Sunday, May 1, 2011

Separating Means and Ends

I've noticed an ongoing trend in my recent discussions regarding issues in the political process.  Basically, here's what I think: discussions are often clouded when the means to an end are discussed at the same time as the end itself.  When you criticize a plan it's unclear whether you object to the means or the ends, so people can (for instance) accuse you of being soft on terror when all you really think is that basic freedoms shouldn't be abandoned.  Tricky stuff.  You see similar problems with the Fed.  You can't decide whether they're doing a bad job because they picked the wrong goals, or they're doing a bad job because they were shoddy at achieving them.

This post talks at length about the Fed's bad situation here.  Yglesias goes beyond the separation of means and end in his post, but it serves as an important starting point for the discussion.  Last post I spent some time talking about how this particular problem clouds the party lines and makes political discourse difficult. If someone is for a law because of its end they have a hard time communicating with people who are against a law because of its means.

Basically, I think that we need a way to decide on the ends that we, as a country, want to pursue.  We then need to (separately) explore means of achieving those ends.  This can help pin down the disagreements and  prevent at least some of the prevarication that politicians manage.

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