Tuesday, November 01, 2005

What works for you

As usual, just after I've posted something, I find someone else has made a similar point and done it more effectively. Yesterday, I posted on the subject of utilitarian policymaking. This morning, I read Butterflies and Wheels (via Norm as usual). on the religious equivalent.

B&W is tilting at the view that "it may be bullshit, but it works for you, so it's fine."

Personally, I don't care what religion works for anyone - as long as they don't bring it into the street to frighten the horses.

Political realists will tell you that you should be prepared to go along with a view that has been advanced to get it's proponent over a pragmatic hurdle because "it works." This makes life very easy for people with power. It is usually calculated to stick to an electoral path of least resistance.

It also results in shoddy policymaking. There's nothing wrong with pragmatism of course; but incoherent or unprincipled pragmatism is a different matter.

As luck would have it, this was also excercising Roy Hattersley in yesterdays Guardian (via his rant on the smoking ban). He notes that we are being asked to go along with the partial ban - because it works. Well it works for the people who matter, and that's all that counts.

Again, I'm neutral on where and when people should light up. The side effects of the ban will be interesting though (I'm convinced that I'm the first person to actually write about this - The Observer appears to have picked it up now).

But I think that you either do it, or you don't. There isn't even a veneer of principle behind the fudge that is going to be sold to Parliament. An over-centralised political settlement always allows the executive to make everyone else do their work for them.

If ever you need an argument for bicameralism, this is it.

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