What's it for? The objectives of policies & systems

<Column syndicated on Consortium News>

When trying to understand current events in their context it's often more useful to look at the policies that are influencing these events than individual cases (although the individual cases often make up 'the news'). In many cases there is a gaping chasm between the formally stated goals of a policy and their actual effects ('wars' on various nouns such as 'terror' or 'drugs' come to mind).

Despite this, discussions about and opposition against are often argued from the rather fictional standpoint that the stated goals are the actual goals. Even if it is patently obvious that the policy in question does not further this goal, and that everybody smart enough to have some influence is aware of this. Opposition against misguided or destructive policies thus allows the parameters of the debate to be fenced-in by its proponents. It's pretty hard to win any debate if the other party can define (and re-define) the goal-posts without a need for any evidence that these goal-posts are reasonably placed.