Public policy can be a confusing subject.
This is because it has less to do with efficiency, and policy – and more to do with politics.
Courtesy of economist Walter Williams, here are 3 questions that can clarify what is being pursued in any given public policy program or project.
They can help us uncover the ideas, motives, and goals of any new public policy endeavor.
While some reject mere questions, aren’t clarifying questions usually worth asking?
And doesn’t the rejection itself reveal something about the motives?
1. What did people do before the proposed government program?
- How did children survive before a school lunch program?
- How did consumers get peanuts and peanut farmers survive, before a peanut import quota?
2. What has changed so that people need this new program now?
- What has changed to suddenly justify the prohibition of all alcohol?
- What have we or Cuba changed that justifies normalizing international relations?
3. How was the nation able to survive and prosper without this new government-run program, subsidy, quota, tariff, tax, etc?
- How did America exist and prosper before the Department of Education was formed in 1979?
- How did America exist and prosper before the Department of Energy was formed in 1977?
In private conversation with a couple of the authors, I asked my favorite questions of people who argue that we need this or that government program: what did Americans do before the proposed government program, and why is it needed now? In the case at hand, how was the nation able to survive and prosper from 1787 to 1972 without a government-run or -subsidized day-care program?
-Walter E. Williams, Up From The Projects: An Autobiography
Remember at the end of the day what politics is all about.
Politics is nothing more than fighting for control.
And when people fight for the control of something, they are nearly always fighting over money or power.
Always question why this particular event has happened, what the motives of the various actors are, who really is in control, who benefits by this action. Often, it will revolve around money and power—that is what people are usually fighting over, despite the surface gloss they give to it.
-Robert Greene, The 50th Law