You have to evaluate the effects of public policy as opposed to intentions.
Most laws and public policies start out with good-intentioned politicians trying to live up to their role in promoting the general welfare of our people under the terms of the Constitution. Here are some examples.
Health care. Provide for the millions of un-insured people in this country.
Housing. Make housing affordable to all our citizens.
Energy. Achieve energy independence.
Education. Provide high quality education to all.
Individual rights. Equality in all things.
Environment. Provide a clean and healthy environment for the people.
These are just a few examples of the good public policy goals that well-intentioned politicians try to accomplish for the people of this country. Although we can all agree that all are laudable intentions, it is important to measure the effects in order to evaluate just how well they have promoted the general welfare of the people under our Constitution. I’ll take them one at a time.
Health care. Effect: Will place the best health system in the world under the control of big government. Many think that is a good thing. More think not.
Housing. Effect: Good intentioned legislation and regulation designed to make affordable housing available to most Americans led to the housing bubble, crash, and the current recession.
Energy. Effect: After fifty years, more dependent on foreign oil. (See Environment, below)
Education. Effect: An education system that loses ground every year in performance ratings.
Individual rights: Effect: The murder of thousands of unborn children a year.
Environment: Effect: Regulation of the air we breathe out. Loss of jobs by the thousands.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not just anti-government, as perhaps the list above would indicate. There have been other public policies that have been very successful, when judged by their effects. For example, Social Security (at least to this point), OSHA, National Park System, Airline De-Regulation, NASA, the development of the Internet, and many, many others.
The only problem with measuring public policy by its effects, and not its intentions, is that intentions are here and now, and effects are measured only in the future. For example, the arguments against Obama care are couched in what the opponents think will happen in the future. To paraphrase Nancy Pelosi, “We have to wait until it happens before we’ll know if it is as bad as we think.”
By that time, it will be too late.