Goals for 2100: An Experimental Society

04Jun08

The U.S. was poorly served by the constitutional arrangements that kept George W. Bush in power long after he should have departed.  The U.S. has been poorly served by its health care and educational systems.  Despite its wealth and power, the U.S. often proves strangely incapable of running its affairs competently.

To learn what approaches might work better, and to gain experience with them, the U.S. needs to become a place in which it is possible to test theories of governance and social policy on a large (say, statewide) scale.  Educational, legislative, and even constitutional reforms may be necessary to minimize uninformed resistance to prudent experimentation.

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2 Responses to “Goals for 2100: An Experimental Society”

  1. 1 educatorblog

    How is this plan different from the status quo? States already have the power to launch innovative programs. Examples: Massachusetts’ health care plan, the charter/voucher trials in Wisconsin/DC/NY, and gay marriage legislation in California. Could you describe your plan in more detail and explain how states’ rights or legislative processes differ between today and your envisioned future?

  2. 2 raywoodcock

    Good question. Thanks for asking.

    At present, a president can compel states to follow a federal mandate, despite the possibility of strong feeling to the contrary in some states or in some sectors. Thus e.g., “No Child Left Behind” became national policy. It would have been possible to learn much more about the advantages and disadvantages of that program if some states had been required or allowed to adopt a competing alternative. The better constitutional provision would create a strong presumption in favor of a mandatory alternative or control group whenever someone got the idea to use the entire nation as a guinea pig for some relatively untested scheme.

    Another example: instead of swinging the entire nation in a lurch from LBJ’s Great Society to Reagan’s supply-side economics and back (if a Democrat becomes president this November), it would have been more informative to set up several different approaches and permit only a certain maximum number of states to choose a given alternative (e.g., maximum welfare state, moderate welfare state, minimal welfare state).

    There is also the matter of herd instinct. People have fads and phases. For a while, X becomes obviously true and correct for the majority. Then the majority decides that Y is better. At some point, the very people who swore by X are seen to be swearing by not-X. It’s human nature. Nobody wants to be left out or left behind the latest thing. But often, someone should. You don’t put all your eggs in one basket. You hedge your bets.


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