6

Namely, this one? "Is democracy the most superior form of government in all countries?"

This is the response of the moderator to the initial question:

Welcome to Skeptics! This is not a forum; this is a questions and answer site. I'm afraid your post isn't really a question, because real questions have answers, not items or ideas or opinions. Please read the FAQ for more information.

Frankly, I find this comment by moderator Borror0 to the question-asker to be rude and nonsensical: Where exactly in the question did the asker act like it was a forum? His question is actually pretty fair one as questions go in giving the necessary background for its asking. And the "real questions have answers" bit -- aren't there ways of giving strong evidence on what is "superior" based on established fields of human inquiry? E.g., isn't economics the very science of giving objective answers to given to subjective questions. I can see dozens of good ways to give a good take on this important question.

Like I said in the comments there:

An "objective" answer does not mean that there is only one way to answer a question. If you ask an algorithm question to solve a particular problem on StackOverflow, you may receive multiple ways, 3, 4, 5 to answer the question. One might focus on the computational cost of implementing such an algorithm. One might focus on the amount of documentation in implementing its own algorithm. Another might focus on the ease of updating the algorithm. All are perfectly valid, "objective" answers to the question.

Is the real reason this was closed because perhaps there something inappropriately "unSkeptical" about the question-asker's attitude towards democracy? That is, it does not hew to the sociological attitudes of those who are self-described "skeptics"? (I.e, it is not rah-rah vaguely liberal politics?)

As I wrote:

The closing of this question makes no sense. It is true that the answer to this question is "subjective", but there are objective good answers using established fields of human inquiry. To determine "superior", we might use the viewpoint of economics; "Does democracy engender economic growth?" Or perhaps sociology; "Do people feel happier, are they more engaged in their communities in democracies"? Environmentalism; "Do democracies do a better job of protecting the environment for the benefit of later generations?" All answerable. This is what I'm talking about with preconceptions.

Bad questions about aliens and Ouija boards remain open. Inquisitive questions, about truly unquestioned assumptions in our society, are closed. Why?

  • IMO - This is a good question on defining what is and is not a good question. Don't downvote it, answer it. – Russell Steen Mar 24 '11 at 14:13
  • "Isn't economics the very science of giving objective answers to subjective questions?" No. Economics has particular subject matter. It can give objective answers to objective questions. If you go to an accredited graduate school of economics, you will be exposed to quantitative disciplines such as mathematical game theory, statistics, mathematical models of production and consumption, etc. There is even a human subject lab component. It is not some kind of pseudoscience. – Paul Mar 27 '11 at 8:50
  • I would grant that in some cases, knowledge of economic modelling can help make some kinds of subjective questions more objective. But isn't the same true of physics (What is a sunrise?) or chemistry (Why is the sky blue and grass green?)? – Paul Mar 27 '11 at 8:52
9

The Democracy question had a few problems.

  • It was filled with invective, and to that point, mostly flame bait.
  • There didn't appear to be any possible way to answer it objectively.
  • You could almost take any single sentence out of the post and have a three day argument on the accuracy of that statement.

It's a great discussion, but a bad Q&A topic. It's a bad Q&A topic because the question is poorly formed, and there is no objective answer.

Whether or not Ouija works, while silly, has an objective answer.

Edit: to be clear on the subjective/objective part -- Yes, on SO you can have 3 or 4 correct answers to a question. That is the nature of programming. But each of those answers is going to be testable. The subjectivity is in which answer works best, given the ups and downs of each. You'll get "this is better", but you won't get "this is completely wrong" with no way for a third person to determine if A or B is right.

I'm not very good at putting that into words, but there are different levels and forms of subjectivity.

  • I think the issue is with the idea of the word "superior". It's inherently vague. However pointing out that it's vague is worthy. – user4951 May 28 '12 at 4:29
3

The fundamental problem with that question is that it was not objectively answerable. There is no way to establish what the best form of government is; there isn't even an objective way to tell whether one government type is better than another.

All questions that just use the word "best" or "better" should be suspect. It's frequently possible to answer "best at X" or "better for X", but "best" and "better" by themselves are almost always value judgments, and value judgments are off-topic here.

We want questions where an objective answer is at least possible, where it would be possible to conduct research and experimentation to find an objective answer. The "best form of government" question isn't one of those.

1

In the Western tradition democracy is valued as being a good in itself. Even if democracy engenders economic growth and people get unhappy that doesn't mean that democracy isn't superior. This isn't a philosophy stackexchange.

On the skeptic stackexchange you have the burden of defining your question. You might ask "Does democracy engender economic growth?" and that's a reasonable question but you didn't.

  • You seem to be under the impression that I asked that question. I didn't. – Uticensis Mar 24 '11 at 16:51

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