Eric Schmidt made an interesting point about Washington, DC think tanks recently:
“I spend so much time in Washington now because of the work that I’ve been doing, I deal with all these people who make assertions without fact,” he said. Policy people “will hand me some report that they wrote or they’ll make some assertion, and I’ll say, ‘Well, is that true?’ — and they can’t prove it.”
Perhaps that could change some day, he suggested. Technology could help.
With Google’s vast power for capturing and remembering data, Schmidt painted a picture in which technology could help quantify and verify the assertions made in policy documents. “Government is highly measurable, most of it,” he said. “We can actually see how many people got this shot or read this report or so forth. A government — a transparent government — should be able to [measure] that.”
He’s absolutely right, of course. Policy has a number of sacred cows because it’s a political process, and the last thing Congress ever does is follow-up on the measures it enacts to see whether they produce the desired results. So I challenge my colleagues in the think tank business to support assertions with evidence, and to cite longitudinal studies when they exist. This is the road to good policy.