In Politics, Does Evidence Matter?
By E.J. Dionne Jr.
…The Haskins-Margolis effort comes in the wake of “Moneyball for Government,” a book whose title is a play on Billy Beane’s approach to baseball. Edited by Jim Nussle and Peter Orszag, a pair of former budget directors of opposing parties, the book is part of a campaign by the group Results for America that is also looking to evaluate programs by their results. The basic idea is that government is better off focusing on “outcomes and lives changed, rather than simply compliance and numbers served.”
No one, of course, should pretend that in marinating ourselves in data, we’ll render our philosophical and partisan differences obsolete. The major divide over how much government should do and which problems it should take on will persist. So will disagreements over the extent to which government should push back against rising inequality and the degree of regulation a capitalist economy requires.
But conservatives who care about more than just scoring points against government inefficiencies (both real and invented) should want taxpayer money spent in a sensible way. And progressives have more of an interest than anyone in proving that government can work effectively to solve the problems it sets out to deal with. It’s on those two propositions that Murray and Ryan have found common ground.
Argument is at the heart of democracy, so we shouldn’t fear that we’ll be having a lot of disagreements over the next few years. But dumb arguments are not good for anyone. Insisting that politicians base their claims on facts and evidence ought to be the least we expect of them.