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Pragmatism in the development of ideas.


Pragmatism: A reasonable and logical way of doing things or of thinking about problems that is based on dealing with specific situations instead of on ideas and theories.

I tend to favour a pragmatic approach to life. I see a lot of idealism in politics with little thought to actually testing new ideas to see if they work. Then when an idea ends in utter failure, which the policy of forced austerity has, we move on to some new idea, based on another spurious theory.


Ideas based on religious belief are particularly dangerous. People believe that God is on their side and so can overcome adversity or even win wars. The evidence shows that this isn’t the case. The premise that good people go to heaven is unproven and so death is universally seen as a bad thing. People often celebrate the death of their enemies, if death was a good thing they would celebrate the death of their friends.

In theory

A new innovation might work in theory but we test it before launching it on the general public. No one wants to buy a new car that hasn’t been thoroughly tested. Yet, political ideas tend to be launched based on the idea that they will work without any testing.


Pragmatism also requires us to look at past experiences and learn from them. If similar ideas have failed in the past, that is usually taken as an indication that an idea might fail in the future. However, in politics, past experiments in capitalism and socialism are ignored even though they failed. The ideology is like a religion and there is an imaginary heaven.


We have to develop ideas collectively and we have to make evidence-based decisions. If test results show a 10% improvement in a new car’s braking power, that is evidence. If all the engineers believe there will be a 10% improvement in the car’s braking power, that is not evidence. Experience tells us that all the experts can be wrong.

Basing our decisions on past experience and on reliable evidence is a proven way of developing successful ideas. Pragmatism is used in science, medicine, technology and engineering with proven success. It needs to be applied to politics, economics and culture too.

I hope I have provided food for thought today and you will think about the value of pragmatism.

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