22 June 2009

Modifying Ends

Of course I agree with the old adage: “the ends don’t justify the means.” Pity that the rulers in Iran – and for that matter, all Islamic clerics – and for that matter, all clerics – didn’t appreciate that wisdom.

The wisdom, obviously, is that the means are ends in themselves. It’s therefore necessary to evaluate which is more important: the end that would be pursued by the chosen means or the means, themselves.

But I didn’t see how the ends could be competently manipulated.

A great example was recently given in a posting of an old, 1987 article in The Boston Globe written by Alfie Kohn and entitled “Creativity and intrinsic interest diminish if [a] task is done for gain”:
There is an old joke that nicely illustrates the principle. An elderly man, harassed by the taunts of neighborhood children, finally devises a scheme. He offered to pay each child a dollar if they would all return Tuesday and yell their insults again. They did so eagerly and received the money, but he told them he could only pay 25 cents on Wednesday. When they returned, insulted him again and collected their quarters, he informed them that Thursday’s rate would be just a penny. “Forget it,” they said — and never taunted him again.
Now, if only all the mullahs in Iran (and Saudi Arabia and…) could be made to realize that ruling people isn’t all that it was cracked up to be.


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