The Corner

False Choices Cont’d

Actually, this reminds me of a longtime peeve of mine. It’s particularly noticeable on NPR, but that might be because — with the exception of Special Report –  NPR’s probably my most constant source of mainstream broadcast news. 

You’ll often hear news readers and others say of issue X: “Democrats say the legislation will ease the financial burden for 5 million left-handed Americans. Republicans disagree, saying the proposed law would cost tax payers 10 billion dollars.”

Or something like that. But the way these issues are set up, they make it sound as if the two perspectives are mutually exclusive, as if they both can’t be right. It’s an impressionistic thing more than anything else, but I’ve trained myself to listen for it and now I hear it all of the time and it drives me crazy.  (During the run-ups to the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions, this sort of framing was everywhere).

To the extent it’s not deranged to ascribe ideological significance to this phenomena, I think the problem with such framing is that it conveys the idea that somehow good things can’t have bad side effects. It’s very Third Wayish in that the unstated assumption is that either the proposed action is good or it’s  bad, but it can’t be both. But in reality there are almost no purely good policy choices just as their are almost no purely bad ones, and that’s because there’s no such thing as a policy solution, only policy trade-offs.

Anyway, I could go on and on about this, but I’m not sure if I’m irrationally obsessed with the subject or onto something. (“Physician heal thyself! It’s both/and, not either or!” — The Couch). 

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