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Appealing to mass anxiety

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Protesters gather at the legislature May 2 to show their displeasure with the PST hike.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

Protesters gather at the legislature May 2 to show their displeasure with the PST hike. Photo Store

The emotion manifested in the anti-PST rally (Hundreds jeer NDP's PST hike, May 3) demonstrates the inherent problem in demanding a referendum on any issue. Given the emotions roused around hot-button issues, it is relatively easy to galvanize support on one side or the other by appealing to mass anxiety, anger or frustration.

This not an atmosphere in which to make rational decisions. There is no mystical truth intrinsic to, or revealed in, numerical superiority. In metaphorical terms, getting a majority of the ranchers to lynch the alleged rustler is a simple matter.

As Mark Twain once observed, if you have the fools onside, you have a majority in any town. The best referendum on government actions is best held every four years. It's called an election.

ALAN DUNCAN

Winnipeg

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition May 6, 2013 A8

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