16 July 2008

More threalmic heuristics

I've just rediscovered an apt word for this blog's current preoccupations: "heuristics". It is prompted by an appealing post on Econlog that resonated here mightily. The basic proposition posited there is:

" 1. If you don't have clear and convincing evidence that doing something is better than doing nothing, do nothing.

2. If you know that doing nothing is bad, but don't have clear and convincing evidence that one action is better than another, do the simplest, standard thing
. "

If only these principles were applied by the perpetuators of the current zeitgeist on global warming, then we would probably be dealing with much saner and more plausible policy options on "climate policy" than those they are foisting on us at present. And this also has the merit of seeming to be an iteration of the "Occam's Razor" principle.

I also reckon that we can shoehorn these heuristics into the rule of thumb model being propounded here: i.e. "truth bests justice, justice bests freedom, freedom bests truth".

The argument would run along the lines that even though the justice of a proposal seems manifest, the basis of the proposition needs also to be true before freedom is restricted by this manifest justice. Therefore if a proposal doesn't have clear and convincing evidence for it, whatever the justice of it might be, it is bettered by the requirement that it be true, because "truth bests justice". If the truth is doubtful, the justice of it is not enough. Likewise when confronted with clear evidence of the truth that something is bad, then justice dictates that we act to deal with if even if our freedom is restricted by taking that action. If however the truth of a proposition has not been adequately tested and and its asserion has not been proceeded to cautiously, justice can only prevail over freedom to the limited extent that we can be confident of the proposition's truth.

It's only a slight stretch, but it seems to work. So we now potentially have two heuristic models to guide us. They don't seem to be in conflict, but this could start getting complicated again, if we're not careful.

Bob

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