A pervasive pathology of government policy and planning
In a discussion of the policy blunder of connecting intermittent energy providers to the grid, I was alerted to an IPA study of 20 state and federal policies. The study used ten criteria including establishing need, setting objectives, identifying options, designing implementation pathways and consultation with stakeholders.
The policies including emergency Covid measures in several states, Jobkeeper and Funding . The results, based on boxes ticked, are very mixed and too many demonstrate the phenomenon that Roger James called solutioneering, based on his observation of the Labor government in Britain after WW2. This is in his introduction to the philosophy of Karl Popper Return to Reason , focussed on departures from reason in the conduct of public affairs and the danger of certain wrong ideas and unquestioned assumptions.
This is not a criticism of the very labour-intensive effort in the IPA study but some of the worst examples of the pathology were not included, like Pink Batts, the NBN and the worst of all, connecting subsidised and mandated intermittent energy to the grid.
Jumping to a solution before clearly formulating what the problem is (or indeed if there is one at all) or how success or failure are to be judged. Achievement of the solution then becomes the goal; and, when opposition develops, the problem becomes how to get the solution accepted, while the question of how best to solve the original problem, if there was one, never gets discussed at all.
Think of a project, estimate (or, rather, underestimate) its cost; estimate (or, rather, overestimate) the revenue it will generate and other benefits. Don’t consult the people who will be most impacted, consult “stakeholders” by all means but these will usually be vested interests that stand to gain from the project. Among them will be bureaucrats with expanded empires, regulators with more power and money movers who get a percentage of the expenditure.
Stress the urgency, it will cost more later if action is delayed, and if all else fails describe all the expense as an investment in the future.
Does that sound familiar?