How to Fight Social Pollution

Here we go again. The world is full of ideas on global claimate change, immigration, education, alternative energy, poverty, mankind’s place in the natural order, blah, blah, blah. Those who follow my blogs know about my interest in fighting ideas that are counterfactual, illogical, or destructive of widely-held human values.

The time before last, I posted a checklist that you could use to test ideas. I assumed that the world needed a set of objective criteria to evaluate ideas.  (Yeah, I know the checklist isn’t truly objective because you have to make judgement calls about some things. Don’t get all fancy on me!)

I just had a few new thoughts on social pollution, thoughts that should be added to any checklist. Here are four questions you may want to consider:

1. Do the assumptions behind this idea make sense, meaning that they are factual and/or logical?

2. Who will benefit from this idea? (An obvious follow-up question: Who bears the costs of this idea?)

3. Are the people who benefit/will benefit pay the costs are passing the costs to others?

4. Has the problem really been identified, in a concrete way? If the "problem" is that some behavior goes agains God or nature, then the idea is probably nonsense. (A real problem statement is something like "Teen suicide has been increasing for the past four years. We need to do ____________ to reverse this terrible trend.")

I think these four questions could also apply to philosophical ideas like marriage, retirement, self-determination, and democracy. We may not like the results. But, we need to do these sorts of exercises to develop better ideas!

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~ by chetdavis on July 18, 2006.

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