I've been reviewing the discussion of 'negativism' in recent posts here and elsewhere. In order to sidestep an increasingly intemperate debate, I thought it would be useful if I spelled out what I understand Daniel Davies means by the term 'negativism' (one that he endorses). I hope this will make the discussion more manageable.
I hope what follows is a fair summary of this position. I've tried to strip out as much argumentation as I can in order to get to the fundamentals. I've also added in words like 'generally', 'usually', 'normal' etc in order to remove any excessive dogmatism or inflexibility from the statement. I'm happy to adjust this statement if anyone can show me that I've misrepresented Daniel's position as set down in the relevant threads:
Negativism finds it's justification in the observation that few problems are so bad that they are not made worse by well-meaning attempts to solve them. Aside from the failure of such activism, these so-called solutions are always likely to have unintended side effects or consequences.Is this a fair summary? For now, could commenters please confine themselves to corrections in my interpretation of Daniel's position, referring only to differences between what I've set out (above) and the positions that he has described in the posts and comment-threads that I've linked to. We can argue about the merits or otherwise once we've agreed what we are arguing about.
One should not generally propose solutions to problems (or endorse the solutions of others) beyond calling for those who claim to have solutions to desist and avoid making things worse.
One should usually either point out flaws in a proposal or say nothing. The only normal exception to this is when the person making the proposal has a particular expertise in the subject in hand - and their proposal should be concrete and specific.
General purpose experts almost never exist. This is another reason to distrust most non-expert commentators who are proposing a positive solution to a problem. In order to make negative comments about a particular proposal, one does not need to demonstrate a superior understanding of the subject in hand. If one has an expertise in a different field, this expertise can be used in criticism.
So, for instance, a specialist in economics or econometrics could attack the statistical elements of an argument in favor of, say, electoral reform. When making negative comments in this way, the commentator is under no obligation to establish what their own position on the matter in hand is. One's own position, in this case, is irrelevant.
In this thread, I'm doing a one-off rule change. I will delete comments that are not designed to clarify Daniel's position.