"People can corrupt anything, so I reject your proposal for improvement"

published Dec 27, 2021

When we ask why a plane crashed, "gravity" is a bad response. When asked about a policy proposal, "anyone can corrupt anything" is a bad rebuttal.

"People can corrupt anything, so I reject your proposal for improvement"

Taken (and slightly edited) from Slate Star Codex.

Some people agree to a proposal for a reform, but point out that human beings are wicked sinners, and the reform will be bent towards the malevolent will of our overlords, just like the old policies. And they're not wrong!

The problem with this argument is that it's a fully general argument against any change. The overlords game every system to their benefit. Rely on standardized tests? They'll game the SAT's with phony disability accommodations and outright cheating. Abolish standardized tests? They'll make their kids take fifty extracurriculars and pay a ghost writer to pen their college entrance essay about their life-changing volunteer work in Ghana.

The right question is not "can the corrupt game this system?" but rather, "can they game it less than the existing one?" This is why you should keep standardized tests, even though corrupt people can and do game them. The evidence shows that on balance standardized tests are one of the few ways a minority student from a poor background even has a chance to move upwards.