Means and ends

An activist proposes a solution to some problem – pollution, let’s say, just to keep it simple. The activist says “Environmental pollution is a problem. We must expand the earned income credit, and send grants to the states to subsidize day care. Join me in working to stop pollution!” Now, raising the earned income credit won’t cut pollution; it might make it worse. Yet the activist is articulate and seems intelligent enough. What’s up?

The activist doesn’t care about the pollution. The activist cares about the earned income credit. The activist proposes raising the earned income credit as the solution to global warming, unreliable electrical power, or poor public transit. (The activist doesn’t have any interest in subsidized daycare either; he mentions it because he has a cross-marketing deal with another activist.) The activist will harness up anything people care about and set it to pulling his cart.

The activist is like the pols who go on tv and repeat their talking point, no matter what’s asked. The “artistry” is in how well they tweak their rhetoric to make the talking point seem like a response to the question. Some of it, I suppose, is not even deliberate. When you think all day about driving nails, everything starts to look like it could make a usable hammer. “You have a screwdriver? Great! Let’s put a piece of thick metal barstock on one end we can use it to drive nails.”

I used to work with guys who knew how to pour concrete. Need a driveway? Concrete holds up very well to compressive loads. Need an above-ground storage tank for liquid fertilizer? Don’t weld up a steel cylinder; use concrete! The rebar will take the tension loads, and with a good flexible coating cracking won’t be a problem. Need new downspouts? Consider concrete! Sure, it’ll work. We can use two layers of chicken wire and form it up around an aluminum tube. We’ll just leave the form in place. Might need to beef up the mounting points, but those downspouts will last forever.

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4 Replies to “Means and ends”

    1. Yeah; whole professions are built on it. If not explicitly on lying, at least on indifference to the truth.

      On a cheerier note, there’s a pot of this black bean soup cooking on the stove. I’m looking forward to it for lunch.

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