1/27/2020

If the Only Way You Can Get Your Great Idea Implemented...

"Economics textbooks are full of clever-and-appealing policy proposals. Proposals like: “Let’s redistribute money to the desperately poor” and “Let’s tax goods with negative externalities.” They’re so clever and so appealing that it’s hard to understand how any smart, well-meaning person could demur. When critics appeal to “public choice problems,” it’s tempting to tell the critics that they’re the problem. The political system isn’t that dysfunctional, is it? In any case, reflexively whining, “The political system will muck up your clever, appealing policy proposal,” hardly makes that system work better. The naysayers should become part of the solution: Endorse the clever-and-appealing policy proposals – and strive to bring them to life.

When you look at the real world, though, you see something strange: Almost no one actually pushes for the textbooks’ clever-and-appealing policy proposals. Instead, the people inspired by the textbooks routinely attach themselves to trendy-but-awful policy proposals. If you point out the discrepancy, they’re often too annoyed to respond. When they do, reformers shrug and say: “The clever-and-appealing policy never has – and probably never will – have much political support. So we have to do this instead.”"