This is about how to think about proposed Big Federal Fixes, such as the Basic Income Guarantee, the Paycheck Fairness Act, or free tuition for all public colleges. Questions to ask: What is the problem the proposal is intended to Fix? What is the extent and nature of the problem? How has the problem changed over time? What is the trend: is it improving, getting worse or staying the same? How fast is change happening? What factors may be changing the extent or nature of the problem?
What might be the causes of the problem? What might be the conditions that exacerbate or reduce the problem? How would the Fix being proposed affect these causes or conditions?
What are the potential benefits and costs of the Fix being proposed? What trade-offs are involved? What are possible unintended consequences/ripple effects (especially on other areas we’re trying to Fix)? What are alternative proposals to address the problem? How do they compare to the Fix in terms of the above questions? Why are they inadequate?
Has the proposed Fix been tried elsewhere? What were the results? Why might our results be the same or different?
What are the best arguments against the proposed Fix? Why are they ultimately unconvincing? (Avoid the Straw Man Fallacy, ignoring the actual position of those with whom one disagrees and substituting a distorted, exaggerated or misrepresented version of that position, which then becomes easy to knock down.)
Regarding the proposed Fix, how easy would it be to retract if it turns out not to work or even make things worse? If the Fix is implemented, what might be some ways one rationalizes the costs or lack of progress associated with the Fix? (Be on the look out for blaming problems on outside factors or uncooperative parties and then proposing additional Fixes to deal with these factors/parties.)
If the Fix were implemented, what is a reasonable amount of time to see if it is actually helping matters? What data will one collect, not only to track changes in the extent and nature of the problem, but also to determine causes or factors that account for the changes? For instance, if the trend was already positive (the problem was becoming less severe over time before the Fix), how does one know whether the Fix made a difference if the trend continued after the Fix? What data will one collect to see if there are unwelcome side effects of the Fix? Cost/benefit analysis doesn’t stop at implementation.
Just a beginning of a process of thinking within the problem space....