Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Why There's No Longer Any Useful Public Policy Debate

David Brooks begins his analysis of current economic policy arguments by observing,
The country is divided when different people take different sides in a debate. The country is really divided when different people are having entirely different debates.
 Brooks's analysis is correct and serves the purpose of his column, but it doesn't go far enough.  This Steve Martin clip illustrates some problems that Brooks misses

First, there's the labels: caf, de-caf, half-caf.   Brooks himself has to label one side as "structuralists" and the other as "cyclicalists."  Brooks's dichotomy pales beside labels people claim for themselves: liberal, conservative, paleo-con, neo-con, progressive, or left-leaning libertarian.  Then there's the ad hominem labels: communist, facist, Kenyan anti-colonial Alinskyite, corporatist, globalist, new world order supporter, RINO, DINO, Christianist, theocrat, or New Ager.  If anyone needs more examples,  head over to the Madville Times and look for Steve Sibson comments.  Nearly every thread has a few new labels.

In public policy debates, the first impulse is to defend the person from one's camp and oppose the person from the other camps. As people become more narrowly defined, it becomes easier to ignore and attack potential solutions because the person proposing the idea wears the wrong label.

Second, there's the problem of agreement.  Everyone wants the lemon.  In the political world, everyone wants to spend more on the military than the next 10 top spending nations combined.  Public policy makers also seem to agree that governments, schools, and in some cases, churches need to be run like businesses.  No one seems be able to explain how those institutions that aren't designed to make a profit are supposed to emulate profit making institutions.

I have a modest proposal.  First, all public policy discussion must mention only the contents of the plan.  Second, everyone disagrees with everything.  Third, everyone orders only black coffee.  The last one is negotiable.  I doubt anyone will advance these proposals.  After all, I'm just an educrat working in a government school indoctrinating children in theocratic Alinskyite fascism. Next week, someone will call me a new-age RINO corporate socialist.


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