Objecting to Situations

September 11th, 2012
In several conversations recently I've been frustrated by people trying to convince me that some situation is bad: global warming is out of control, housing is too expensive, single parenting is harmful to children. The problem is that situations are really only good or bad in comparison to alternatives. What does it mean that housing should be cheaper? There isn't a world we can get to with some simple change that is just like ours but with cheaper housing. Instead we'd need some legal or social changes, such as removing zoning restrictions, instituting rent control, or expanding housing vouchers. Any of these would have positive and negative effects, with their overall value depending on much more than simply whether cheaper housing is good.

You can take this too far: "Why are we debating housing policies when we aren't in a position to implement them? Why don't we only discuss options available to us, like donating to PACs, writing our representatives, or canvassing in person?" You do still need to figure out whether some alternate world would be worth working for, which is one component in what actions you should take yourself. But its not enough to convince me that global warming is an extremely serious threat to humanity without making the companion arguments for what the world should be doing to stop it and what I should be doing to make that happen.

(Because social programs tend not to work, the main hurdle isn't establishing that a program's goal is worthy but instead that it's moving us toward its goal.)

Comment via: google plus, facebook

Recent posts on blogs I like:

Pay For Fiction

Against piracy

via Thing of Things February 29, 2024

When Nurses Lie to You

When the nurse comes to give you the flu shot, they say it won't hurt at all, right? And you trust them. Then they give you the shot, and it hurts! They lied to you. A lot of nurses lie to children about shots and blood draws. Part of it is they probabl…

via Lily Wise's Blog Posts February 28, 2024

How I build and run behavioral interviews

This is an adaptation of an internal doc I wrote for Wave. I used to think that behavioral interviews were basically useless, because it was too easy for candidates to bullshit them and too hard for me to tell what was a good answer. I’d end up grading eve…

via benkuhn.net February 25, 2024

more     (via openring)