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RE: [ba-unrev-talk] Not In Our Name

> such differences of opinion/judgment among thoughtful men

> . . . are mostly a matter of insufficient availability of shared, verifiable facts.


This is certainly true, but it isn’t all of the problem. As Joseph M. Juran says: "It isn't what you don't know that hurts you; it's what you know for sure that isn't so." (multiple attributions). Not totally true, of course, what you don’t know *can* hurt you also.


The terms “everybody knows”, “common sense”, “obvious”, “self-evident”, “intuitive” and similar all denote knowledge that is claimed to be shared by all an seldom is. One difficulty with most discussions is that they start in the middle with all participants believing that everybody else shares what are to them are obvious bits of knowledge. This turns out to be true almost never. For this reason, going back to precise definitions becomes very important. Learning to use language as unambiguously as possible and to pay attention to such details as precise *shared* definitions is essential to progress in serious discussion.


Gary Richmond’s post on “Poor in Assets and Income” makes this point quite well. Given an inadequate definition of a single word can result in a failure of even the best intentioned to resolve the difficulty. In social problems, a major difficulty is getting a formulation of the problem that actually takes into account all the relevant factors and tries to determine which of those factors are causes and which are effects – a point that was made in the posts on the commons site. Failure to state the problem in adequate terms dooms us to trying to solve the wrong problem.


Poverty is a classic case:

“Poverty means that the poor don’t have enough money” results in programs to give them money, which have failed, because that is far from all that is needed.

The asset definition may be a better one, but in the light of some of the commons information, sometimes “access to assets” is an important component.

Something such as poverty is a complex issue because it has many causes, and not all who are poor are so for the same reasons. Attempts to solve an issue such as poverty based on a simplistic definition results in “solutions” that don’t work. The better an understanding that we can get of the *facts* of the problem and their relationships the better chance we have of evolving solutions that will work in the sense that they will eliminate rather than alleviate the problem.

Nearly all complex problems are also systems problems in the sense that there are very few “independent variables” – everything impacts everything else, and not all combinations of values are possible, and not all that are theoretically possible are achievable.




Garold (Gary) L. Johnson