The human mind is wired to accept ridiculous reasons as if they are legitimate. Studies have shown that people are more likely to agree to a favor if the word "because" is used in the request. It doesn't seem to matter what follows that word. As long as the sentence is in the form of a reason, people accept it as though some actual reason is present. (See the book Influence.)

I've often used this method. I think I've mentioned these uses before, but I will reiterate to set up my larger point.

Guys tend to argue over who picks up the check after dinner. In cases where I know this situation is likely to arise, I prepare a ridiculous "because" reason that I trot out when the moment is right. After allowing the other guy or guys to make their ceremonial attempt at paying, I say something like "I'll pay today because this is the seven month anniversary of when you bought your car. Congratulations." I'm exaggerating slightly, but it isn't hard to come up with some trivial reason why you should pay. The funny thing is that any reason you offer will settle the discussion. It works every time.

Another situation in which the ridiculous reason works is when a large dinner group is being served and only half of the people have their dishes. Everyone sits there staring at their food as it cools, trying to be polite. In these cases I say loudly "According to etiquette, you can start eating as soon as three people have been served." Everyone instantly digs in. I think I read that rule of etiquette somewhere, but it's clearly a random number. There is nothing special about three. Ridiculous reasons win again.

I mention these examples because I think the world needs another ridiculous rule to solve some big problems. And it's no fair saying my new rule is ridiculous because that's exactly the point. The new rule would be this: Any land controlled by a country for 50 years straight is legitimately theirs. It's like a statute of limitations for armed resistance.

Obviously the people living in the disputed lands will reject this rule when it kicks in. It's really for the benefit of others who might be inclined to help the continued struggle for independence. Most struggles depend on outside help. This rule allows the outside helpers to withdraw without being dishonorable.

While the 50 year rule is clearly arbitrary and ridiculous, our minds allow us to accept such things as if they are real rules. So in time it might influence the inhabitants of the disputed lands to accept their situation. Realistically, if a country is controlled for 50 years, it's probably going to stay controlled. Continued resistance doesn't benefit anyone.

Consider all of the international struggles that involve lands conquered more than 50 years ago, or approaching that. The partisans need a reason to stop fighting that doesn't sound like they are a bunch of quitters. Honor is at stake. The 50 year rule is the non-reason reason.

I am aware that this rule, if followed, would sanction enormous unfairness, subjugation, apartheid, and worse. But those things would happen with or without the rule. The only difference is how many innocent people die trying to change a situation that is unlikely to change.
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Apr 28, 2009
Ok, I was with you on the ridiculous reasons principle. You beautifully articulated an aspect of human nature that has significant social implications on both a global and local scale. It works best when it gives us even the flimsiest justification for doing whatever we wanted to do anyway - but it can also be used (most effectively when combined with the threat of force) to convince people not to object to stuff that is not in their best interest.

Foreign policy does not seem to be your strong suit, however. I'll leave it at that.
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Apr 28, 2009
How about a statute of limitations on quote-wars.... by quote-wars i mean a "war of drugs", or a "war on terrorism"... or... any non-geo-spacial conflivct. Quote-wars are only allowed for 10 years, after which you've either won or lost.
Apr 28, 2009
I fail to see the logic in your conclusion. It seems as though you are giving the person an out to do exactly what they wanted to do. In that case, it really doesn't matter what the reason is, the person is just looking for someone to else to justify their actions, if someone else agrees, then it must make sense. This seems like a fall back for stupid people.
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Apr 28, 2009
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Apr 28, 2009
Your 50-year rule is far from ridiculous. In fact, as we learned when we bought our house, it is a long-standing part of common law called the "right of adverse possession." The rule works like this: If someone uses your property, and you know about it, and you don't do anything to stop them for long enough, the property becomes theirs.

More information here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adverse_possession
Apr 28, 2009
I assume this is bait to set up tomorrow's post about the responses?

I would argue something close to the opposite: that once a "resistance" (an inheirently biased term), "rebellion" (ditto), etc reaches a critical mass it's next to impossible to extinguish, even if the "opressed" (hat trick!) party's actions are inflicting way more suffering on those they supposedly represent than they ever will on the object of their anger. as long as they have enough power to ensure future generations are indoctrinated and violently surpress any who would seek peace I really don't see how that cycle gets broken w/o one side completely wiping the other out which of course would be called genocide in the intl community (though the volume of the cries would vary widely depending on the victor)...
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Apr 28, 2009
Interesting point, Scott.

However, the two examples you give (bill and dishes getting cold) poorly illustrate it. In those cases you are not convincing people by giving a reason. You are providing with excuse to do exactly what they already want to do (not pay and eat).

[I would argue that people want to be seen as the person paying, so there is always compromise involved. Likewise, resistance fighters would also like to not be killed. -- Scott]
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