Thursday, September 10, 2020

Electoral College

Chesterton's Fence.

A retired engineer who goes to beer night reported that this attitude was common at BAE, though he hadn't known the origin.  As additional evidence that this was not simply a conservative dodge to keep Bernard Shaw from installing socialism, note at the link that Wikipedia has this as a suggested policy as well.

You can find criticisms of the concept.  In my experience, they tend strongly to be from people who want to change something - usually a specific something - but have only half-baked reasons that feel good.  They think it would be better, fairer, if everything started from neutral, like a court case, high-school debate, or scientific inquiry. I will note that law, debate, and science are actually quite extreme in their reliance on precedent.  They apply artificial neutrality only in the context of an enormous amount of shared agreement before proceeding.

3 comments:

Unknown said...

My fear whenever people bring up Chesterton's fence is that those who want change will just see it as a challenge to come up with a straw-man spurious reason why the fence is there, so that they can say "See we understand, and it is a really BAD reason, so away it must go!"

On another tack: A previous boss had hired me to replace someone he didn't much like. He kept instructing me to make changes to how things were done in my department, because the way I inherited was not 'standard' practice. In each case, I had to say - "Yes, that struck me as odd, but having thought about it I see that for our particular situation, that is guarding against a rather disastrous problem, and it's a pretty ingenious solution that I'm going to recommend to others"

I did not last long there for some reason.

That said, I frequently work with "systems" (in the most common dictionary sense) that have had expedient change and alteration time after time, building up what programmers call "cruft". Something broke or failed in the system as initially envisioned, someone came up with the least-effort solution to make enough change to get back to close-to-normal operation quickly, and all the changes built up over time. Like pulling off a band-aid, the wipe-it-out-and-start-again can have intense short-term pain but be much better in the long run. That said, I have had to on occasion insist that underlings delay the "wipe it out" that they intended to do just before critical deliverables were due . . .

Korora said...

Yes, there is a class of reformer now that says, "You and I both know ☢☠⚠♣ well it has no redeeming qualities!"

Assistant Village Idiot said...

@ Unknown. I think your predecessor would like to hear that story, if you ever get the chance.