Wednesday, December 13, 2006


The Price of Progress

... is a trope you commonly hear on the media. While I generally find "utilitarian" arguments contrasting the costs and benefits of an action to be enlightening and speaking of the "price of progress" is often similarly enlightening, a real utilitarian wouldn't repeat this trope so shallowly. And I'm not even a real utilitarian, I just play one for the sake of argument.

Am I the only one who thinks that when the media talks incessantly of "the price of progress" they re-enforce the notion that all progress has high costs, so people either will tend to be callous about the costs of a particular change (as neo-cons were in Iraq or neo-liberals are about "free trade") or turn into Luddites afraid of any change because of its cost? Or at the very least that such talk tends to frame debates as those between neo-liberals and paleo-conservatives and thus marginalizes or misrepresents other points of view (c.f. the treating of the foreign policy views of people like me as if our views were the same as Kissinger's or Chamberlaine's, because we don't subscribe to a neo-liberal/neo-con point of view?)?

At what point does talking about the costs and benefits of progress cease to be constructive but rather becomes enframing?

Also -- reading debates about say "health care reform" or "social security reform", this trope also seems to degenerate into "no pain no gain" ... need I say how silly it is to suggest a particular reform because it is painful, but to hear some talk about "reforming" social security, the pain is not a bug but a feature (well, it is, in that case, 'cause in pain there is profit, nu?) -- the more pain, the more gain, some people seem to think.

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