Thursday, March 27, 2008

Doing nothing is the new doing something

Trevor points out that a policy of doing nothing is still a policy. Yes! The right one!! My argument was that doing nothing should be the default position that requires very compelling reasons to be overridden. But, even this assumes that we're debating within a framework of comparing costs and benefits (a utilitarian framework), which, when stated explicitly, almost everybody denies they are doing (see points 5 and 6.). I think we have certain rights that may not be overturned by a compelling cost benefit analysis.

An example of this principle that traditional lefties usually accept (and I don't think is much different from other areas we have discussed) is freedom of speech. People defending free speech don't think that every allowed utterance improves society. We know that the right will be used to promote poisonous views, yet the principle of free speech is amazingly well respected in the west. Of course it is periodically challenged by people who think that the harm done by some forms of expression outweighs the benefit of being free to make them. This is a reasonable view, but it is not one that is compatible with the underlying principle (though this is usually denied).

As for me, I don't enter into a cost benefit analysis whenever the argument is presented by the press because of some new outrage.

2 comments:

Trevor Black said...

I will accept that maybe the default position should be doing nothing as long as the default attempt is a VERY honest, enthusiastic atttempt to find a compelling reason to overcome that default and do something.

Apathy is unacceptable.

Fence Sitting is acceptable if you are making an effort to decide which way to climb off the fence.

Stuart said...

"as long as the default attempt is a VERY honest, enthusiastic atttempt to find a compelling reason to overcome that default and do something."

You can count me out.