This is the latest in the series of cross-blog answers to a specific question. This week’s question from economist Joshua Gans:
The government is accused of playing catch up politics, but is there some merit in such an approach?
Despite the obsessions of most pundits who predominantly postulate about political positioning rather than the substance of policy, in my experience most people in the general community are interested in whether something will improve things, not whether it’s good politics. This assessment of the likely real-world outcomes of politicians’ actions is what should be used in considering the merits of any idea. Whether that idea can be viewed as ‘catch-up politics’ is really of secondary importance.
When there is a sense that a politician is only adopting a position for political reasons, including playing catch-up, it can suggest that their commitment to the idea is less than whole hearted. That can be used to inform a judgement about how likely it is that the policy ideas will be probably followed through, but it doesn’t really go to the merits of the ideas themselves.
I’m all for catch up politics when it means catching up with good ideas that should have been implemented ages ago. I hate catch up politics when it means catching up with bad ideas that have turned out to be politically popular. In other words, the measure of merit is in the idea itself, not in whether the idea is just catching up with what someone else has already said or done.
Read other peoples’ take on this question at:
- Joshua Gans at Core Economics
- Kim at Larvatus Prodeo
- Harry Clarke
- Robert Merkel at View from Benambra
- Tim Dunlop at Blogocracy
- Stephen Lloyd
- Tigtog at Hoyden About Town