Assumptions Can Be Bad

Assumptions can be a real problem when they relate to social policy, ballot initiatives, activism efforts, and legislation. Are the assumptions behind welfare reform, immigration reform, flag burning bans, anti-poverty measures, and drug policy based on sound assumptions. These are the sorts of issues that call for asking some tough questions about our assumptions.

So, what assumptions are problems? I’m glad you asked me! I’ve made a list of some common assumptions about society or human behavior. Sometimes these assumptions are justified, but other time they aren’t.

1. We know where to intervene in a system (like a local economy) to make positive changes.

2. People do what they want to do – see #3..

3. People are willing and able to change their behavior in a particular direction – don’t discount the effects of peer pressure, habit, and fear of change.

4. Lack of money is the problem (EX: our nation’s schools).

5. Lack of motivation is the problem

6. The risks will be managed appropriately by competent people.

7. We understand the potential negative consequences of this decision.

8. People are rational.

9. We understand the real costs and benefits of this proposed action.

Hmm, I wonder how much time and money gets wasted because somebody ignored the need to examine their assumptions before proposing some new idea. (Yes, I know that most legislation and policy is not created through a rational process.)

This suggests a new mission for some free thinking sorts who have some time on their hands. Somebody, perhaps me, needs to "out" the bad assumptions behind ideas proposed by activists, politicians, and talk show hosts. In fact, this could be a good project for a nonprofit organization.

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~ by chetdavis on July 11, 2006.

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