Making coherent policy

It’s easy to pick on the government, much like a sports fan who can see what’s wrong with the team but isn’t actually trying to coach. So I try not to overdo it.

However, one of the core frustrations we have with government, particularly at the Federal level, is the extent to which different agencies and chambers of government move in different or opposite directions so as to render the resulting policies nearly incoherent. This is thoroughly present in agriculture & food policy. For example, you have some branches of government promoting healthy living, proper food pyramids, and so on, while other branches actively subsidize the production of food-like substances which subvert the very meaning of the former branches’ attempts. For a neat mental trick, compare our Federal subsidies of various food products/ingredients to the daily recommended servings in the official Federal food pyramid. It’s a nicely inverse relationship.

It’s very difficult to write about this coherently, at least for someone like me who is prone to rambling. So I was thrilled to make my usual rounds of favorite online comics one day and find this gem from one of my top cartoons, Non Sequitur:

Thousand words and all that. Whether we want people to cross or not, we’d be better off with a government system that was capable of choosing one or the other, and pursuing that goal with a coherent and coordinated set of policies. This would also be far more practical in budgetary terms; as it is, we have multiple departments and programs spending money to counteract each others’ efforts. I see this all over the place in ag policy, and am sure it’s true elsewhere as well.

I don’t know how to fix it, or whether it can be, but the problem sure seems evident.

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