Effective ideas meet a simple test: "It does exactly what it says on the tin."
I think you're onto something here, Matt. I wrote a whole article -- The Procedure Fetish -- about how procedures meant to serve beneficent ends wind up making it hard to do anything at all. https://lpeproject.org/blog/the-procedure-fetish/
Interesting post, with regard to the vaccine tiers it seems like the prioritzers never took into consideration anyone's actual ability to implement it. And that's sort of the opposite of a technocracy, it's an academic exercise pretending to be a technocratic solution
Killer post! One of the best distillations of the tragic state of American policymaking. To add a little color: I worked in state/local government and politics for about a decade and the extent to which supply-sider//good government political gestalt (is this neoliberalism?) has eaten the brains of folks in that world is remarkable.
Literally, one of the unassailable rhetorical gambits in any program design debate, large or small, is something along the lines of "Are we putting strict enough controls on the flow of taxpayer dollars? Are there more points where we should put them in?" As though parsimony were actually the prime directive of government, rather than a stylistic choice.
To a large extent, this problem gets worse the higher you go up the policymaking food chain (see Harris' absurd "If you start a business in xyz census tract and operate for 3 years, etc."). These well-intentioned and capable liberals (like well-intentioned and capable liberals almost everywhere) live in mortal terror of Being Criticized, and it leads to them, as Yglesias put it, taking refuge in process. And it sucks
"Don’t deliver something over budget and behind schedule that turns out not to work well and then congratulate yourself on your community outreach."
My favorite quote of the post. Hear, hear.
Good post, but I think you’re being too generous to the “all we got is $600” choir. If you own or work for a small business, or you got laid off, you probably know that the government at least tried to do something for you. Low-trust people who post things like the Guy Fieri tweet either don’t fall into one of those groups, can’t be bothered to check the facts before they speak, or simply want to get a lot of likes on Twitter—probably all three. I don’t think clearer program designs would have changed what we’ve seen from them.
This is why M4A and the Wall are so popular. Keep it simple stupid!
Turning the vaccine distribution procedure into something it seems like the DMV would do isn't a good way to win people over to the Democrats, and I say this as a Democrat who used to be a Republican when he was young and stupid in college.
If the answer is fewer lawyers (but muh rules!) in politics, and more product managers, let's do it! As someone who in my day job preaches outcome over effort, seeing Newsom and Cuomo spin on this is about as frustrating as it could be.
I agree with most of post. But I really struggle with this: "Normal people lack the technical competence to make judgments about what street features will have what impact." This seems fine when we talk about features we like. But I worry that it threatens to return us to the dark world of Robert Moses and elite urban planners telling the rabble what is good for them.
Normal people on "Radio Row" and Cortlandt Street were pretty sure the World Trade Center project in the 1960s and 1970s would destroy their lives and livelihoods, and they were right. Freeway fighters all over the country were pretty sure that interstate highways cutting through their neighborhoods would destroy their neighborhoods, and they were right. RIP Jane Jacobs, normal person.
This is probably my favorite article on SB so far. I've been winding myself up about basically this for ages - government needs to DO stuff in a clear, concise, and effective way or why the hell would people vote for the party of more government? Democrats far too often lose track of this.
Even if there isnt a concern about low-trust voters I think straightforward policies with clear rules are better than complex programs with thirty exceptions or waivers, that inevitably leads to gaming the system.
The filibuster is terrible for trust. If you have a majority in the House, Senate and Presidency, why can't you pass anything.
Is there some sort of empirical connection between policy complexity and trust? Back in the high-trust days of the mid-20th century, was policy really that much simpler than it is today? I could say WWII as having boosted government trust ("we beat the Nazis that everybody hates, just like we said we would") but that is not really a "policy" in the sense we are talking about here.
The drop in American social capital (as described by Robert Putnam in "Bowling Alone") is a large and perhaps dominant factor in the drop in social trust. People have fewer friends, fewer hobbies, and engage less with their communities than ever before. This leads to a natural degradation of trust.
GD this is well done.
What are the prospects of this sort of policy making in this Congress? My first instinct was they aren’t very good because legislative consensus building requires concessions to median votes and stuff that passes will be the result of a somewhat convoluted budget reconciliation process which makes for a whole lot of fine print on the tin. On the other hand though, there are probably 60 votes for checks in the Senate, a result of the broad public consensus built around that issue.
Case well made here. Two thing come to mind:
(1) I would gently push back on your characterization of those two restaurant tweets. I don't think anyone is saying the government is barely doing anything. They are saying the government isn't doing nearly enough. The WSJ just published that 110,000 locations have closed or fallen dormant. Same article, another 37% are expecting to close within the next six months without further assistance.
(2) I'm still so angry the banks were bailed out back in 2008 and not the actual homeowners. It's a stain on Obama's administration that only widens with time.
This whole post seems to violate its own premise, though.
It was quick, snappy and interesting, while the can said "slow boring."
It undermines my trust, you know?
But seriously: good post. I hope Ron Klain reads it and creates the giant checks labeled "Biden Bucks."