The slipperiest sentence fragment in the English language? I nominate:

" ________ seems bad, but if used for good could ..."

How often have has this and its variants been said about extraordinarily unsafe technologies? About ill-considered economic proposals? About profoundly immoral social systems? You can make your own preferred list of words to fill in the blank: communism, capitalism, a nuclear weapon, genetic profiling, state-sponsored assassination, ubiquitous video surveillance, government-enforced monopoly, selective abortion, compulsory military service, preemptive war, ...

The hypothesis behind that phrase? That something fundamentally evil can be harnessed, controlled, and used for positive ends. Sure --- in the right hands, for a while, under some circumstances. But the bigger, harder questions revolve around how to keep the power in those hands, over long periods of time, as conditions change ...

(see also OurOneRing (18 Dec 2001), ...)

TopicSociety - 2003-04-21

(correlates: SeeingStars0, FourthGradeTwerp, Comments on Critical Eyes, ...)