osewalrus (osewalrus) wrote,

The Updated Feld's Laws

So Tom Smith asked generically who had coined their own axioms. I was also asked earlier today by someone else for my various rules on advocacy. So I will take the opportunity to repost them, updated and modified. If I forget anything, let me know.

This supplants an older version I posted on LJ back in 2005.

Feld's First Law: Where brute force is sufficient, brute force is sufficient.

Feld's Second Law: REPEALED

Feld's Third Law: Any sufficiently expensive card game is indistinguishable from Magic (tm).

Feld's First Law of Public Policy: Being right is not enough, but it helps a lot more than people think.

Feld's Second Law of Public Policy: Public policy is made by human beings (adapted from Clausewitz)

Feld's Third Law of Public Policy: Always make it as easy as possible for people to do what you want.

Feld's Fourth Law of Public Policy: Never ask an agency to do something it is prohibited by law from doing. But feel free to convince the agency something is permissible if you have an actual legal theory. Remember the difference between between a novel but supportable interpretation and "making stuff up."

Feld's Law of Expectations: Always be prepared for the best possible result.

Feld's Hand Grenade Rule of Public Advocacy:
1. Never threaten to use a hand-grenade unless you are willing to pull the pin.
2. When you pull the pin, the hand-grenade better go off. Even if it blows off your own hand, it is better to be known in Policyland as someone crazy enough to blow up his own hand to take out the other side than it is to be known as someone whose hand grenades are duds.

Feld's Ratio of Political Power: Your political power is directly proportional to your *perceived* ability to cause pain.

Feld's Reality Check: Is this about being effective or about feeling good? If it's more important to feel good than to be effective, then it's a hobby. Please leave public advocacy to the professionals.

Failure is always an option.

Cultivate functional delusions.

Sometimes, it really does hurt to ask.

When someone answers your question with "why do you hate consumers/hate freedom/hate the market/support piracy" or other variation on "why do you want to drown puppies and torture kittens," your shit detector should be going BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!

Yaakov's Rules of Court Schtick (going back to the days when I was head of the Carolingian Fools Guild):
Rule 1: You are not as funny as you think you are.
Rule 2: Rule 1 really does apply to you.

I'm fairly sure I missed some, but I'll conclude here with my Reflection On The Peculiar Nature of Advocacy:

The successful world-changing advocate must believe it is possible to achieve the impossible through passion and perseverance and planning. At the same time, the successful world changing advocate must be a horrible pragmatist, knowing when to cut losses or what evils to tolerate because diverting to tilt at windmills will stop you from ever reaching the dragons -- let alone slaying them.

What this means is that the successful advocate exists in a peculiar state of functional delusion and cold calculation. It means having a pair of rose colored glasses but keeping them perched on your forehead, lest they obscure too much. It means spending oneself recklessly and, of necessity, repeatedly losing heartbreaking battles because failure is always, ALWAYS, an option. And despite utter, soul-crushing disappointment, getting back up and going for another round.

But even if one achieves this perverse state of functional madness, the successful advocate faces one last trap -- the seductiveness of martyrdom. By this I do not mean true martyrdom of dying for one's beliefs, or even genuine figurative martyrdom of those willing to endure in the face oppression so as to create an example of resistance or to shame others into action. By martyrdom, I mean struggle with no hope of victory and no goal in defeat.

Martyrdom allows you to define failure as success. Martyrdom converts bone crushing defeat into a sort of sick pleasure, and therefore defeat becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. Martyrdom is its own reward, and its own prison. After a time, the failure becomes necessary, confirmatory that previous failures were not your fault but the inevitable way of the world.

Those looking for world-changing advocacy should therefore embrace madmen but shun martyrs. The unfortunate history of social movements is that they tend to get this backward.


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