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ADVANTAGE: Social media provides a platform for members of the public to openly criticise others. Photo: iStockphoto/mokee81

Unrealistic expectations stifle growth

A society that openly criticises those who err is likely to be risk-averse, which is a handbrake on decision-making.

I saw a girl in a T-shirt recently that read ‘good grammar is sexy’.

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Coos Bay, OR, USA
While your piece makes some good points, its theme, as conveyed in the subtitle, bothers me as disconnected from the evidence. I quote: "A society that openly criticizes those who err is likely to be risk-averse." I can’t buy that notion, for several reasons. To begin with, I’m emotionally and intellectually committed to frank, often ruthless criticism as the best way to sort out societal conflicts. Second, the critics in a critical society are obviously not risk-averse, which denies at least part of your thesis. Third, as to those being criticized, I would say their degree of risk aversion depends on their personal inclinations. I have seen the claim - a plausible one - that only in a society that prohibited criticism of its leaders, like Nazi Germany, could Hitler have committed the folly of attacking Russia while still at war with England. Obviously most Germans would not have taken the risk of criticizing him for it, but that was not such a good thing, was it? In that society the bulk of the people would have been risk-averse: a disposition the opposite of Hitler’s. Many of those Germans would have indulged their risk-aversion by means of inaction and sloth and a reluctance to criticize their Great Leader even while it was obvious he didn’t have any clothes.

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