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Brian D. Rude 1975
The consequences of one’s actions may be automatic or they may be mediated. Automatic consequences ensue without human intervention. Mediated consequences ensue with human intervention. This article is simply a few observations about the effects of mediation. First I will give a few illustrations of the terms I will be using. Next I will try to establish two main points about mediation, that it is expensive and that it automatically leads to more mediation. Lastly I will offer a few value judgments which are based on the perspective of this article.
I have three terms to define. To do this I will make use of an imaginary situation. Joe, a canoeist, is in trouble. He knew the water was rough before he started, but now halfway down the rapids he is getting really scared. He is in a situation in which his life is at stake. He is pitted against an implacable nature. If he is skillful enough he will get through the rapids in one piece. If he is not skillful enough he will drown. He must act, as best he can, and the consequences of his actions are automatic. If he paddles to the left when he should paddle to the right then the laws of physics decree that he will capsize. He has no chance of changing the laws of physics through any sort of appeal. There is no human intermediary between Joe and the consequences of his actions.
Now I will change the scenario a bit, Joe survives the trip down the rapids and brags about it to all his friends, So within a few years everyone is running the rapids and they make it an annual contest. They run the rapids for sport. They compete to see who is the best canoeist. They run the rapids, as Joe did, but with carefully planned safeguards, so that life is not in danger. Now winning the contest means something more than simple survival. A panel of judges sits at a strategic point and rates each contestant on his performance. The contestants are now concerned with developing a fancy style, they throw in flourishes and elaborations on their canoeing technique. The contestants act, as did Joe in the original scenario, but with one big difference. The consequences of their actions are not entirely automatic. The laws of physics are still operating of course, but since there is no real danger, the focus of attention shifts. The consequences now are seen in terms of winning or losing the contest. The consequences of a canoeist’s actions are not automatic. They are very much mediated.
Now the question - will the contestants put on the same performance for the judges that they would put on for an implacable nature? I think I have already given the answer. They certainly will not, If they let their actions be guided entirely by the goal of getting down the rapids safely they may have little chance of winning the contest. They are fully aware that the consequences their actions, in terms of winning or losing the competition, will be mediated by human agency. Therefore they will be very much concerned with the expressive nature of their actions.
Now I will carry this illustration one step further. After a number of years the contest gets further and further removed from Joe’s original fight for his life. People begin to feel it has degenerated into nothing but a style show for fancy dudes rather than a drama of man against nature. The judges, they claim couldn’t recognize real canoeing if they saw it. Therefore these reformers get a rule written into the books that says no actions of the contestants may be made purely for show. If the judges decide that a contestant performs a maneuver just for show then he will be docked a few points.
Now we have the same question in a little bit different light - will the contestants put on the same show for the judges that they would put on for Mother Nature? The rule book says they will, but is this enough? The judges are still there. Consequences are still very much mediated. To expect a person to totally ignore the judges and still try to win the contest hardly seems reasonable.
I have presented three situations. In the first situation consequences are automatic. In the second and third situations the consequences are mediated. The second and third situations are different in that in the second a person may openly play to the judges, but in the third he must pretend not to. I will use the term “plending” to describe Joe’s actions in the first situation. To “plend”, short for “playing to the ends”, is to act instrumentally, to act in such a way as to bring about a desired end by purely instrumental, as opposed to expressive, means. In contrast to this I will use the term “pludging” (rhymes with judging) to describe the actions of the contestants in the second situation. They are “playing to the judges” quite as much as they are playing to the ends. In the third situation, where the contestants must pretend to be plending rather than pludging, I will use the term “pleedging” (rhymes with pleading and cheating) to describe their actions.
My choice of terms may seem contrived. I spent several days in looking for good terms that seemed to fit the idea and yet be efficient. I could have used a phrase, such as “playing to the judges”, instead of the simple term “pludging”, but this can be rather unwieldy. Also the corresponding term, “playing to the ends” is just not too descriptive unless the total context is held in mind. In many cases I would have to say “playing to the ends - as opposed to playing to the judges”, and this is even more unwieldy. With distinctive terms the context is automatically brought to mind, and without too much mental exertion on the reader’s part. A concept needs a handle, a concise and definitive handle. Therefore I have chosen to coin these new terms.
Before going further I should acknowledge the origin of my ideas on mediation. In a book entitled Strategic Interaction, Erving Goffman sets up a series of imaginary situations in order to analyze some aspects of games. “Harry”, the subject of these imaginary situations is first placed in a burning forest and has several moves open to him. “He can make for the bridge. He can make for the tree. He can call on his gods to save him. He can dither,. . .” In another situation Harry faces a hungry lion. Harry sees the lion but the lion has not seen Harry. Harry must now make his move with respect to an animate, somewhat intelligent, opponent. He must take into account the expressive aspects of his actions. If he runs for the safety of a tall tree he makes himself visible to the lion, but if he freezes so as not to be seen the lion may wander so close that Harry will finally be seen, and attacked. In yet another situation Harry is a native spearsman who has strayed from his tribe’s territory and finds himself facing a spearsman of a hostile tribe. Both Harry and his opponent have their backs to each other’s home ground. In this situation Harry must play a game in which expression is of utmost importance. How his opponent judges the intent of Harry’s actions can well mean the difference between life and death.
When I first read this book several years ago I thought the main point was that our actions are different when we must take into account our audience. It is from this basic idea that I derived the ideas that I am now presenting in this article. However on rereading this book I can see that Goffman has quite a different perspective than I. From this basic premise, that our actions are influenced by our audience, he proceeds to talk about game theory. I am on a different track. The main point of this article is the more practical matter of the high cost of mediation. I mention Goffman’s book only by way of acknowledgment. Often the material actions of plending and pludging are identical. In such cases it may be a moot exercise to try to classify the actions as either plending or pludging. It usually makes little difference, for example, whether I drive at a safe speed for my own safety or whether I drive at a safe speed to avoid a speeding ticket. Similarly it is mostly a moot point whether I paint my house to please my wife or to protect the house. Either way the results are the same.
But in other cases it is not so simple. Sometimes it is not at all a moot distinction whether a person is plending or pludging. Plending may separate from pludging. A person may act quite differently to please his judges than he world if no human intermediary were involved. In other words there may be a plending-pludging gap. This gap may be costly, as I will try to show by examples.
I should first point out that a plending-pludging gap may be exactly what is wanted, and we may be more than willing to pay the price to keep this gap. This is the case with most prohibitions. A law against murder causes people to refrain from murder. They are pludging to the extent that they refrain from murder because of the mediated consequences that would ensue if they did commit murder. Were they not to pludge, then there would be more murders. Similarly a rule against fist fighting on the basketball court is meant to make a big gap between pludging and plending. The consequences of a player’s actions are extensively mediated by the referees. In both of these prohibitions, against murder and against fighting on the basketball court, the plending-pludging gap is costly to maintain, The cost is in paying for policemen, courts, prisons, and referees. But this is a cost we readily assume. The benefits are worth it.
In other cases the cost is not so readily assumed. A prohibition against use of marijuana results in a plending-pludging gap. Were a person to plend he would use, or decline to use, marijuana purely on whether he liked the stuff or not. But with mediation, anti-drug laws, then the same person will pludge and not use marijuana, or at least pludge by pretending not to use marijuana. This plending-pludging gap is again expensive to maintain. The expense is again in hiring policemen, judges, and jailers. Another part of the expense, and perhaps a more important part, is the ill will, the bickering, the divisiveness, the wasted lives, that results from an unpopular law. In this situation it is not at all clear whether the cost of maintaining the plending-pludging gap is worth the benefits.
In the above examples the plending-pludging gaps are visible and desirable. The only question is whether they are worth the cost. In other situations the plending-pludging gap is much less visible, and not at all desirable. This may at first seem like a contradiction, for why would one want mediation unless he wanted a gap between plending and pludging?
There are many times when a judge wishes not to control behavior, but only to assess or evaluate it. In the example of the canoeing contest earlier in the article the judges do not want to control the actions of the contestants, they simply want to award a prize to the best canoeist. An umpire in a ball game does not want to make one team win, he simply wants to assure that the best team is given credit for the victory. An employer wants to decide which prospective worker can do the best job and not hire the poorer worker. In each of these cases the judge does not want a plending-pludging gap. He wants the individuals he is judging to act instrumentally, not expressively.
A plending-pludging gap that is unwanted is automatically costly. If a carpenter uses 2 x 8’s in a floor because a building code requires it, instead of 2 x 6’s, in a particular situation in which for some reason or another 2 x 6’s might actually make a better floor, then he is pludging and there is a plending-pludging gap. The cost of this gap can be measured in dollars and cents. It is just the cost of the 2 x 8’s over the cost of the 2 x 6’s, and perhaps a little extra cost for the carpenter’s time.
In other cases the cost of a plending-pludging gap may not at all be so visible. It may not be a cost in dollars and cents, but rather a cost in ill will, pain, conflict, or frustration. As a hypothetical example, a vacuum cleaner salesman may try to make a lot of sales to earn money, or alternatively, he may try to make a lot of quick sales it impress his boss and get a promotion. In the first case he is plending, with respect to his boss (though of course he is pludging with respect to his prospective customers), and in the second case he is pludging, with respect to the boss. His actions may be different in the two cases, and that may entail a cost. If he is plending he will avoid making a bad sale, a sale in which the customer will demand his money back. In the second case, when he is pludging, he may do his best to run up as many sales as he can, even though some of these sales may later be reversed, after he gets his promotion. In this illustration there is a significant difference between plending and pludging, and there is a cost to pay for this gap. The cost is the ill will the salesman causes his company, the extra work of the salesman in fighting with dissatisfied customers, and the possibility that the company will promote an unworthy salesman.
So far I have mentioned mediation in order to prohibit something, and mediation in order to evaluate something. Mediation can also be used to accomplish something. In this situation the judge or judges set up a system of evaluating and rewarding a series of intermediate steps or actions which lead to the desire goal. Or they may just offer a reward for the accomplishment of the goal. Here again a plending-pludging gap is desirable. The cost of the gap is often easily determined. Without my mediation the dentist wouldn’t fix my teeth. But with my mediation, my agreement to pay his fee, then he will fix my teeth, which is pludging. The cost of this plending-pludging gap is specifically stated in terms of money.
There are other examples in which mediation is used to accomplish something, but which present complications. In the nineteen sixties this country set about eliminating poverty. I never did know just how serious the goal was taken and how much of it was just rhetoric. However it was taken seriously enough to make a good illustration here. To accomplish this goal a system of rewards for specific accomplishments was set up, both to individuals and to state and local governments, with the idea that the total result would have the effect of reducing poverty. Such a system is mediation saturated. And of course such mediation is costly. By offering rewards a gap is set up between plending and pludging. The gap is costly. Rewards cost money, people to administer the programs cost money, and complications in the program are also potential expenses.
The primary problem in such a program is the choice of which intermediate steps to reward. What should be rewarded in order to end poverty? A handout to a poor family may turn out to be just a reward for indolence. A scholarship for a needy scholar may have no long term effect on poverty because that scholar may have been on his way up anyway. I personally have little idea how to end poverty. I don’t know if anyone else does either, therefore I tend to be critical of the high cost of trying.
Mediation is an invitation to pludge. It is an invitation to pludge simply because people want to control their own destinies, whether by dealing with nature or with a judge. Since judges are not perfect, and sometimes are trying to judge the wrong things, it is not surprising that not everything can be accomplished by mediation. Thus such a mediation saturated thing as a “war on poverty” invites a flood of pludging and pleedging. I sympathize with the goals of anti-poverty programs, but common sense tells me they will produce a low return on a high investment.
My own field, teaching offers another good example of the high cost of trying to accomplish something by mediation. The state department of education in any state, and a large number of teacher training colleges, are supposedly justified by their goal of making good teachers. Teacher education is a mediation saturated institution. In order to get a teaching certificate a candidate must meet numerous academic requirements. The academic requirements that come under the heading of “professional education courses” are especially open to attack. it is charged, and with much justification I believe, that what goes on in an education course bears little relevance to what goes on in a public school. To get through an education course one must find out what the professor wants and try to give it to him. To become a good teacher one must start all over again, in a real life situation this time. In other words there is a plending-pludging gap in teacher education. To be a good teacher one must act in one way, but to pass an education course one must act quite another. The cost of this gap is high. The cost is in sending out teachers unprepared to teach and in excluding from teaching others who could become good teachers.
To say that an institution is mediation saturated is not to say there is anything wrong with the institution. I presume any medical school is mediation saturated. But I would expect relatively few plending-pludging gaps in a medical school. That is I would expect that what a person does to pass a medical course is also what he does to cure a patient. I would hope that the mediation involved in training doctors is well worth the expense.
Mediation can be used then to prohibit something, to evaluate something, or to accomplish something. Mediation is expensive, if for no other reason than just to pay the judges. Mediation is further expensive if a plending-pludging gap must be maintained. My point in this article so far has been simply to point out this expense.
A plending-pleedging gap may be even more expensive than a plending-pludging gap, and the expense may be more hidden. An example of pleedging would be the stereotype of a ‘yes man”. A “yes man” agrees with everything the boss says but vigorously denies that he is agreeing just to please the boss. Whether such a stereotype has much reality or not I can’t say. However it well illustrates the idea of pleedging.
In many social situations it is only common courtesy to act as a “yes man”. When somebody gives me a necktie as a Christmas present, I tell him that it’s just what I wanted. If the giver asks, “Do you really like it? You’re not just saying that, are you?”, then I’11 assure him that I’m not acting, that it is indeed just what I’ve always wanted. That’s a lie of course. I’m not fashion conscious and neckties don’t thrill me. But I‘ll choose my actions for their effect on the judge, the giver of the gift. That is simple courtesy. In this respect I am pludging. However I will also deny that I am pludging. I’ll pretend I really like the gift. Therefore I am pleedging.
Were I to plend I would be honest and say I don’t like the gift very much. There is a plending-pleedging gap here. There is a price to pay for this gap. In this case the price is my continued receiving of gifts that don’t mean too much. This is not a high price so I don’t worry much about it.
Pleedging is often the result of a judge’s vanity. A humble judge will accept pludging as just a fact of life. A vain judge may demand the comfort of a pretense of plending. As a teacher I am fully aware that my students are pludging. They do their homework because it is assigned and because parents and teachers will bring pressure on the student who doesn’t get it done. Yet there are teachers who will decide the kid must want to do their assignment of their own accord.
Teacher: "You say you’re interested in fractions? You should study this chapter here."
Student: "Do I have to?"
T "See this page here. It explains what it’s all about. You know how to do these problems here, don’t you?"
S "Yes but I don’ t want to do any more of them."
T. "you know you’ll never get anywhere in life if you don’t do well in math."
S. "ya, I suppose."
T. "Of course you do, and you know you’ll get a better job if you get a good education"
There is coercion here. The teacher would deny it but the student knows it and acts accordingly. The student not only has to pludge, to do what the teacher says instead of what he wants to do, but he also has to pleedge, to pretend he really wants to study the subject.
Pleedging arouses resentment. One year I decided I wasn’t going to join the state teacher’s association if I didn’t have to. So I did the forthright thing. I went to the principal and asked if joining the organization was a required part of the job. Had he simply told me it was then I would have sent in my $l9 dues and been done with it. Unfortunately he gave me a pep talk about how we should support our professional organization and so on. Now there is nothing wrong with a pep talk, but I never got a straight answer to my question - am I required to join the teacher’s association, or not. The principal wouldn’t come out and say I had to. He wouldn’t say it was a required part of my job. But when I would indicate that therefore my choice was not to join, he would renew his pep talk. I didn’t commit myself one way or the other at the time, but afterwards asked some fellow teachers how to interpret the principal’s behavior. Their interpretation was that I had better join. Then a week or so later I, and a few other teachers in the same situation, got a personal written memo from the principal again extolling the virtues of our professional organization and expressing confidence that we would do the right thing and join. I felt I had better comply.
The principal was asking me to pleedge. He was asking me to say that I joined because of the merits of the organization rather than because I had to. He would deny it if I charged him with forcing me to join. He would deny that joining is a required part of the job. The basis for his actions is that it is a status symbol for a principal to be able to say that his school has 100% membership in the teachers association. He is dishonest enough to pretend that this 100% membership is voluntary rather than coerced. This dishonesty aroused resentment in me. I still resent it though that was four or five years ago. The lesson is clear, if I may moralize a bit - never ask anyone to pleedge. We can ask them to pludge, in fact we do it every day. It is an essential part of many jobs. But to ask a person to pleedge offends his autonomy, his self respect, his face. This is highly undesirable. There is a high cost to pay in ill will.
Much of the high cost of mediation stems from the fact that seldom does mediation replace instrumentalism, Therefore mediation typically leads to more mediation, and this is the second main point of this article. I will give a few examples.
At the beginning of our present inflation problems many people advocated wage and price controls, a mediated system, to replace, or at least modify, the free market, a more automatic system. President Nixon obliged, but it was soon discovered that the automatic system would not die a quiet death. The law of supply and demand was thwarted a 1ittle, but not extinguished. People were not satisfied with the system of controls. Everyone complained loudly that controls were putting the pinch unfairly on them. Quite often these complaints had some substance. Businessmen found themselves no longer making profits. Farmers maintained they were going broke. Laborers claimed only their wages, and not prices, were being controlled. To meet these complaints an extensive bureaucracy went into action. Though I have no figures I am confident that this was an expensive bureaucracy.
The number of complaints about wage and price controls is evidence that mediation does not replace instrumentalism entirely. Another bit of evidence to the same effect is the shortages we are now facing. I cannot help but believe that these shortages are due to decreased production, due to decreased profits, due to price controls. The law of supply and demand was not repealed when wage and price controls were put into effect. It was at best only modified a bit.
Similar examples of mediation not replacing instrumentalism can be seen in other government efforts in other areas. It has long been charged that minimum wage laws increase unemployment, and I am sure there is some truth in this charge. The government can tell an employer to pay all workers $2.00 an hour, but if an employer can see no way to get that much value from a particular worker he will automatically look for a way to dismiss him. I found a somewhat similar example in a book on credit buying by Hillel Black, a book titled Buy Now, Pay Later. He points out that many states have passed usury laws for the purported purpose of keeping interest rates down, but the 1aws had just the opposite effect. By dictating low maximum interest rates these laws kept out honest lenders and forced many borrowers to go to the loan sharks.
The loan sharks could attribute much of their success to the low interest rates fixed by the usury laws. It was not uncommon for these illegal lenders to charge between 60 and 500 percent true annual interest on loans ranging from $5 to $300. The loan sharks had little to fear. The usury laws were seldom enforced and hence easy to evade. The penalties proved so mild as to be meaningless. But, most important of all, the laws were completely unworkable. The ethical lenders or consumer finance companies simply could not operate under the usury statutes without going bankrupt. The 6 to 12 percent annual interest charges allowed by the usury laws were much too low to meet the costs of making small loans. (Hillel Black, Buy Now, Pay Later, Pocket Books, Inc. P 152)
People automatically wanted money, and were automatica11y willing to pay high to get it. State legislatures could not change this. Mediation seldom replaces instrumentalism. Mr. Black points out that this is similar to prohibition under the eighteenth amendment. The country thought it could control liquor, but found it could not control the automatic consequences of peoples’ desire for liquor. Similarly state legislatures have found that they cannot control the automatic consequences of people’s desire to borrow money, and so they amended usury laws to make them more realistic. Similarly also, the country learned very recently that wage and price controls do not control the automatic consequences of people’s desire to find loopholes in such controls.
Because mediation does not replace instrumentalism, there is always the need for more mediation. When a law is passed or a rule is made there are always loopholes. To plug these loopholes more laws are passed or more rules are made. When my wife and I bought our house we signed a form stating that we understood all the other forms we were signing. That was a lie of course. I presume this form was required to try to plug some loopholes in previous regulations. Since the form is not quite realistic there will probably someday be a rule passed to plug this loophole, a requirement that the signer of this form pass a test to show he really does understand what it is all about. Such a new regulation would of course have its own loopholes in need of plugging.
During the same transaction the realtor told me to write in some figures in another form, telling me exactly what figures to write in and explaining that regulations required me to fill in the figures myself - it was against the rules for the realtor to fill them in for me. The form was for the county assessor and stated that a certain part of the purchase price of the home we were buying went for personal, not real, property, and hence not subject to tax. The realtor had me put in 10% of the purchase price, which was the maximum allowable under the rules. So I put in 10%, which of course was too high. I lied again. Some day we‘11 have a regulation stating that the realtor cannot even suggest the amount to put in that form. This will prove to have loopholes also, so then we’ll have the assessor check out every house when it’s sold and decide for himself what part of the purchase price goes for personal property. Then we’11 decide the assessor needs a committee to pass on his decisions, and so on and on and on.
And so mediation is an endless web. It is not a web of deceit by any means, however it is very close to a web of deceit. A web of deceit grows because it does not quite fit the facts. There are always inconsistencies, loopholes, to be plugged. A web of mediation grows for the very same reason.
So far in this article I have made the distinction between automatic and mediated consequences. I introduced the terms plending, pludging, and pleedging. I pointed out that the more mediation is involved, the more plending gives way to pludging and pleedging. Then I pointed out that mediation is expensive and this expense should be very carefully considered and weighed against the benefits of mediation. Finally I pointed out that mediation almost invariably leads to more mediation. Now I want to discuss some more practical implications of all this. I will try to show ways in which mediation, and its expense, can be reduced.
There are three main methods of reducing the cost of mediation:
1) Don’ t mediate.
2) Judge only ends, rather than means or intentions.
3) Have a strong judge.
The first and most obvious way to reduce the cost of mediation is simply to refuse to mediate, to let nature take its course and live with the results. I will give a few examples.
A free market economy is an automatic system. A socialist economy is a mediated system. A free market economy is not necessarily a fair economy. For some people this is seen as sufficient reason to change to a socialist system of some kind. I have for years tried to compare the relative merits of the two systems. Does or does not socialism have an intrinsic fatal flaw, or flaws? I don’t want to get into economics or politics, but I hope what I have said in the first part of this article will indicate that socialism has a tremendous burden not shared by capitalism. That burden of course is the high cost of extensive mediation. Therefore, rightly or wrongly, this country has traditionally stuck to an essentially free market economy. By declining to mediate extensively things keep happening automatically. Because things happen automatically we derive certain benefits, the benefits of an efficient and strong economy.
Another example of refusing to mediate comes from child rearing. Many a parent has tried heroically to mediate fairly when their children fight. But often there comes a point when the parent decides that enough is enough. When Johnny says Susy hit him first and Susy swears she didn’t but Johnny did, then what’s a parent to do? A parent will sometimes simply paddle them both and send them their separate ways. It is not fair of course, for in most cases one offspring is more at fau1t than the other, but there is a limit to how far a parent can go in order to be fair.
Teachers, especially in the lower grades, are often faced with the very same thing. When two boys are fighting a teacher can seldom punish only the person who started the fight. Rather the school usually has the policy to punish both parties in a fight and let it go at that. Such a policy is often not official, or even verbalized, but it is usually followed in practice. It is not fair, of course, but it is practical.
A free market economy is not fair, nor is the parent or teacher who punishes both aggressor and victim. Both work, at least to some degree, on the principle of "might makes right", victory goes to the strongest, not the most deserving. Both work automatically. However in both cases the automatic results are not all that bad. A free market may not be fair but it can be stable and productive. It can bring a high degree of abundance to a great number of people. It can be a good system whether it is fair or not. A parent’s refusal to spend all her time mediating petty squabbles may not be fair, but it may contribute to good child rearing. It can free both parent and child to do the things that are more important.
My main point here is that sometimes mediation can be dispensed with, but a word of caution is in order. One of the theories of child rearing that has some current popularity is the idea that a child should learn from the natural consequences of his actions. Carried to an extreme this can be interpreted that a child should not be punished for hitting his friend, for supposedly he will learn by the ill will he engenders in his friend, and eventually stop hitting people. That is a simple method of child rearing. On the surface at least the parent derives considerable benefit in not having to mediate. However I think there is a much greater price to pay in the long run. The cost of mediation should be carefully considered, but the cost is sometimes well worth paying.
If one must mediate it is advantageous to judge only ends, and not means or intentions. This is the second main method of reducing the cost of mediation.
Examples of judging only ends would be awarding a prize to the salesman who sells the most, or the runner who first crosses the finish line, or the student who makes the highest score on an achievement test. In each of these situations there is a wide variety of acceptable means which lead to the end of winning the award in question, and the means employed by the winner do not enter into the judgment of his winning. Of course these examples are not perfect because there are some means that could be considered as cheating. I have not been able to think of any example in which means are entirely irrelevant. However in these examples the judges are concerned primarily with ends rather than means.
Judging only the ends induces a high degree of plending. Judging means as well as ends induces more pludging. A grocer, for example, acting as an intermediary between myself and the groceries I want to take home, is not concerned with the means I use to get my money. He judges only whether I have attained the end of having money. Therefore I don’t have to pludge to the grocer, beyond the payment of money. However if I approached a banker for a home loan, the matter would be quite different. He would be very much interested in the means I employ to acquire money. If he discovered that my only source of income was an inheritance that I was squandering, then he would probably deny me the loan. If he discovered that I was a counterfeiter he would deny me the loan. But if he found me to be a steady worker with good job, he would give me the loan. He would judge me on the means of acquiring money as well as on the accomplishment of having it. Therefore I would act accordingly. I would pludge to a considerable degree. I would pludge to the grocer only to the extent of paying for my groceries, but I would pludge to the banker by trying to show a good credit rating and good character, as well as a good job and money for a down payment.
Judging means rather than ends is an open invitation for means to displace ends. If someone were to pay me for writing a good article then I would do my best to write a good article. But if someone were to pay me a dime a word, then I would certainly try to put out a lot of words. There would be a great temptation to forget about the quality of the article and think only about quantity. Words should be only the means to an end, but mediation could make them an end in themselves. The means could displace the ends in other words. Another way to interpret this would be as an unwanted plending-pludging gap, which would be expensive.
Again a word of caution is in order. When I last got a safety check on my car they tested the brakes only by seeing if the car would stop at a certain rate, as measured by an instrument they attached to the windshield. They did not check the means which produced this stop. The means could be a. brake system that is safe and dependable, or the means could include a length of hydraulic tubing that is about rusted through. In this type of situation I should think means, as well as ends, would be worth looking into.
Attempting to judge intent, as well as means and ends, is a wide open invitation to pleedge. A defendant in a criminal trial will do his best to show that his intentions were good, that he truly believes in the values that society believes in, that only circumstances led him astray. He is playing to the judges, and to that extent he is pludging. But he will also deny that he is pludging. He will nut on a show of sincerity. He will pleedge.
Ends are relatively easy to judge. Means are harder to judge, and intent is hardest of all. Judging ends induces some degree of pludging and pleedging, but judging means induces more, and judging intent induces the most.
One way of lowering the cost of mediation then would be not to try to judge intent, but judge only ends. In many cases of course this is impossible. If a person is caught shooting another and is put on trial for murder then there is no way to avoid trying to judge his intent. Did he intend to avenge an imaginary grudge, rob an innocent victim, defend his honor, defend has life, defend his family, or what? A jury will have to decide, and. it may not be an easy decision.
Fortunately there are some situations in which it is possible to move from a judgment of intent or means to a judgment of ends. I will give a few examples.
A few years ago the federal government told auto manufacturers they must build pollution free engines in the future. Supposedly a manufacturer would not he allowed to sell cars unless these pollution standards were met. I cannot give a detailed history of the results of this dictate but I do know that auto makers have been doing quite a bit of lobbying in recent years. The government has been forced to evaluate the excuses of the auto makers during this time. This mediation of course is expensive. When the auto makers say they can’t meet the deadlines imposed on them, then Congress sets up a committee, holds public hearings, debates, and then when time gets short they postpone the matter in order to do “further research”. And we pay the bill. There is never any doubt, in my mind. at least, that GM will sell cars every year, also Ford and Chrysler, regardless of pollution standards. Congress therefore must try to judge the intent of the auto makers. Do they intend to do their best to meet the standards, or do they intend to stall as much as they can? In the former case then Congress must grant postponements of the standards when Detroit asks for it. In the latter case Congress must not grant postponements. The auto makers, on the other hand, must at the same time try to judge the intent of Congress. Will Congress take a hard or a soft line? The answer to this question will determine, to at least some extent, the actions of the auto makers.
A lot of this mediation would be unnecessary if Congress just had the sense to tax, rather than prohibit, pollution. Congress could stick to a tax, if it were carefully designed, no matter what the auto makers said. The auto makers would know this and hence would put forth their best efforts. They would be plending, not pludging or pleedging. Congress would not have to try to judge intent. This would not end all mediation, to be sure, but I think it would. greatly reduce it. Perhaps a tax cannot be made a purely automatic consequence of pollution, but it can be made almost automatic. A tax can be made a lot more automatic than a threat to take Fords or Chevrolets off the market.
To be fair I should point out that Congress did have the sense to judge only the end of reducing pollution rather than the means of acquiring this end. Whether emissions are reduced by catalytic converters, rotary engines, crankcase ventilation systems, stratified charge engines, or whatever else is invented, is not important. Only the end result is important. Congress was wise not to try to judge means in this way, but then they got stuck trying to judge intent. The principle of judging only ends may be simple, but applying it may not be simple at all.
As a teacher I am often called upon to judge intent. A favorite game of manipulative students is to make excuses that are hard to verify. When I was teaching chorus it seemed like every other day or so a girl would tell me she had a sore throat and wanted to be excused from singing that day. Unfortunately the sore throat often didn’t usually stop the girl from giggling and talking with her neighbors. When I would accuse her of abusing a privilege she would vigorously deny it, as vigorously as she could and still fake a sore throat. Of course I knew that many of these sore throat excuses were only excuses, but I also knew that some were real. It’s a hard game to counter. I was forced to mediate, to judge intent, and this mediation was not easy.
The solution to this would be to send the girl with the sore throat to study hall, a study hail under the supervision of a strict teacher. Then the girl with the legitimate sore throat would be glad to tell me so and go to study hall, while the girl with the desire only to get into mischief would look for another game. I would not have to judge intent to use this plan. There might be a few fake sore throats at first, but as soon as the girls realized that it was no fun to sit in study hall under the watchful eye of a. strict disciplinarian, then they would quit giving fake excuses. The consequences of a true or a false sore throat would ensue automatically, not through my mediation. Unfortunately I could never make this work because I could not get a good working relationship with the study hall teacher at this hour of the day. However I think it illustrates the principle of replacing mediated consequences with more automatic consequences.
The third main method of reducing the cost of mediation is to have a strong judge. When I first began teaching part of my job was to go along on out-of-town junior high basketball games. I had never knew anything about athletics so it was all new to me. I can’t say that I ever did learn anything about basketball, but something else impressed me very much - the authority of the referees. When a foul was called against a player, then the game instantly ceased. There was never any argument with the referee. The player who committed the foul raised his hand momentarily, according to custom, to acknowledge his fault and his willingness to abide by the decision of the referee, (or maybe it was just for the benefit of the person keeping statistics). The player who was fouled against took his free shots and then the game went on. This automatic response to the dictates of the referee made for a good game. They played basketball instead of arguing about points. This impressed me, partly because I didn’t get this kind of quick acceptance of my decisions in my classroom. In my first year of teaching I spent a lot of time arguing with kids.
Can a judge be perfect? Obviously not. Should a judge enforce his mistakes? Or should every judgment be open to appeal. I have already answered these questions with regard to basketball. A referee is bound to make mistakes at times, and this is not fair. but the game is more important than absolute fairness; players are expected to abide by the referees’ decisions whether they agree with them or not. A strong judge is considered essential to a good game.
Having a strong judge need not necessarily be a matter of a judge aggressively imposing his will over the objections of those he is judging. It may be with the conscious and willing consent of those who are judged. The basketball players I described, I presume, accepted the referee’s decisions because their coach carefully explained that such acceptance of decisions is a part of good sportsmanship and that good sportsmanship is vitally important for a good game as well as important on purely moral grounds. The players understood this and were able to accept it.
When I was teaching at a prison school I sometimes made use of a little mathematics game. This involved dividing the class into two teams. They made points by answering math questions and problems. The competition in this game could easily get out of hand; indeed a few times it did. However I quickly discovered that a bit of prevention could do wonders. Before starting the game I would point out that points are not as important as good conduct. “In forty-five minutes this score sheet goes into the wastebasket and the points don’t mean a thing. But if somebody loses their cool and gets written up it’ll stay on their record for fifty years”. I would further point out how to avoid getting too involved, how misunderstanding of rules can lead to disputes, how arguing with the scorekeeper can be destructive, how it’s more important to concede a point and go on with the game than to argue about it, and so on. In short I was telling them that a good game demands on having a strong judge, even though this judge was bound to make mistakes at times. All this would take about two or three minutes to explain, but I carefully went over it each time we used the game. I let it be known that I considered it important.
I was careful to point out that the decisions of the game leader were to be accepted no matter who that leader was. I would tell them that I should be able to appoint one of the students as game leader and his decisions were to be accepted just as quickly as when I led the game. To emphasize this I would now and then find some reason to turn the game over to a student. I was gratified to find that the game proceeded smoothly.
Unfortunately it is usually not this easy to have a strong judge. I have so far talked only about referees in recreational games. When the stakes are higher people are less apt to grant a judge the authority he needs to keep mediation within reasonable bounds. A defendant in a criminal trial, for example, has little motivation to grant a judge any authority at all. To a defendant the “game” is irrelevant. What counts is his welfare as he sees it, and he will see it differently than society in general does. Therefore if a judge’s decisions are to stick, society in general must back him up.
In this article I have tried to present principles and to keep opinions at a minimum. I make no pretense that applying these principles is easy, or that any two people will ever agree exactly on how to apply them. However I do hope than an awareness of these principles will lead to more enlightened action.