so do the public but the public judgements & that of particular Societys are different; the public have for objects, polities, War, legislation, Arts & Sciences; tho these concern every individual; yet they are but slightly esteemed, compard with those ideas that regard immediately the particular interest of each Society, such as its taste, liking, aversions, projects, pleasures, from hence it follows that a man who has acquir’d many ideas of this last kind, will be greatly esteemed by the Societys he frequents, but in the eyes of the public whether he exerts his talents ina great Office or in writing, he will not meet with great admiration from the public.

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