Defaults vs. Dogma
Posted by aogSaturday, 23 November 2002 at 23:36 TrackBack Ping URL

One of the difficulties I have at work that seems to have relevance here is that of defaults vs. dogma. I frequently tell people "you should do X", assuming that they'll take that as a default and do X unless they have some specific reason to otherwise. But unfortunately it often gets taken as dogma, meaning "always do X, regardless of the situation" which is generally a recipe for failure. Thinking about the last post on the FFF I realized that it was the same problem. The way the author expected the US to deal with Iraq was an excellent default, but it fails when applied as dogma. And the difference is context, whether the specific situation calls for a different approach. Yes, the default case should be that the US doesn't override sovereignity of other nations, etc. But in some cases it's what we have to do.

Of course, with some co-workers I have the opposite problem where my advice is disregarded not for any reason specific to the issue at hand, but because the co-worker just couldn't be bothered. This is just the opposite polarity of the dogma case and just as successful. I expect them to use my recommended default in the absence of countervailing facts, so it's more than just a recommendation. In the same way, the burden must always be on those who argue to not respect the rights of other nations, the US should always behave as a good and friendly neighbor unless there is a specific and powerful reason related to that nation. In the case of Iraq, there are plenty, the most compelling of which is the consistent and willful violation of agreements with other nations and the UN in general and the US in specific.

I realize that it's a little harder to have a default and not a dogma, because one must make value judgements. And it's harder than doing whatever feels good at the time because one has to have some restraint. But it's the only way to succeed.