The word “policy” originates from the Greek word “polis”, meaning a city and its administration, but also literally the citizens who make it up. The word’s dual meaning was meant to exemplify the citizen’s vital role in contributing to a well functioning democratic society, by seeing to its administration. However, in the days of the Grecian city-states, one could understand policy without obtaining a Masters Degree in it.
A man once asked Elizabeth Warren why the Dodd-Frank Act was so much more complicated than Glass-Steagall—the 1930s legislation it was modeled on. She replied by comparing modern day legislation to modern day cars; they’re a lot more complicated, and so understanding them requires a higher level of sophistication. This was a pithy answer, but a troubling one.
See, I don’t know much about how my car operates, and that’s largely okay with me. My father may mock me for my ignorance, and I may be occasionally inconvenienced by my lack of expertise, but I don’t see it affecting me on a daily basis (plus I’m a millennial so I’m less likely than previous generations to own a car anyway). But the idea of my government and its productive outputs being too complicated for me or the median voter to understand? That troubles me.
Because when government becomes too opaque to scrutinize, it fades out as a fourth wall, but one with tremendous influence over our daily lives. Confusion begets frustration, and it may go a long way to explaining the general pessimism and distrust of government many people feel today. We at GPPR this year, are in a unique position to make the fourth wall a little more transparent.
Last year was a banner year for The Review. We transitioned to an all digital format. And while that may have selfishly improved our reach and distribution, it has also allowed us to utilize new forms of media. Our philosophy this year is that you, the reader, should be able to get the main point of any article we publish, only by looking at its main chart or infographic. We’re still in the business of using data and rigorous analysis to make our point, but now we can also use it to tell stories.
Last year’s unofficial slogan was, “Better to ask forgiveness than permission”, so it’s no wonder we ended up with a Spring theme this year of “Disruption.” This year I can give you an even shorter slogan: “Keep Asking.”
We owe it to you, in our privileged position as students of public policy—in the nation’s capital no less—to make sure what we’re saying makes sense.
Is that really the best way to present that argument or tell that story? Ask us.
Why did we present the data that way, or perform that method of analysis? Ask us.
Does that policy just not make any sense, or why are we even having this conversation? Ask that too.
There’s much more I could say about my excitement this year. We have more resources, more talent, and more infrastructure than any previous iteration of GPPR. We’re going to be coming off the hilltop and leveraging our unique position in the District. But all of that can wait.
Because policy is about we the people. So let’s have a conversation about it, shall we?