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July 24, 2021

To solve big issues like climate change, we need to reframe our problems

World Economic Forum

July 19, 2021

Most of our social and global problems are multi-causal. The problem-solving scholar Russell L. Ackoff memorably used the term “messes” to describe real-world problems. But people often dislike complexity, preferring neat stories with a single, easily identifiable villain.

Take the case of gun deaths in the US. Advocates for gun ownership often use the “mental health” argument that guns don’t kill people, people do. On the other hand, people who dislike guns often see it as an access problem and call for a ban on all guns. Arguably, both of these framings are as simplistic as they are infeasible.

Contrast this with the approach described by the economist Paul Krugman in a recent New York Times column. He uses the car industry to reframe the gun debate. We fight automobile accidents through a broad suite of different interventions, which allows us to keep using our cars but in a safer way.

This approach calls for a portfolio of reasonable regulations that recognizes the political fact that many Americans want to keep their guns. This is a far stretch from the binary "access-or-mental-health" framing and, in our opinion, much more likely to create results.


Posted by ACASA on July 24, 2021 at 12:44 PM in blog post | Permalink | Comments (0)