Policy Arguments from Ideology are Easy and Intuitive. That Doesn’t Make Them Right.

It’s been a while since I’ve written about evidence-based policy, as there’s just a lot going on these days with finishing my PhD, relocating to Boston, my podcast Counterintuitive etc. But now I finally have another piece out! This time it’s a bit more conceptual than usually. Specifically, I’m advocating for nuance and subtlety in matters of policy discourse. Because all too often, policy issues touching upon environmental, or other, issues are dominated by ideological beliefs. This leads to black-and-white thinking in which only radical solutions are tolerated.

My specific example is the issue of plastic in environmental policies. In accordance with the black-and-white thinking mentioned above, environmentalists and the intellectual mainstream have a zero-tolerance policy toward plastic and want to see all of it banned as quickly as possible. But not all plastic is bad or rather, not all plastic is worse than its alternative. Ultra-thin plastic wrapping around cucumbers, for instance, triples their fresh duration, dramatically decreasing food waste. It has to be a case-by-case decision, in the discussion about plastic but also about other issues. Thus, subtlety and nuance have to be possible. Dissent has to be possible, to reach evidence-based policies instead of normative, emotionally-charged policies.

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