When There's No Rhyme or Reason

Article excerpt

Byline: PAUL BENNEWORTH

WHEN I moved to secondary school, I fell in with a bad crowd and was always in trouble. I was lucky enough to have a form tutor who explained to me the importance of taking responsibility for your actions.

He often said to me when I tried to explain my mischief was "that's not a reason, it's an excuse". He was right - an excuse merely justifies something that you have already decided to do, whereas a reason shows that you have deliberately chosen an action to achieve a desired result.

As long as you have a reason, as I later discovered; you don't have to be right. If the reason makes sense, then if you fail, you will learn something from the experience.

These lessons over time make you a wiser person. Not just when you are faced with similar choices, but also when you encounter entirely novel situations.

Our life-changing decisions are rarely ones that we make very often whether to buy a house, get married, go to university, take a new job or emigrate.

So reasoning is particularly important here. Without reason, we are cheating ourselves of the chance to take a greater control over our destiny.

Which is why the steady loss of reason from our public life is so worrying. At exactly the same time that the Government has decided to intrude more into our lives, it has shown less inclination to consider whether this makes any sense.

The recent revelations about the 'consultation' around Heathrow's third runway are an acute example of this behaviour.

The Government decided on a course of action - building the new runway - in response to lobbying from airlines. There was a consultation, but it would be generous to describe it as a sham.

And this is not an isolated example - from the Iraq War to the promotion of genetically modified food through nuclear energy and the Kingsnorth power station, this Government has made a habit of taking decisions first, then coming up with the facts. …