Policy-driven evidence

In today’s WaPo, we see the fundamental difference between an advanced culture that confronts even uncomfortable reality with courage and honesty and a primitive, short-sighted one that tells itself reassuring lies.


Author: Michael O'Hare

Professor of Public Policy at the Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, Michael O'Hare was raised in New York City and trained at Harvard as an architect and structural engineer. Diverted from an honest career designing buildings by the offer of a job in which he could think about anything he wanted to and spend his time with very smart and curious young people, he fell among economists and such like, and continues to benefit from their generosity with on-the-job social science training. He has followed the process and principles of design into "nonphysical environments" such as production processes in organizations, regulation, and information management and published a variety of research in environmental policy, government policy towards the arts, and management, with special interests in energy, facility siting, information and perceptions in public choice and work environments, and policy design. His current research is focused on transportation biofuels and their effects on global land use, food security, and international trade; regulatory policy in the face of scientific uncertainty; and, after a three-decade hiatus, on NIMBY conflicts afflicting high speed rail right-of-way and nuclear waste disposal sites. He is also a regular writer on pedagogy, especially teaching in professional education, and co-edited the "Curriculum and Case Notes" section of the Journal of Policy Analysis and Management. Between faculty appointments at the MIT Department of Urban Studies and Planning and the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard, he was director of policy analysis at the Massachusetts Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. He has had visiting appointments at Università Bocconi in Milan and the National University of Singapore and teaches regularly in the Goldman School's executive (mid-career) programs. At GSPP, O'Hare has taught a studio course in Program and Policy Design, Arts and Cultural Policy, Public Management, the pedagogy course for graduate student instructors, Quantitative Methods, Environmental Policy, and the introduction to public policy for its undergraduate minor, which he supervises. Generally, he considers himself the school's resident expert in any subject in which there is no such thing as real expertise (a recent project concerned the governance and design of California county fairs), but is secure in the distinction of being the only faculty member with a metal lathe in his basement and a 4×5 Ebony view camera. At the moment, he would rather be making something with his hands than writing this blurb.

6 thoughts on “Policy-driven evidence”

  1. This must be snark. I see no basic difference between the too approaches.

    For the record, I detest ambiguous posts like this. Are you trying to make a particular point or its opposite?

    1. Your first paragraph is exactly accurate. Your second says, in effect, “Don’t poke them with an épée; hit them over the head with a club.”

      I the club is sometimes appropriate, but so too, sometimes, is the poke with the lighter weapon.

  2. The solution for coastal North Carolinans is to move to Kurdistan. The Kurds can read maps and take decisive but prudent action towards a long-term goal. They must be thinking now if it's safe to take Mosul from ISIS. the way they took Kirkuk,

  3. In my Philosophy classes at Loyola College, a Jesuit school, there was frequent reference to the Thomistic view that there are certain attributes of humans, known as human nature, that form the basis for ethics. The reason I bring that up is not ethics; rather, it's the idea that there is some commonality to "human nature" that transcends culture, and imbues us all.

    These two articles (and observation of many other instances) seem to support that theory.

    1. I think your Jesuit education may have made it difficult to see the critical distinction highlighted by Wimberley. There is not necessarily a moral component involved in either the examples in the original post or in Wimberley's Kurdish counter example. The distinction is between responding to an uncomfortable reality clearheadedly and with a calculated plan of action and a response based on self deception superstition or stupidity. The history of our species is replete with examples of both kinds of responses.

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