Recently an article by Gudula Walterskirchen in the Austrian daily Die Presse about evidence based policy making (EBPM) caught my eye.
EBPM has been kicking around since the 1980s. Essentially it is the idea that policy decisions should be based on comprehensive, meticulously established, objective evidence as opposed to intuition, ideology, or common sense. It has a number of proponents and, at face value, it makes sense – more data, informed decisions, better policies.
Walterskirchen examines how, in an EBPM approach, the Austria federal government at the beginning of the COVID 19 epidemic commissioned mathematicians to construct projection models for virus spread and subsequent deaths.
Based on the projections, Chancellor Kurz warned that without harsh measures 100,000 Austrians would die. We went into lockdown. When the mathematicians saw how their data was being used, they attempted to explain the complexity of their models and stressed that Kurz’s statement was an oversimplification.
Politics, however, needs simple messages. As Dr. Paul Cairney argues, EBPM is flawed. Because of an overabundance of information, policy makers can’t and don’t consider all the evidence when adopting policies and resort to shortcuts. What are your thoughts? Can EBPM work? Can informed policy makers actually make better decisions?