Thursday, March 31, 2011

Public Policy is Really Really Hard

The business of public policy was much easier forty years ago.  Dissemination of ideas was concentrated in a handful of national newspapers and magazines, three major television networks, and a small number of think tanks.  Now ideas are disseminated in hundreds of cable channels and talk shows, over a thousand think tanks and university centers of public policy, and millions of web sites, blogs, tweets, and Facebook posts.

Take a look at the upper right-hand corner of Yahoo’s home page.  It lists the top ten trending topics of the day.  Personalities and celebrities (Hollywood, television) usually make up eight, sometimes nine, with other issues the remaining one or two, usually at the bottom of the list.

The vast majority of Americans don’t care about policy issues unless they are directly impacted, or an election is drawing near.  Those of us in the policy business are talking with a small number of academics, politicians, leaders of grass-roots movements, and other policy process participants.  Breaking through the pack is like winning the lottery, very low odds.

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