An Idea for Public Policy – The BUD Scale Rating Assessment


The BUD Scale Rating Assessment

Introduction:

People understand things better when they can quantify, or measure them. For example: when you say someone is “poor,” it’s more meaningful, more understandable, if you can say that he makes less than US$11,770 per year (the threshold for a family group of four, including two children, was US$24,250 in 2010). We call that “The Poverty Line”(1)

I’d like to propose the idea that we can “measure” the things that we do — individually and society-wide — using a scale that produces a final number — a measure — that says whether the proposed action, law, policy, regulation is really a good thing or a bad thing. A “good” act, policy, law, regulation would produce a justifiable positive number, while a “bad” one would get a negative number.

I’d propose further that the scale should run either from -10 to 10, or say, from -100 to 100. Probably not a wider range than that.

Now for the units of measure: They could be called “BUD’s” or “Basic Units of Decency.” The idea being that everything that should be considered “good” for society should have to conform to normal, western standards of basic human decency.(2)

So, a “BUD” is a unit of measure that endeavors to assign a real value — positive or negative — to anything that anyone does, based on western norms of decency.

What are these western norms of decency? Here’s how I would suggest they be considered: Any act or policy that conforms to normal, western norms of decency would increase, or at least would not decrease, people’s freedom, wealth, health and/or happiness. Any act that decreases any of these things we would deem to be counter to normal, western standards of decency.

I propose that every prospective law, rule or regulation be required to undergo a “BUD Scale Rating” assessment in order to provide an actual measure to help decide whether the policy should be implemented. Let’s try a basic example, at a micro-level, of an act undergoing this BUD Scale Rating assessment.

Example: I see a homeless man lying on the street. I offer him a sandwich. I evaluate my act in several ways:

  1. I’ve fed the man something when he was hungry. I’ve done something just flat-out generous and nice under any circumstances. BUD Score: 10. Weight: 1. Weighted Score: 10.
  2. I’ve contributed to his delaying doing something concrete to improve his condition. BUD Score -5. Weight: 1 Weighted Score: -5
  3. I’ve potentially given him a subtle message, or reinforced an existing state of mind, that he can delay indefinitely doing something concrete to improve his condition. BUD Score: -1. Weight: 5 Weighted Score: -5 
  4. I’ve foregone doing something for him that would be unambiguously good, like pointing him to a local church, where he’ll obtain food for the near-term, and find people who can offer him real, long-term assistance at doing something concrete to improve his condition. BUD Score -5. Weight 5. Weighted Score: -25. Net Score: -2.08. (All the weighted scores added together, divided by all the weights added together, or -25/12 = -2.08 on a scale of -10 to 10)

In doing that particular evaluation, we  come to understand that we’ve probably done sort of a bad thing for the homeless person, by foregoing the chance to do something really good for him. But it’s not all that bad a thing. However, it forces the question: why would we ever do a bad thing for, or to, any person at all?

You’ll notice also that I assigned a “weight” to each aspect of my evaluation. For instance, point #1: I did a nice thing. But it wasn’t any big deal. It was good, and pure and generous, and got a maximum score on the plus side of the scale, but it didn’t really solve any of the homeless man’s real problems. It merely made that moment of his life just a bit less arduous. So, a plus 10 on the good side, but a weight of only 1. Think of the “weight” as an assessment of the extent to which the act affected the man; the actual impact of the gift of the sandwich. That impact was small, so I gave it a small weight value.

It is the weight of each aspect of our evaluations that will determine the power it has in determining the final assessment of the act. As you can see, though that aspect of giving the homeless man a sandwich — the kindness, generosity and benevolent intent in the act — was pure and good, it was not enough by itself to overcome the final assessment that the act itself was a net negative for the homeless man.

There are other factors that come into play here: our ability to avoid guilt feelings (don’t forget: we’re a part of this act as well!), our desire not to look selfish as we turn our heads and hurry past, our understanding that our selfless act just might by itself inspire the homeless man to do something great and positive for himself. If we could quantify all those things in a hurry, they’d be relevant too, and would allow us to hone our “BUD Scale Rating” even further.

We’ve all done this kind of evaluation when passing a homeless person on the street. And we’ve all weighed the good and the bad of giving the man a sandwich. But we typically don’t assign any numbers. In any of such encounters, we tend to go with what our instincts, our values, and frankly, our best guess tell us.

The BUD Scale Rating is a way to make our “best guess” a whole lot better. And it’s a way for us to understand better why we arrive at some of the decisions we make. And, of course, whether we should do something.

What we’re trying to get to here is: whether we do it or not, should we give the homeless man a sandwich? And that’s the question we always pose to ourselves each time we encounter that homeless person. The homeless man, the sandwich and the act of giving the sandwich, are all metaphors for the various inputs to the decision making process in the formulation of public policy.

You may weigh each aspect of the “sandwich gift” differently, and come up with a different number — either positive or negative — which would drive your decision whether or not to give the man a sandwich. For example, I might give a lower score, or a greater weight, to #3 above: the message given by the sandwich.

Furthermore, you might use different criteria altogether. Your #3 — your assessment of the “message” given — might be: “there are generous, selfless people in America, and I want to be one of them” and you might make your decision accordingly. You might entirely eliminate my #3, and replace it with yours. Or you might factor in both messages. This last probably represents the best understanding of the actual “message” actually given by the donated sandwich.

In light of all that reflection, let’s re-evaluate our interaction with the homeless man and the sandwich:

  1. I’ve fed him something when he was hungry. I’ve done something just flat-out nice. BUD Score: 10. Weight: 1. Weighted Score: 10.
  2. I’ve contributed to his delaying doing something concrete to improve his condition. BUD Score -5. Weight: 1. Weighted Score: -5
  3. I’ve potentially given him a subtle message, or reinforced an existing state of mind, that he can delay indefinitely doing something concrete to improve his condition. BUD Score: -1. Weight: 5. Weighted Score: -5 
  4. I’ve potentially given him a message that there are generous, selfless people in America. BUD Score: 2. Weight: 5. Weighted Score: 10
  5. Our selfless act, by itself, might inspire the homeless man to do something concrete for his own betterment. BUD Score: 10. Weight: 1. Weighted Score: 10
  6. I’ve cheaply assuaged potential guilt feelings of my own, and done something I might think is kind of bad, in order not to appear stingy or mean. (It’s in there, let’s face it.) BUD Score: -5. Weight: 1. Weighted Score: -5
  7. I’ve foregone doing something for him that would be unambiguously good, like pointing him to a local church, where he’ll obtain food for the near-term, and find people who can offer him real, long-term assistance in doing something concrete to improve his condition. BUD Score -5. Weight 5. Weighted Score: -25. (All the weighted scores added together, divided by all the weights added together, or -10/19 = -0.53 on a scale of -10 to 10)

Here’s a slightly better view of that whole transaction, Give The Homeless Man a Sandwich or Not:

Criterion

BUD Rating Weight Weighted Score
Fed homeless man 10 1 10
Delay corrective action on homeless man’s part -5 1 -5
Bad subtle message -1 5 -5
Good subtle message 2 5 10
Sandwich might itself inspire good action by homeless man 10 1 10
Assuage my own guilt -5 1 -5
Foregone doing something really good… -5 5 -25

Totals

6(3) 19 -10

Or, a simple graphical representation of the BUD Scale Rating of the act:

BSR
BUD Scale Rating – Giving the Homeless Man a Sandwich

This is roughly how I’ve assessed what I’ve done when I’vegiven the homeless man the sandwich” in my own life. I’ve always figured that I’ve really done him no favors, and that I’ve foregone doing something potentially very positive for him.

Public policy, and potential public policy — proposed laws — can go onto this scale as well. There are many such policies, some of which can be evaluated in retrospect, in order to arrive at a concrete measurement to justify acting to implement, eliminate or extend various laws, rules and regulations.

Each proposed public policy should be required to have a “BUD Scale Rating” assessment. The supporters of each proposed public policy should have to justify how they arrived at their BUD Scale Rating assessment, the criteria they used to make their evaluation, the opposition criteria they had to overcome and how they did it for their proposal. Real projected statistics with real supporting logic, and with real counter arguments that they claim to have overcome and how they overcame them. Along with, of course, the weights they gave each aspect of their assessment, and their explanation for each weight value.

Here’s how it  might happen:

  • The Republicans propose the Anti-Snorg Act. An act to eliminate snorg from the lives of all Americans by the year 2020.
  • The Republicans advance the following BUD Scale Rating assessment for their proposed law:
    1. Snorg is bad for the health of all who use it. Therefore the elimination of snorg gets: BUD Score: 10. Weight 3. Weighted Score: 30.
    2. Snorg removal will generate jobs, as we hire people to do the work of snorg clean-up. They’re temporary jobs, but the skills learned and the experience will be helpful in the workers’ finding good, permanent jobs. BUD Score: 5. Weight 2. Weighted Score: 10.
    3. On the downside: The jobs are only temporary, the skills learned in snorg removal are highly focused, and might not be all that helpful in finding permanent work later. It’s possible that workers would be better served by finding other training during the period of snorg removal. BUD Score: -2. Weight 5. Weighted Score: -10.
    4. Snorg is not that bad for people (the reason for the low weight value in #1) and it will be costly to remove it and to replace it with a harmless substitute. BUD Score: -5. Weight 2. Weighted Score: -10.
    5. Counter to #4: the need for funding is temporary and can be raised one time only, with the need for a supervisory agency disappearing with the disappearance of snorg. BUD Score: 2. Weight 5. Weighted Score: 10.
    6. Counter to #5: government-mandated supervisory bureaucracies tend to be self-sustaining, and tend not to go away, acting parasitically in perpetuity. BUD Score: -2. Weight 5. Weighted Score: -10.
  • See the chart below:
Criteria BUD Rating Weight Weighted Score Pluses Minuses
Snorg bad for health – removal is good. 10 3 30 30
Snorg removal to generate jobs. 5 2 10 10
Jobs are only temporary. -2 5 -10 -10
Snorg removal costly. -5 2 -10 -10
Funding need is only temporary. 2 5 10 10
Bureaucracies hard to eliminate. -2 5 -10 -10
Totals 6 22 20/22 = 0.91 50/10 = 5 -30/12 = -2.5

An explanation of the chart:

  • Final rating, according to the assessment: 0.91 on the plus side. The assessment indicates that the proposed law would be a good one, but not overwhelmingly good, and not unambiguously good.
  • The total weight of the positives is only 10, while the total weight of the negatives is 12. However, the negatives are not as bad as the positives are good… by a small margin. This is why the final assessment ended up on the positive side, despite the fact that the negatives had more total weight.
  • The principal good — the removal of snorg, which is bad for the health — was the principal factor that weighed most heavily. While its weight is only three (because while bad, snorg is not all that bad for people), its removal represents an unambiguous positive, a 10.

Now: The Democrats say, “Hey, hey there! You’ve forgotten something in your BUD Scale Rating assessment! You forgot that there are more than 10 million makers of snorg and an additional 15 million growers of the raw materials that make up snorg. That means that fully 25 million people will be deleteriously affected by your Anti-Snorg Act — predominantly minorities and women! (of course! 🙂 )”

Those are points that ought to make them come up with their own BUD Scale Rating assessment for the Anti-Snorg Act, and they should then present their assessment, and contrast it with the Republican assessment, and justify how they came up with it.

So, now the Democrats do a BUD Scale Rating assessment of their own, and produce the following chart:

Criteria BUD Rating Weight Weighted Score Pluses Minuses
Snorg bad for health – removal is good. 10 3 30 30
Snorg removal to generate jobs. 5 2 10 10
Jobs are only temporary. -2 5 -10 -10
Snorg removal costly. -5 2 -10 -10
Funding need is only temporary. 2 5 10 10
Bureaucracies hard to eliminate. -2 5 -10 -10
10 million makers of snorg lose livelihoods. -10 5 -50 -50
15 million growers of snorg raw materials lose income. -5 2 -10 -10
Totals -7 29 -40/22 = -1.38 50/10 = 5 -90/19 = -4.74

In my above hypothetical, the Democrats stipulated to the Republicans’ numbers, and simply added the last two items that they’ve rated as heavy negatives. Also, in the Democrats’ view, the Minuses total weight is significantly more than the Pluses: 19 vs. 10. With that total weight, even though the Pluses still average more positive than the Minuses are negative (5 vs –4.74), the total weight of the Minuses in the Democrats’ chart overwhelms the total weight of the Pluses, leading to the -1.38 final assessment. The Democrats would argue that Congress should not pass the Anti-Snorg Act.

And the debate would be on!

Expansion of the BUD Scale Rating Assessment as a Tool for Producing Better Policy

And that’s the real point. That would be a real debate! Others would chime in and say, “Hey, hey! You forgot X, Y and Z!” and they would have their say, and produce their own BUD Scale Rating assessment. They’d understand that the BUD Scale Rating assessment itself is a way to present the pros and cons of an issue in an easy-to-understand summary form, so they’d keep it simple, and they’d put in their own points, with their ratings and weightings.

Some bright person then will have the clever idea to compile all the prominent ones together in a Master BUD Scale Rating assessment. Someone else will have the creative idea to compile an average of all the BUD Scale Rating assessments from the prominent sources — kind of a Real Clear Politics average of the BUD Scale Rating assessments for the various issues. He’ll make a web site devoted to publishing BUD Scale Rating assessments in as non-partisan a fashion as possible.

Pending Issues For Which BUD Scale Rating Assessments Should Be Done Right Away

  • The Minimum Wage
  • Right to Die Laws
  • Marijuana Legalization

Existing Laws, Rules, Regulations, Policies For Which BUD Scale Rating Assessments Should Be Done Right Away

  • Welfare
  • Affirmative Action
  • Social Security
  • SNAP
  • Obamacare
  • Gay Marriage
  • Sarbanes-Oxley
  • Mark-to-Market
  • Marijuana Legalization

Other Ways to Use the BUD Scale Rating Assessment

We’ve seen how we can apply a BUD Scale Rating assessment to individual acts, as well as to evaluations of whether or not policy proposals are good ideas. Here are some other uses for the BUD Scale Rating assessment:

  • Keeping or eliminating existing laws, rules and regulations. There’s no reason that BUD Scale Rating assessments should be permanent. As time passes and the real effects of various laws, rules and regulations become better known, people would adjust the BUD Scale Rating assessments they had produced before the policies were passed. They’d change the various ratings and weights to reflect the updated information. Then, they’d use these BUD Scale Rating assessments to decide whether to keep a law, rule or regulation in effect.
  • Elections: The election of 2008 was a perfect example. Since Obama won the Presidency in 2008, we’ve been posing the question in these pages: “Why was it more important to elect a black President than to elect a good one?” A well-considered BUD Scale Rating assessment of Obama might have prevented the disaster that the Obama Presidency has proven to be.

A Sample BUD Scale Rating Assessment: Welfare

  1. Produces dependency in recipient populations. BUD Rating: -10. Weight: 10. Weighted Score: -100.
    • Reason for assessment: Many millions of lives have been harmed by this. This is one of America’s great tragedies.
  2. Feeds clothes, houses poor people so they don’t go below a certain standard of living: BUD Rating: 10. Weight: 10. Weighted Score: -100.
    • Reason for assessment: This is one of the very few (maybe the only?) good things about welfare. The idea behind it is, at first glance, noble. It’s good to want to help poor people.
  3. Very costly: Trillions have been spent. Many would say that money has been wasted, since the rate of poverty has not gone down since welfare has been enacted: BUD Rating: -10. Weight: 10. Weighted Score: -100.
    • Reason for assessment: Another of the great tragedies of welfare: trillions of dollars spent, and no appreciable improvement in the rate of American poverty.
  4. Foregoes doing very good things for recipient populations, like real job training: BUD Rating: -5. Weight: 5. Weighted Score: -25.
    • Reason for assessment: Boy, could we have spent that money more productively! And probably a lot less of it! However, real job training is available to poor people, and they could choose to avail themselves of it if they wanted to.
  5. Removes incentives for recipient populations to improve their own situation: BUD Rating: -10. Weight: 10. Weighted Score: -100.
    • Reason for assessment: Another of the so-called unintended  consequences of welfare programs. We Conservatives warned about this as well.
  6. Introduces other pathologies into recipient populations, like broken families, permanent poverty, out-of-wedlock births: BUD Rating: -10. Weight: 10. Weighted Score: -100.
    • Reason for assessment: In the realm of unintended consequences. Though, to be fair, many warned about this before the implementation of every welfare program.
  7. If we were to eliminate welfare programs now, millions would be thrown into abject poverty, there would be chaos and vast suffering. BUD Rating: -10. Weight: 10. Weighted Score: -100.
    • Reason for assessment: This is not an argument for welfare programs, but rather for a well-planned and thought-out weaning of recipient populations from the programs, and eventual elimination of the programs.
  8. The dependency-encouraging message that welfare programs give. BUD Rating: -2. Weight: 4. Weighted Score: -8.
    • Reason for assessment: A “message” is, of course, something that people can ignore if they choose to. Hence, the bad message that welfare gives is a negative, but not a serious negative. I was going to give this a weight of just 2, but I realized a simple fact: people can ignore the bad message of welfare… but all too frequently they don’t.

A Sample BUD Scale Rating Assessment Chart for Welfare:

Criteria BUD Rating Weight Weighted Score Pluses Minuses
Produces dependency in recipient populations… -10 10 -100 -100
Feeds clothes, houses poor people… 10 10 100 100
Very costly. -10 10 -100 -100
Foregoes doing very good things for recipient populations… -5 5 -25 -25
Removes incentives for recipient populations… -10 10 -100 -100
Introduces other pathologies into recipient populations -10 10 -100 -100
Elimination of welfare programs would cause chaos… -10 10 -100 -100
The dependency-encouraging message that welfare programs give. -2 4 -8 -8
Totals -47 69 -433/69 = -6.28 100/10 =  10 -533/59 = -9.03

Note: these assessments are probably not all that controversial now. But, before welfare programs were implemented, such assessments would have been quite different. That’s why it would be particularly useful to do such BUD Scale Rating assessments after a policy has been around, as well as before.

Welfare’s final assessment: -6.28 on a scale of -10 to 10, or:

BSR1

In retrospect, it sure seems to make sense to get rid of welfare programs, and not to try to do such wasteful, ridiculous things in the future.

Such retrospective BUD Scale Rating assessments can serve as important learning aids and teaching tools. Policies, laws, rules, regulations don’t operate in a vacuum. They affect people. Real people. They do either good things or bad things for the affected people. A well-done, an honestly-done BUD Scale Rating assessment, can crystallize the arguments for or against the implementation, or retention of public policies, or the election of public officials, or the decision to take, or not to take, action.

Summary:

If just one of the political parties were to exhibit the courage necessary to do real BUD Scale Rating assessments, then the other would quickly have to follow suit.

Also, if the media — say FOX News — were to introduce the practice, then the other media outlets would have to follow suit as well, and you would see quickly emerge what I mentioned above: a kind of Real Clear Politics average of various experts’, pundits’, media personalities’ real evaluations of whether a given law, policy, rule or regulation is a good idea.

More importantly, each assessment would end up … with a number. A real, honest-to-goodness number. A positive number or a negative number.

People easily understand a number. And it would be important to the ones doing the BUD Scale Rating assessment to make the resulting number understandable.

The BUD Scale Rating assessments could go a long way to making obsolete the acrimony that today passes for “civil discourse.” After all, the only proper way to do a real BUD Scale Rating assessment is to take into account all arguments — opposing and favorable — to rate them, weigh them and determine whether your arguments can refute them.

I understand that there’s subjectivity in the assignment of ratings and weights, but that’s why the public should be able to examine many such assessments, and determine which of them are persuasive.

We the people should demand that the political parties and the media do BUD Scale Rating assessments for all public policies and candidates for elective office. The media, and the politicians should have to justify how it is they arrive at their conclusions, and this tool would be a means to attach an easily understandable, objective measurement to those arguments.

— xPraetorius

Notes:


(1) – Source: Wikipedia (here)

(2) – They should contribute to the greater good of a person or people by increasing the target population’s health, prosperity, freedom, happiness or some combination of any or all of the above. Again, on a western scale. Because the western state-of-mind — that which prevails in America and Western Europe — is superior to all others on the planet. Perfect? No. But obviously better.

(3) – Note that if all aspects of our decision were evenly weighted, then the act of giving the homeless man a sandwich would get a plus 6 total score, resulting in a plus 0.6 final BUD Scale Rating assessment. In that case, point #1 — doing a nice thing that ever so temporarily makes the man’s situation less arduous — would have far greater importance than it actually would merit, and would even tip the scales into positive territory.

 

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3 thoughts on “An Idea for Public Policy – The BUD Scale Rating Assessment

  1. Ha! Well done graph, like a literal diagram we can punch the data into to see if we are truly acting in a moral way with some of our public policies. I speak of this kind of thing too, but in a far more emotional way having to do with defining what love really is. One problem with government, with social services, is that to justify the funding we must create the need. It becomes such a conflict of interest if we are truly trying to help people. How do we justify this agency and this budget? By making poor people a kind of commodity, by focusing on supply and demand. More poor, more government money for our programs. “We’ve solved the problem and can now dismantle this agency and relinquish our funding” said absolutely no government agency ever.

  2. So well said, IB! The BUD Scale Rating assessment is at least a way for people to say (1) we need to dismantle this or that agency, and (2) here, in easy-to-understand form, is precisely why. When I get home, I’m going to flog this to various media outlets to see who might want to take it up. That final number could sure be persuasive and force a lot of hands in the budgeting and decision-making processes. At the very least, it would forced supporters of various policy positions to justify their support in an easy to understand way.

    There’s more, of course. For example, what of something that gets a BUD Scale Rating score of 0? That would indicate that the good, no matter how good it actually is, is perfectly balanced off by the bad. Which would mean that if the good is very good, then the bad is very bad as well. In such a case, do we really want to implement the policy? Even though the good is very good?

    Best,

    — x

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