The Australia 2020 summit has asked participants for a big idea and an issue upon which they’ve changed their minds. On Monday, IÂ postedÂ big ideas and mindchanging experiences from Amy King and Joshua Gans. Here are mine.
What’s your big idea?
Randomised trials are the gold standard in policy evaluation. Overseas randomised trials have taught us much about early childhood intervention, improving school attendance, job training, health insurance and neighbourhood spillovers. Yet Australia does very few randomised policy trials. To remedy this, the federal government should establish a fund to support states and territories in conducting randomised policy trials. Indigenous policies, education policies, and social policies ought not be driven by rhetoric and ideology, but by bold, persistent, experimentation. Policymakers should be more modest about the limits of their knowledge, and more rigorous in putting policies to the test.
What have you changed your mind about?
A decade ago, I was confident that intuition would guide me to the right answer on many policy questions. Now, I am much more willing to be guided by the data. I used to think that that students benefited more from class size cuts than teacher pay rises; that the minimum wage was a better antipoverty tool than wage subsidies; that schools and hospitals should be allowed to keep their performance secret, and that water restrictions were good policy. On each of these issues, empirical evidence has convinced me that my intuition was wrong. I hope the next decade will bring better evidence on other policies, and that I will be open to changing my mind on them if the data disproves my intuitions.