The long road toward an evidence-based policy

minwageIf the failing presence of M5S (“Movimento 5 Stelle”, “5 Stars Movement”) inside Italian Parliament should ever teach us something, is that to be an effective public administrator, you have to be a skilled, reliable professional. This should not be surprising; since it’s true for almost every other human activity, why shouldn’t be for politicians?

Problems arise when a skilled politician is the one who gets the most votes in next elections, not the one who takes wise and far-sighted decisions. Even if there is a correlation between good decisions and votes, it’s far too weak to be effective. Being a far-sighted, good decision-maker helps; but short-sighted, demagogic decisions pay much, much more. Again, this should not come as a surprise, if we take into account that a politician get retirement rights after a ridiculous amount of time. For Italy’s parliament, less then five years are enough to get a retirement check, not to mention other benefits. With such a short time horizon, it’s not surprising at all that politicians’ decisions are short-sighted at best.

On the other hand, electors too, tend to spend their votes on the base of self-related, immediate benefits, instead of weighting policy decisions against broader, long-term effects. Nonetheless, the large popular consensus gained by italian’s 2003 smoking ban1 among smokers themselves, demonstrates that a very large majority of electors do really appreciate good laws, provided this laws are reasonably equitable and sound, and that they are correctly informed about them.

If we want our politicians to start taking sound, far-sighted decisions, we citizens, we have to work toward re-establishing a stricter correlation between good policy and votes. To achieve this goal, both fronts of the problem must be addressed simultaneously.

First, we have to press our representatives to remove all privileges, so they can get in touch with real life. Until politicians keep living in an unrealistic, enchanted world, where everything is granted, inside an ivory tower they voted for themselves, there is no way they will ever be able to take sound decisions. Politicians must live a real life, as hard and unfair as it is, like everybody else.

As for the citizen-side of the problem, we have to find the courage to abandon the silly idea that policy decisions can be judged just by some minor effects on our own little yard. Policy decisions have broad, dynamic consequences on our society as a whole, and we have to judge them on this base. That means we have to work hard to grasp every aspect of a decision in order to correctly evaluate it. No easy, ideological shortcuts allowed. We must get used to that. And we must also find the courage to support even those laws that will eventually undermine some of our own comforts, if these laws are reasonably fair and have a good overall effect on our society. We must always keep in mind that the advantages of good laws will eventually exceed every immediate, limited discomfort. Last, but not least, we have to forget about ideologies and political parties, and start spending our votes coherently with our evaluations of politicians’ decisions.

Both targets are very hard to achieve, but if you take the time to think about them, you will soon realize that we have no other choice.

1 Law 3/2003, the so called ‘Sirchia Law’, named after the Heath Ministry who promoted it.


Informazioni su WorldsOutsideReality

«Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles. Have no friends not equal to yourself. When you feel you have faults, do not hesitate to correct yourself.» (Confucius; Analects, 9.25)

Pubblicato il 2 aprile 2013, in A Little Bit of This and That, DibattitoScienza, Evidence-based policy con tag , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Aggiungi il permalink ai segnalibri. 1 Commento.


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