Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Policy and Rudeness

I have generally kept politics out of this blog this election cycle with the exception of Washington State Initiative 502. Plenty enough politics to read particularly about Ohio.

But past election time we head back to governance. Simon Wren-Lewis put up a post where he attempts to work his way through when it is OK to be rude on policy matters mainlymacro.blogspot.sg/being-rude-about-austerity. Perhaps some lessons here in regards to how to move policy one way or another.

A couple of other economists have picked up on this. For a fair number of economists the past few years have been difficult. And perhaps because of the economists I tend to read, it has been particularly difficult - European leaders going in the absolute opposite direction as to what macro economists thought they should; hence, a bit of rudeness from Mr. Wren-Lewis towards United Kingdom leadership. In the U.S. Paul Krugman has been very critical of the US GOP leaders, but he also made it very clear back in early 2009 that Obama was aiming too low on economic recovery.

I have at times tried to assess my own civility as a policy maker (elected and appointed), as a consultant working for project proponents and opponents, and as an activist. As general rule, I think it is a bad idea to turn to rudeness at a tactic as the message often gets lost, but I cannot say that being blunt to the point of rudeness is not without merit.

Its a hard thing to judge. There are times when it is almost impossible not to be rude and I cannot say in a policy struggle I have never been rude. I once called an idea put forward by an unnamed opponent "ignorant". I still believe it to be true, but I also can't say it accomplished much other than offend.

I had an experience with a high level state official where I was a bit astonished with the lack of understanding of a particular issue. My understanding of the issue was in such sharp contrast that it made things a bit awkward. About a week later I had a meeting with this official and I was a bit nervous. But in a class act the first topic was to inform me that I had been right and it was appreciated that I had spoken up. I would hope I would do the same.

Anyway, stuff to think about as we move past this latest election cycle. 

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