Helping People Make Better Decisions(r)

Voters, politicians, consumers, activists, managers and the rest of us all make choices regularly. We make choices about legislation (Shall I vote for it or against it?), where to live, what car to buy, what politicians to vote for, whether to bother voting at all, and a bunch of other stuff. You get the picture.

My topic for the past two posts has been the common human question "What should I do?" and the ways in which our answers depend on much more than free will. Now I want to offer a few (potentially) practical thoughts and put this subject to bed.

My ideas relate to creating a social environment where people are encouraged to make better decisions. One of the big influences on decisions is what sociologists call the "generalized other" – a fancy term for the cultural expectations and judgements that we’re exposed to throughout life. Our childhood is another important factor in our decision making.

So, here are six suggestions for creating a social environment that encourages better decision making.

1. Create and promote new ideas -specifically, we need people who can create and sell new decision rules, like the rule about avoiding synthetic chemicals or the rule about never taking "hot" stock tips.

2. Boycott men’s and women’s lifestyle magazines – I never read the women’s magazines, but the men’s magazines tend to promote fantasy images of what a man’s body, sex life, income, and wardrobe should be like. I suspect that the equivalent women’s magazines are just as harmful.

3. Advertising regulations – Libertarians please don’t read this! We should ban AL:L advertising for alcohol, tobacco, and gambling.The net effects on society of those three things are so negative that we should not allow companies to market them through the usual channels. That brings me to …

4. Banning product placements – Companies should not be allowed to place their alcohol and tobacco products in movies.

5. Critical thinking skills – teach ’em in school

6. Moral education – GASP! CHOKE! Yes, I think kids should be taught to understand widely held human values (like freedom and family), why those values are so common, and how they can be undermined by our personal decisions, by corporations, by governments, by religions, and by secular interest groups.

So, your homework assignment is to take one of my six ideas and make something happen! I’ll expect to see a progress report monthly beginning on 11/04. 

(r) Obviously, the (r) is a joke here! I can’t register some generic-sounding blog title. Or can I?

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~ by chetdavis on October 3, 2006.

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