Detailed Practical Proposals

June 6th, 2014
ideas, law
I want more detailed practical descriptions of proposed policies. Too many of our political debates are just discussed at an abstract level, when details are actually really important.

Take the interview with Selma James going around facebook on the Wages for Housework campaign. She talks about the benefits of paying people, the moral obligation to pay people, even where the money would come from, but not how the money would be distributed. So now I'm wondering who would get paid what?

  • If I spend an hour washing dishes does the government pay me an hour of minimum wage?
  • What if I wash them badly, or someone else could wash them twice as fast?
  • What if I only dirtied them so I could get paid to wash them because I need the work?
  • If I want to buy a dishwasher and use that instead will the government pay for that?
  • What if instead of a dishwasher I want the government to buy me disposable dishes?
These questions become even tricker when we look at a kind of caring work that is more different from the kind people generally get paid to do:
  • If I spend the night waking up every two hours doing night feedings for a newborn how many hours did I work?
  • Did I work the whole night, because I couldn't do anything else with that time?
  • Did I only work during the time I was awake and actively caring for them?
  • Should I be paid extra because it's so unpleasant to have sleep this interrupted?

As I said when asking for similar details about poly marriage, it's not that these questions can't be answered, it's just that I haven't been able to find advocates answering them. If you're promoting a policy, whether I'm going to support it depends on whether I think it will make us all better off, which for policies like this depends hugely on the details.

(For example, in this case I have a lot of trouble seeing how this could work as a wage with money exchanged for work tasks, but I do see how a guaranteed minimum income could accomplish many of the same goals.)

And a potential bonus: when people consider the detailed implementation of policies they tend to become less extreme in their support for them, and less sure of their understanding. [1]


[1] Political Extremism Is Supported by an Illusion of Understanding, 2013 (pdf, via Hanson).

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