Skip to content

On misguided policy decisions and complex choices

A few weeks ago, the Information Bank for Applied Social Science Research at CIDE (BIIACS or Banco de Información para la Investigación Aplicada en Ciencias Sociales, in Spanish) invited me and a few other colleagues to give a talk about how I use spatial analysis in my public policy research. The event took place last Thursday, and I was joined by my colleagues Carlos Vilalta (who studies the spatial and temporal elements of crime), Jaime Sainz (who does spatial analysis in environmental justice and urban expansion issues), and Alfredo Ramirez (who studies urban pricing and rent/buy choices).

Something that struck me very strongly (particularly because I have a very big beef with the way Mexican public policies are designed and implemented) was how Carlos emphasized policy choices in his presentation. He spoke on the beginnings of a macro-theory of crime, and he emphasized something that really hit home with me:

Crime and fear of crime caused costs and damages for 25.4 billion USD in 2012. Yet, the federal government will spend this 2014, approximately 190 million USD in social crime prevention policy versus almost 1 billion USD for the functioning of the National Institute of Elections (INE) and the financing of political parties – in a year with no federal elections.

What Carlos highlights here is something that has made my blood boil for decades, ever since I decided that I wanted to be a public policy scholar. The absolute mismatch between policy objectives and the sheer idiocy behind policy decisions. As Carlos indicates, why on Earth do you want to spend 1 billion USD for an institute that coordinates elections in a non-electoral year? Why not focus on, oh well say, poverty alleviation? Or crime prevention strategies? Or water infrastructure?

That stupid policy decisions are made in Mexico just as much as in other countries is true. In Canada, in my former province, Christy Clark (the Premier of British Columbia and someone whose policy decisions I’ve criticized for a long time now) increased her cabinet’s salaries (already hefty) by 18% while getting into stupid fights with BC teachers on issues of salaries and educational infrastructure.

But this doesn’t make me happy. I am not happy that misguided policy decisions occur worldwide. I’m appalled that we have so many talented scholars of corruption, of public policy analysis, and yet governments keep doing what they do without any regard for whether their policies are sound and whether their analyses are robust. It’s frustrating and I have no idea how to change this. I have always set my faith in the third sector, civil society, to correct governmental failures. But we need a galvanized, active civil society AND perhaps it’s high time we, academics who know how to design proper policy, get involved in activism.

You can share this blog post on the following social networks by clicking on their icon.

Posted in comparative public policy.

Tagged with .

0 Responses

Stay in touch with the conversation, subscribe to the RSS feed for comments on this post.

Some HTML is OK

or, reply to this post via trackback.