Friday, September 30, 2005

Social Problems and Ideas

What are the social consequences of ideas? Ideas support both the problems that we perceive in society and the positive aspects of any society. (And you thought everything was the will of the gods I suppose!) Anyway, consider some of the general consequences of bad ideas:

Wasted money - Have you paid for a service that will help protect you from identity theft?
Wasted time - Have you ever participated in a multi-level marketing business?
Environmental degradation - Who cares, I'll be dead before things get too bad! Right?
International Crises - Do you think people really choose to become suicide bombers?
Public health crises - How many kids on Ritalin really need it?
"Structural" Problems - Do you generally trust the leaders of big businesses like IBM?

So, what are the ideas here? And why do they count as social pollution?

The world is swarming with dishonest and dangerous people; we must take responsibility for protecting ourselves and our families.
If you find the right opportunity you can "make it big" without great risk and great effort.
It is reasonable for me to care only about my own interests.
Decision making is rational.
A drug won't be widely prescribed unless it is safe, effective, and necessary.
We can't trust the powerful, so we have to be on our guard against them at all times.

The first statement is simply not supported by actual crime statistics and crime trends, at least for most crimes and most parts of the United States. The second statement goes against the experience of most successful people in the world. The third statement undermines values like social connectedness and honesty. The fourth, fifth, and sixth statements are counterfactual. Decison making is not rational in an absolute sense. Drugs are used for social control, convenience, and because of marketing campaigns. We only hear about the trouble-makers in business and government. The perception of corruption and amoral decisionmaking that we have could be the result of manipulation by people with political agendas.


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