Tuesday, June 13, 2006

(Social) Pollution Cleanup

Again with the social pollution! Well, I promised to write about pollution cleanup and I'm going to get to it now. Keep in mind that social pollution can come in two basic flavors: philosophical ideas ("Homosexuality is a sin.") and practical ideas (Work on a Constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.).

Social pollution has four consequences, each of which provides a pretty good reason to be interested in pollution cleanup.

  • Bad policies, social or economic ("bad" meaning ineffective, wasteful, counterproductive, or completely useless)

  • Bad social programs (see previous bullet point)

  • Personal habits - useless ones that waste time, energy, attention develop and spread

  • Harmful beliefs - beliefs that cause problems for individuals, and by extension for society, develop and spread

I've even got some timely examples of the social pollution problem. Some people believe that natural things are better. This is social pollution because the idea is both illogical and counterfactual. A sex education policy that only teaches about STDs and abstinence is probably counterfactual and illogical. Buying identity theft protection is social pollution because the statistical probability of being a viictim is really rather low, as is the likely financial loss.

I only have time now to introduce the elements of a cleanup strategy now. The outline I offer should give you a pretty good idea of how things will work.

1. Assess the damage from the idea in question

2. Look for the source of the pollution

3. Publicize the damage, the cause, and the source.

4. Come up with an alternative

5. Sell the alternative

Next time I'll say more about specific cleanup strategies and tactics, and I'll add some flesh to that bony outline!

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