21 April 2011

Politicians Who Fail to Understand Policymaking

I have a new column up at Bridges, and it is a bit more hard hitting than my usual quarterly perspective.  In it I explain that we should be a bit forgiving when politicians don't have the same level of knowledge as experts, as they can't be experts in everything.  However, we should be far less forgiving when politicians show that they don't understand the mechanisms of policy.  Here is an excerpt:
[I]t should be far less worrisome that the public or policy makers do not understand this or that information that experts may know well. What should be of more concern is that policy makers appear to lack an understanding of how they can tap into expertise to inform decision making. This situation is akin to flying blind.

Specialized expertise typically does not compel particular decisions, but it does help to make decisions more informed. This distinction lies behind Winston Churchill's oft-cited advice that science should be "on tap, but not on top." Effective governance does not depend upon philosopher kings in governments or in the populace, but rather on the use of effective mechanisms for bringing expertise into the political process.

It is the responsibility - even the special expertise - of policy makers to know how to use the instruments of government to bring experts into the process of governance.
Read the whole thing here and feel free to come back and discuss, debate or challenge.