Focussing on the importance of tackling specific problems is the key to my claim that in that way we have a much better chance of achieving a broad consensus on what needs to be done in each of those matters. Only such a consensus can lead to that decision being seen as public good, not just a necessary evil.
I further assume that what we want in each case is to get a sound solution to that particular problem. Accordingly I conclude that when it comes to deciding, after full public debate, what is the best solution in the circumstances, the people most likely to reach a good decision are those who, in different ways, are most directly and substantially affected by the outcome. They have to face the actual consequences of a decision. They cannot afford to give too much weight to merely expressive considerations, as people making decisions about public goods are apt to do.
If we care at all about public policy, it is inevitable that we will want it to express the sort of values and aspirations that we would like our social arrangements to exemplify. That is the case in any kind of regime, theocracy, monarchy, aristocracy or democracy. Indeed people accept authoritarian regimes mainly because they think those authorities can deliver the sort of social order they want, because of their religious, social or other beliefs, which all proper members of the community ought to share. The vice of all such authoritarianism is that it substitutes coercion for persuasion, which is the proper driving force of culture. But persuasion is open to change and the orthodox see change as inevitably for the worse
Similarly, many people think that a democratic regime ought to deliver a united social order that embodies the values and aspirations of the people. In a rapidly changing, many-stranded cultural matrix that is a recipe for endless conflict. Even if we give priority to liberty over such other considerations as security of fairness or harmony, there are always particular situations in which most people would agree that some other considerations outweigh liberty. The difficulty is that it is often very hard for those who put expressing their devotion to liberty first to agree with those they suspect of other allegiances. The expressive force attached to particular things is a matter of culture rather than anything that can be pinned down clearly. It is always full of ambiguities and paradoxes.
Cultural beliefs and practices are changing all the time in an open and free society, affecting profoundly the way people behave towards each other in interpersonal relationships. We must resist any attempt to use political matters as a means of controlling cultural change. That may sound platitudinous, but in practice it is very difficult. The two are inextricably intertwined. A great deal of democratic political rhetoric seeks to rally support for political parties on the grounds that the party is devoted to the right values, as opposed to its competitors who are out to undermine them. In such a context particular proposals are chosen, not in view of their specific effects, but because of their imputed symbolism or as instances of some allegedly desirable or undesirable tendency. The results are inevitably disappointing, even to their protagonists.
A decision-process focussed on the concrete outcomes of a proposal is the best hope of avoiding the fallacies and abuses that vitiate expressive politics.