Friday, February 29, 2008

Kunal's Law

I have decided to boldly go where practically everyone has gone before, and coin a law named after myself. Seeing as pretty much every eponymous law is a corollary of a more famous law, I have decided that I too should take this expeditious route. Hence, I present this humble offshoot of Occam's Razor:
If a phenomenon can be equally explained by the decline of human civilization and by people responding to incentives, it's probably the incentives.
Seriously, you see this every day. You see people everywhere point to this or that example of something they think is going wrong and say, back in the day people were smarter/politer/nicer/less corrupt. Evidently, the new generation has lost these qualities, and hence the (presumably) bad situation we're in right now. F'rinstance, here Ramanand complains about people wasting food at buffets, something that I have heard many people decry. Now while he does not directly ascribe this to the inexorable descent of the human race to savagery, some (Hi Grandma!) do so. However, there is another, incentive-based explanation for this, as Harish points out in the comments. In buffets, you don't know how good the food is before you eat it. You serve yourself extra, so that if its good , you don't have to stand in line again. If it isn't so good, however, you waste it.

There is probably an incentive-based explanation for every phenomenon blamed on the decline/decadence/whatever of modern society. Like divorce rates, something thats regularly blamed on modern decadence. You might, of course also attribute rising divorce to the reduction of incentives (such as social ostracization, female equality, etc) to stay on in bad marriages. This is also somehow far more likely an explanation than the human race suddenly losing its moral bearings. Yet, somehow people seem to be much fonder of the first explanation.

So, the next time you decide to tell somebody that आमच्या वेळी असे नव्हते *, remember to apply Kunal's Law first. Oh, and if it turns out that someone came up with this first, just remember to comment on his blog and remind him to change the name on his post to "Kunal's Law".

* - old Pu La Deshpande quotation that means, literally, that "it wasn't this way back in our time".



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