On trade-offs

Trade-offs between desirable and undesirable outcomes are at the heart of all policy-making. For every solution, there always will be down-sides.

We don’t talk about the trade-offs enough. Politics gets in the way, and admitting to the downsides is seen as a sign of weakness. It hands ammunition to those who want a different answer.

If you think your solution to the policy problem is the only sensible one, either you haven’t thought about the trade-offs or the downsides don’t matter to you. They might matter to someone else.

Being serious about evidence in policy-making, means being serious about the trade-offs. If the evidence is comprehensive, we know about the trade-offs. Good policy-making should be clear about the downsides we are prepared to accept and our reasons.


Written on October 26, 2016

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