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December 16 , 2009

Goat Sacrificing in the 21st Century

How to Save the Planet from its Biggest Waste: Good Intentions Gone Bad


Too often, people respond to a serious concern with a ritual that allows them to maintain the comfort of the status quo. That’s what Roger Bourke White Jr. calls a “goat sacrifice”— it’s a tradeoff that doesn’t do what it is intended to do: solve the problem. These sacrifices make people and communities feel less guilty and fearful, but do nothing to end the serious problems. Examples of modern goat sacrificing include searching all air passengers so we’ll feel safe, striving to protect our children so much they can’t play outside, and criminalizing large segments of the population for drug-related activities so we feel like we’re fighting drug abuse. These solutions cost huge amounts of money and attention, but they do nothing to solve problems. Even worse, they include unseen costs beyond the obvious goat that distracts us from finding true, lasting solutions. It’s important to study why goat sacrifices occur, how to identify when we’re wasting money, so we can instead spend those dollars well. We can do all of those things by getting smart about good intentions and recognizing Goat Sacrificing in the 21st Century.

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