26 October 2017

Two Simple Policy Goals

Maybe I'm simple minded but I don't think that policy has to be terribly complex.  

A great test of your economic policy is how easily someone can start a new business that has a legitimate chance of creating wealth and jobs.

A great test of your social policy is how easily a single mom can raise a child who has a legitimate chance to be happy and productive.

Doing well on those tests is not trivial. If you are successful at popularizing entrepreneurship you have a great education system, easy access to capital markets that are well regulated and reward people who invest well and punish people who abuse investors or borrowers, and stable, predictable laws around property and wealth. Your culture embraces disruption and protects losers enough that your community has little resistance to new companies, technologies and industries and welcomes change. You have things like universal healthcare so that would-be entrepreneurs face less risk when they take on the risk of a new business. Your culture sees social invention and product invention the same way: you keep improving what you have and looking for new ways to reach old goals more effectively, whether that goal is to store fresh food for longer like a fridge now does (and like some other technology may do in the future) or create meaning and community like a church now does (and like some new social invention may do in the future). 

If you are successful at making it easy for every parent to raise a child, this again has many policy implications. People have easy access to birth control and abortion so that they can easily control when they become a parent. Maternity and paternity leave is generous without penalizing companies that employ young people who are more likely to be starting careers and families. Childcare is affordable. Jobs can be customized. (The Netherlands has brought birthrates back up by offering more flexible job options: many parents (mostly mothers) work part-time.) You have a vigorous defense of the environment, minimizing the probability that children will be exposed to threats that might not show up for decades.

Rather than penalize entrepreneurs who would create jobs and wealth by making them jump through hoops,or ignoring the fact that their educational needs are just as real as those who would pursue a vocation or white-collar job, the community should make it easier for them in a host of ways, from mentoring programs to bureaucratic aides to help them through necessary legal, financial and regulatory hoops. Rather than penalize young mothers who would raise up the next generation of workers and citizens, the community should make it easier for them in a host of ways, from mentoring programs to childcare along with logistical and emotional support to help them through the various challenges of parenting.

If your mothers are raising the children they aspire to raise, you'll have an emotionally whole and productive citizenry. If your entrepreneurs are creating the businesses they aspire to, you'll have steadily rising wealth and income and strong job markets that enable the community to finance personal things like fine meals and communal things like beautiful parks and good roads. If you focus on making life easier for single mothers and entrepreneurs you will automatically make it easier for two-parent families and no children families. If you focus on making it easier for entrepreneurs, you will automatically make it easier for employees and investors.

The policy implications of these two goals - the various programs and initiatives that would help further us towards these goals - could be continually enhanced by - among other things - running focus groups with real and aspiring entrepreneurs and real or aspiring single moms. Asking them what would make them more successful, what obstacles and frustrations the have, what their needs are and sorts of resources they need would help to inform policies that could make a difference. Tracking the efficacy of these policy initiatives to determine what makes the most difference for the least time and money could be used as further feedback about which policies to continue and which to let die. With these two goals, a community could continuously experiment to see how best to achieve them. It's hard to imagine how such policy experiments wouldn't make the community better for everyone.

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