Saturday, May 14, 2011

Doane's Razor


We've probably all heard of Occam's Razor. (If not, a primer is HERE.) Bottom line: make your argument as simple as possible, but no simpler. If two competing explanations are both correct, chose the one that makes the fewest assumptions or takes the fewest steps. Occam's Razor is sometimes called the Law of Parsimony.

There is something to be said for being concise.

I often employ another "razor" in my thinking. I employ it so often, in fact, that I feel my razor should have a name and maybe even its own wiki page. Let me run it by you and let's see what you think. Here it goes:

Would the world be a better place if everyone (insert a description of the behavior in question)?

When considering a law or policy decision, think about the behavior you are trying to influence. Would the world be a better place if everyone observed Meatless Monday? If everyone allowed one car length of following distance per every 10 mph of speed? Abstained from smoking? Prayed?

If not, maybe the law or policy is not really that important. If so, you probably just wrote one of the 10 Commandments.

The idea of Doane's Razor is to promote the greater good, not to turn everyone into carbon copies of each other. If everyone recycled, the world would indeed be a better place. So promote recycling. If everyone drove more safely, observed common courtesy, and learned a second language, the world would indeed be a better place.

But if everyone were patient, if everyone remained calm, would anything ever get done?

Think about it.

Doane's Razor: good idea? If not, why not?