Location: Columbus, Ohio, United States

Monday, February 07, 2005


We have also lost the ability to analyze policy in light of sound Christian or even moral teaching. It seems to me we've lost the ability to analyze policy from any perspective. I believe moral right flows primarily from God and that the nature of any genuine faith is to invite, but that's not what I'm writing about today--before we can choose faith we need to learn to choose. Our capacity for choice is dying. Later we can discuss the role of faith in that guy's life, today I want to talk about a few basic rules to analyze any policy:
1) Everything is complex: If the solution to a problem is ever distilled to a few hard, simple truths, something is being missed. The argument may be compelling, or passionate, or powerful. It's also crap--dig deeper.
2) Everything is simple: Most of the time things happen for fairly simple, organic reasons. Anthropologists describe this as the rule of parsimony--if one must choose between a few alternatives, the simplest one is probably right. As an example Political Scientists struggled to figure out why AIDS rates were so much higher in Thailand than Singapore, despite similar socioeconomic and cultural backgrounds. The answer was because Thai people have more open attitudes toward sex.
3) Follow the money: Budgets are moral documents. People spend on what they value. When looking at a campaign (I'll define this as a set of policies) what items are capitalized. Those are what the leader thinks is important. (According to our family budget I like lacrosse a TINY bit less than Church)
4) Stories Lie: Anecdotal evidence is valuable IF the story teller is fair. It's easy to find an outlyer to underline any point--and if someone is trying to convince you of something they will.
5) Numbers Lie: The larger the number set, the more numbers you can play with to determine spurious, worthless results. You can do this even if you're stupid. In fact, stupid people do this all the time and then they make charts and they show up on the news. Don't be stupid.
6) There are NOT 2 types of people: Left and Right. Christian and Secular. Social Gospel and Fundamentalist. We love opposition. We love dichotomy, and we are often tempted to relegate ideas and beliefs to a side. Don't. Iron does sharpen iron, but you're not always making a sword.
In my opinion what's truly needed is a new voice or even set of voices. Some people say the we therefore need more political parties. That's stupid for two reasons. The less important reason is that 4 of 5 dentist reccomend sugarless gum which means that 1 of 5 dentists is out in crazy sugar gum land, and I don't want him running the machinery. The more important reason is that every significant political change has come from people who influence hearts and minds and let the politicians catch up. When powerful moral leaders jump on to political machinery they realize that money is nice for buying things with, power kind of rocks, sex is way fun, and they lose their moral voice. Jesse Jackson anyone?
We need more voices acting to advocate justice. Ralph Nader would be a creepy president, but he makes products safer and the air cleaner. My international relations profs would suck at balancing the budget, but they can make AIDS happen less. Some economist knows a lot about social security, and I should see him on the news more often. Someone spent the last ten years doing research on what policies make abortion happen less, and he needs to be talking. Better yet all of these people could form a group, and make T-Shirts, and make the wind blow.


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