Bad ideas are bad because they are impractical or too expensive, or because they benefit some people at the expense of others. And some bad ideas are morally bad.

Bad ideas can seem good until you dig down into the details – it seems a good idea for the UK to overhaul its social service payments and make it simpler for people in need to get help when they need it.

But turns out that Universal Credit has been so poorly implemented with so little thorough thinking put into the consequences of the changes that many thousands of disabled people and people who urgently need housing have been left without access to any help. Someone who knows they are going to be made homeless cannot apply for any help until they have actually been evicted onto the street. Then and only then can they apply for emergency help. So days and weeks (minimum 42 days, but in reality more like 60 days) slip by for vulnerable families left with nowhere to go.

 Ideas

GOOD OR BAD?: While politicians may be guilty of coming up with bad ideas as a "quick fix", Amanda Jackson argues that good ideas are based on moral choices and should help us all to live safer lives. PICTURE: G Crescoli/Unsplash

 

"Politicians are good at bad ideas because they respond to a crisis or a problem with an ill-conceived populist panacea rather than taking time to explore real and worthwhile solutions."

Politicians are good at bad ideas because they respond to a crisis or a problem with an ill-conceived populist panacea rather than taking time to explore real and worthwhile solutions.

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has responded to the affair of his former Deputy PM Barnaby Joyce with his former media advisor (who is now pregnant), by banning relationships between government ministers and staff. This seems like a knee-jerk reaction, even if we all agree with the principle. How can you possibly police it?

A number of Australian Prime Ministers have had affairs in their time as leaders - should politicians be involved in trying to stop people from making stupid decisions? And it seems to be a decision made to protect the Prime Minister’s shaky hold on power rather than a genuine desire to protect young female staffers from abuses of power.

The story shows up the worst aspects of the political bubble – long hours away from home, inflated egos, too many boozy meals, too much abuse of expenses, and a hypocritical attitude to morality.

It might have been a much better idea to send the Deputy PM (who has now resigned) and his poor wife to counselling, if she was willing, and to urge the politicians to prioritise the women in this whole episode – the wife, the mistress and the four daughters.

I cannot write about bad ideas without mentioning US President Donald Trump’s idea to stop mass shootings in schools after the latest horror in Florida in which 17 students and staff died. (Actually it’s not his idea, he has borrowed it from the NRA, America’s pro-gun lobby).

How can we stop children and students being killed by crazed people with guns?

Give teachers guns!

He could have proposed an actual ‘Band-Aid’ approach by encouraging teachers to do first aid courses and trauma counselling, but no, his response is to match violence with violence.

And pay teachers willing to do this dirty work extra money.

This is a bad idea on so many levels and every non-American knows it. Firstly, what sort of role model is this creating for school students? It is a Hollywood action movie response – Liam Neeson playing a caring primary teacher turned rogue avenger with a gun.

It is claiming that “good” violence is the only way to deal with “bad” violence. Whereas the real heroes in any violent situations are the peacemakers and those who sacrifice themselves for others.

It’s also a bad idea because it does not stop the problem. Fighting violence with more violence denies the power of peace and it glorifies the very action that has left us with grieving parents or traumatised teenagers holding photos of much loved children.

The radical good idea is to bravely stand up to the gun lobby (maybe refuse their political donations!); to talk policy compromises so at the very least it is harder for anyone to get hold of a semi-automatic weapon; and to make some changes without vilifying every American who owns a gun.

Urban dwellers tend to smugly dismiss all gun ownership as wrong but I know from my few years spent living in western NSW, that shotguns used for hunting or killing snakes are not in the same league as hand guns and crazy semi-automatics kept by people in the American suburbs.

And it’s time (it has been time for decades) for gun owners in the States to compromise too, to stop shouting about their “constitutional right” to own guns. When their “right” impinges on the freedom of children to be safe, then it is a wrong.

"No posturing, no tough talk, no passing the blame. Simply, we need ‘good” ideas thoughtfully based on moral choices, that protect the weak and help us all to live safer lives."

Paul tells early Christian believers in Corinth (I Corinthians 6:12) to act responsibly with their new freedoms: “I have the right to do anything,” you say - but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything” - but not everything is constructive.

The trouble is that good ideas take time and patience to deliver and maybe a political leader would miss out on the credit for the changes. But politicians cannot say, “I am praying for your loss” without addressing the issue of gun ownership.  

Time and again in the Bible, verses about happiness speak of safety, rest and security for all. Psalm 37:3 says, “Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.”

No posturing, no tough talk, no passing the blame. Simply, we need ‘good” ideas thoughtfully based on moral choices, that protect the weak and help us all to live safer lives.