A Social Pollution Checklist

Maybe complexity is the main reason we don’t try harder to evaluate ideas about social policy, economic policy, crime, the war on terror, global climate change, and other issues.  The issues themselves are also hard to understand. Deciding what we think about the ideas we encounter can be awfully complicated.

Yet, our unwillingness to confront this complexity causes all sorts of social problems. The biggest problem is the production of social pollution. You should know from previous posts that fighting social pollution is a pet cause of mine. But detecting social pollution can be a complicated affair. There must be a simpler way to detect social pollution. Well, maybe…

Here is an 12-question checklist to whip out whenever you read about or hear about some new idea to make society better:

1. Do any of the assumptions behind this idea seem wrong? (Maybe this is only question worth asking. If the assumptions behind some proposed law, policy, or piece of legislation can’t hold up then the idea is probably bovine feces.)

2. Do any of the assumptions contradict the facts? (Perhaps this question is also essential?)

3. Will the idea undermine any of the top 10 human values: family, health and fitness, self esteem, self-reliance, freedom, justice, knowledge, learning, honesty, relationships?

4. Are any facts being misused? (You might also ask yourself if there are any missing facts that are relevant to making a decision about this idea.You could also ask if technical terms, like "theory" or "ecology" are being used correctly.)

5. Does the idea still make sense in light of what you’ve learned from answering the first four questions? (If YES, keep going. If NO, you may as well stop because things will only get worse!)

6.  Is there a cause-effect relationship between the "problem" and the consequences that sparked the idea in question?

7. Is it hard to see how the idea will fix the problem?

8. Are you wondering what the problem is?

9. Is the idea based on research conducted by unnamed experts?

10. Is the solution based on speculation/guesses/something somebody read in the Bible? (A good idea for society will not be based on such lazy thinking!)

11. Are you wondering why the idea would help with the problem?

12. Is the idea being sold based on fear of anything?

This is just a draft of my Social Pollution Checklist. Feel free to offer comments! Try it out and tell me what you think.

Here’s a scoring suggestion: The more YES answers, the worse the idea. If the idea gets 6 or more YES answers, or a YES answer to questions one and two, the idea is social pollution!

The checklist is meant for practical ideas like an immigration reform plan or a specific energy policy. It could be used to audit the partly-baked ideas thrown at us by politicians and talk-show hosts. If you really feel introspective you could use the checklist on philosophical ideas, like marriage and retirement.

(Legal footnote: In the unlikely event that you want to use this checklist for commerical purposes, bear in mind that everything I publish is copyrighted. Contact me for information regarding commercial reuse of my work.) 

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~ by chetdavis on July 15, 2006.

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