Counterintuition

innovative public policy
Photo by Alessio Lin

Why do we fear innovative public policy?  The solutions to many of the problems we face today could be found in such innovation.

The main barrier in the way of innovative public policy is the counterintuitive nature of many solutions.  It’s hard for us to envision solutions that seem to go against everything we have been taught.

For instance, Ronald Reagan famously informed us “Government is not the solution to our problem, Government is the problem.”  His declaration was clear, easy to understand, and easy to believe.  We can see examples where our government steered us in the wrong direction and became the problem.

With this understanding of government, it is incredibly hard to see the obvious instances when more government could be part of the solution to a problem.  Fixing our healthcare system is a perfect example of this.  All available evidence convincingly illustrates government-run healthcare systems produce higher quality, better access to care, and are significantly less expensive than our system in the U.S.  Despite this, we cannot seem to wrap our heads around these facts.  They simply run counter to what our intuition, and so many politicians and pundits tell us.

Another prime example is the War on Drugs.  Right now, the country is in the throes of an opioid epidemic.  Experts and our government have taught for over a century now that drugs are bad, and drug users require punishment to mend the error of their ways.  The idea of decriminalizing or even legalizing some drugs as the answer to this problem is completely ludicrous to us.  How could that ever solve anything?

Yet, that is exactly the solution the people of Portugal chose.  They responded to their heroin epidemic by decriminalizing heroin and all other drugs and investing heavily in drug treatment.  As a result, they have lower drug use and abuse rates than we do, and their financial cost of fighting drugs has fallen compared to our continually rising costs.

We need innovative leaders.

Solving complex problems requires thinking about the problem in completely counterintuitive ways.  It involves innovative public policy and innovation in the private sector.  The only way that becomes comfortable for us is when those who influence us show us the way.  It requires lawmakers, the media, celebrities, educators, and other influencers to be brave and bold.  Under courageous direction, we can change the rules of the game.

Immigration Solutions in Search of Problems

immigration solutions
Photo by Ed Betz

In our debate surrounding immigration solutions, we have centered on five problems we are trying to solve.

First, we are concerned about border security.  Our leaders tell us bad people with bad motives could sneak across our borders and harm us.  In our minds, still fresh with memories of 9/11 and seemingly annual terrorist attacks, this warning is entirely plausible.

Second, we fear for our economic security.  Immigrants are taking hard-working Americans’ jobs.  That is what we hear and it makes perfect sense.  We know the fragile nature of our economy and we want to be sure we aren’t left behind.

Third, we want to protect our resources and services.  There is only so much money and so many resources to go around.  If too many people try to take from a pot that does not have enough for all of them, some of us won’t get our share.  That is just common sense.

Fourth, we are scared of difference.  The people we see emigrating to the U.S. today look different, sound different, and act differently than what we see as typically “American”.  This fear has been a common theme in our country’s immigration debate for centuries.  As human beings, we struggle with accepting difference.  We would much rather surround ourselves with similarity.

Finally, some of us in our country have power, and we don’t want to lose it. This power depends on being a certain type of person.  Allowing more people into our country who do not fit that mold threatens the balance of power that has been in place for so long.

We have some questions to answer about the five potential problems above.  What is the reality of each problem?  What are the actual facts?  What is our ideal outcome when it comes to immigration?  What are the true immigration solutions?

As always, before we look forward we need to know what we can learn by turning to the past.

This is the third post in my continuing series on Immigration.  Stay tuned for the next post coming soon.