Sunday, March 3, 2013

Is efficiency the most important thing?


As I work my way through the OSU's Master of Public Policy (MPP) program, I'm struck at how much emphasis - at least in the early program coursework - is given to economic efficiency for solving problems (or rather, prioritizing solutions to problems). I can't help but efficiency really the most important variable in valuation of a thing? In a capitalist society, it certainly seems to be. World-renowned economist Bjorn Lomborg illustrates this well with his work on the Copenhagen Consensus (around the 12 minute mark you get his interpretation of what's most important) - we should be spending our money to influence problems of immediate concern rather than focusing on problems with longer-term affects. I can't be the only one that finds discounted present value - the concept that a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow - an insidious notion...

Access larger versions of Lomborg's TED talk.

But what of non-capitalist ways of living (thinking)? What of making decisions now with an eye toward how current decisions will impact future generations? The Iroquois, Onandaga and other indigenous peoples understood the importance of thinking down the road. Why can't we? Is money really that corrupting an influence? Has economics ruined (clouded, at best) our long-term thinking? How can we dial back this myopic economic viewpoint and return to generational planning? Is it possible? I'd argue we're near a (Malcom Gladwell-ian) tipping point.

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