Problem

Rhetorical inflation in meetings

Other Names:
Public posturing in meetings
Empty meeting oratory
Gap between public rhetoric and policy implementation
Nature:
Meetings, and especially international meetings reflecting different cultures and ideologies and focusing on a complex variety of issues, tend to encourage lengthy interventions of little substance. Such excesses are difficult to control because any restraint is easily seen as symptomatic of repressive social forces which are frequently implicit in the topics under discussion. As a result such meetings, when they can be held, become excessively expensive and primarily of symbolic value. Continuing public debate is intended to exert pressure towards negotiations; when it can no longer do so, it defeats the aims of its own sponsors.
Incidence:
This problem arises in most non-technical meetings aiming to articulate new policies in response to pressing issues where experts are themselves in disagreement. Its importance has been frequently noted in the debates of the General Assembly of the United Nations and in the conferences of its Specialized Agencies.

The permanent members of the UN Security Council met five times in the 1991-92 period to discuss arms restraint. Together they collectively account for 90% of weapons sold worldwide. They have only be able to agree on vague guidelines for arms sales and standards that each says it already meets.

Claim:
At meetings, people talk in inverse proportion to how much they know. Being uninhibited by ignorance, those knowing little are able to talk endlessly, exhausting the sum of their knowledge through the duration of the meeting. By contrast the well-informed, reluctant to expose the ignorance of others, tend to say little.
Counter Claim:
Global issues require global solutions based on global consultations. The apparent fruitlessness of debates is mitigated as procedures are smoothed out. It is only by exchanging views that understanding of the possibilities of concerted approaches emerges.
Problem Type:
F: Fuzzy exceptional problems
Date of last update
08.03.1997 – 00:00 CET