Three Cheers for Mugwumps! – When not to make a decision

The word of the day is “mugwump.” According to, it means “a person who is unable to make up his or her mind on an issue, esp. in politics; a person who is neutral on a controversial issue.”

By the sound of mugwump, I wouldn’t want to be one. But as someone who is an expert at helping people make decisions, I know that people who struggle with a decision are suffering from one or more of three possibilities:

  • They have insufficient information
  • They have given too little attention to the objectives of the decision and are likely focused on too few immediately proffered options
  • They are not assessing the risk of the options 

If you don’t want to be a mugwump, these are remediable. Check out other articles in this section on Mental Clarity and Smart Decisions.

However, when it comes to politics and scandals, I wish we had more mugwumps!

The immigration debate is a perfect example. I guarantee that 99.9% of Americans have insufficient information. Furthermore, the immediately proffered options are to build walls and require identification to walk the dog. It makes no sense to latch on to either of these without understanding why people are so willing to take the risks of entering this country illegally, why businesses knowingly hire illegals all the time, whether our economy truly depends on these workers, whether there are jobs Americans refuse to take, and much, much more. As for risks, building walls may seem concrete and conclusive but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to realize you can’t build walls high enough. Three cheers for the mugwumps who refuse to embrace walls and IDs.

Here is another example. People commenting on a recent school scandal mostly fall into one of two camps:

  • “I know/love this guy/school and he/they could never have done these things.”
  • “I am not surprised; they all ought to be locked up.”

In other words, these people are not mugwumps! Though they are clearly without sufficient information to support their conclusions. At times like these, I wish for more mugwumps who hesitate to embrace such positions.

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