What would make a good Policymakr Project?

In the days since Policymakr launched, the subject people have asked us most about has been precisely what form Projects would take.

Some of the most insistent questions have focused on how we would handle Projects that touched on sensitive issues: the environment, which features prominently among the examples on the Policymakr landing page, is one of them; but many have also wondered what added value Policymakr could bring to especially contentious debates, such as the ongoing, and seemingly intractable, British withdrawal from the European Union.

What would be suitable material for Projects, as it happens, is something to which we’ve given a great deal of thought. We certainly don’t believe all subjects are equally suited to becoming Policymakr Projects. This is because we aim to make real progress, perhaps even to break new ground and end stalemates. We want to focus on areas where known facts provide a basis on which a solution can be found that can be shown to be better, in the long term, for the greatest number the planet’s inhabitants. Our conviction is that while the social, political and economic structures that used to make political consensus on thorny subjects possible have been smashed to pieces by the onslaught of the Information Age, there is nothing irreversible about this. We can put today’s technology to good, just as the tools available for the Internet were put to good by people of widely different backgrounds, nationalities and political beliefs, when the superior common interest was at stake.

The environment provides a good example of this. In the 1980s—before the Information Age had properly begun—the New York Times recently published a remarkable article, The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change, in which it stressed the bipartisan character of a battle that was very nearly won:

Nor can the Republican Party be blamed. Today, only 42 percent of Republicans know that “most scientists believe global warming is occurring,” and that percentage is falling. But during the 1980s, many prominent Republicans joined Democrats in judging the climate problem to be a rare political winner: nonpartisan and of the highest possible stakes. Among those who called for urgent, immediate and far-reaching climate policy were Senators John Chafee, Robert Stafford and David Durenberger; the E.P.A. administrator, William K. Reilly; and, during his campaign for president, George H.W. Bush.

In today’s world, the facts that were universally acknowledged thirty years ago have become bogged down in an intractable factional battle, with incivility, closed minds and unwillingness to compromise being shown at both ends of the political spectrum.

The environment, or rather a set of various individual environmental issues, is thus a prime candidate for inclusion in Policymakr’s projects, because it is a sector where there is absolute urgency as well as—still—some prospect of limiting the damage if the world’s citizens are capable, as we propose, to work constructively with elected policy makers, taking expert advice where needed.

The current US government shutdown, while hugely inconvenient for everyone, is pretty much the exact opposite: a subject which the members of Policymakr would achieve nothing by working on in a Project. While there is, of course, a heavily technical dimension to public budget construction, the debate around the shutdown has been about as non-technical as it could get: it has entirely revolved around a heavily political question, namely the unwillingness of the Democratic Party to finance the border wall called for by the president of the United States.

Policymakr won’t invest in subjects that are so heavily political in nature that there is nothing to be gained from giving them the finely tuned, tripartite (Citizens, Policy Makers and Experts) examination which will be our signature method. This is what will set us apart from the overwhelming majority of platforms that have sprung up about politics and policy issues on the Internet.

Unlike us, these platforms, discussion groups and think tanks, sometimes mere fronts for pressure groups or for political parties, invariably fall into two types of trap.

Some mostly focus on short-term debate, taking no serious steps to shield their work from partisan quarrels that stay at the surface of things

Others remain ivory towers, whose very existence is most often unknown to the world’s citizens: serious, academic and technical platforms devoted to policy matters don’t exist; but these expert in practice fail to touch the world’s citizens, who alone have political legitimacy the give the endorsement that sound public policy, in a representative democracy, needs to be accepted.

This is why our unique methodology makes Policymakr a revolutionary platform, that will bring the world’s citizens what has never been seriously offered to them since the dissolution of the policy context that prevailed before the Information Age, and that very nearly succeeded in preventing the man-made environmental disaster that now threatens to destroy life on earth.

We hope you will want to be a part of our adventure as we start preparing to launch this unique, truly revolutionary platform: become a Founder Member of Policymakr now.

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Donald Jenkins

Donald Jenkins

Donald Jenkins read Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Magdalen College, Oxford. He also attended École nationale d'administration. He's a Co-Founder of Policymakr.