My checklist for analyzing policy

Recently, too much of what passes as a public policy debate in our country could instead be confused for an episode of Survivor. While politics, name-calling, and resorting to partisan labels may make for good TV, it rarely results in good policy.

While the Mountain States Policy Center doesn’t shy away from our belief in individualism and the power of hard work and innovation and that free markets have allowed us to thrive, we know the importance that fact-based research and thoughtful debate have on the development of good policy.

To help tone down some of the rhetoric and refocus the conversation in a constructive way, here is a checklist that can be used to analyze policy:

  1. Read source details. To fully understand what a bill, study, or court ruling says it is best to go directly to the source and read the full details. Nuance and important factors can too easily be missed if relying on summaries and talking points.
  2. Analyze citations. Footnotes and source links are more than a requirement from our past term papers. Looking up the details relied on in a report can provide additional context and reveal if the base document accurately reflects the information cited.
  3. Consider counterpoints. The goal of a policy proposal is to improve things. By considering opposing viewpoints and critiques, you can present the best recommendation to accomplish your goals.
  4. Switch actors to see if your opinion changes. Focusing on the partisan label of a bill sponsor or the background of an author can often prejudice our opinion before we even consider the details. Pretend that the proposal comes from a different camp to see if that changes your opinion.
  5. Formulate a position and make a recommendation. After reading the details, verifying the sources, considering alternative viewpoints, and checking to make sure partisan labels weren’t dictating your opinion you are now in an excellent position to make a policy recommendation.

As we discussed in our most recent Peak Policy video update, we need to leave the tribal yelling for the sporting events and instead focus our public policy debates in a constructive and thoughtful way. This checklist for analyzing public policy is one way to do that.

Jason Mercier

Jason Mercier

Jason Mercier is Vice President and Director of Research for the Mountain States Policy Center, an independent free-market research organization based in Idaho.

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