You're one of the lucky 10,000. For the next, let's say, two years,
you've been chosen to participate in a randomly assigned clinical trial sponsored
by the federal government. The experiment? You'll have your tax rate
lowered, giving you more than a little extra cash on hand. At the end of
this period, researchers, social scientists and economists will convene
to dissect your fiscal behavior and have a bit more hard data to
determine whether tax cuts can helpful in stimulating the economy. Armed
with the study's results, legislators will be better equipped to make
decisions about whether to enact similar tax cut legislation for the
Sounds like an interesting--albeit
optimistic--concept, doesn't it? Rebecca Tuhus-Dubrow
examines it in an Ideas piece for The Boston Globe. She documents the "growing chorus" of academics who believe that
clinical trials are an excellent way to test if potential legislation
will be effective policy. If clinical trials like the one above became a
reality, there could be experimentation with gun control laws,
environmental regulations, securities rules and others, the writer
notes. Proper experimentation could provide a foundation for "evidence-based" governing and help society reveal "the true
costs and benefits of legislation" before these laws are adapted to society at
the caveats to the experimentation (and there's an endless list--think:
your neighbor might not be too happy that he didn't receive a tax cut
also) might whittle away at the potential usefulness of idea. "The
problem is, we're dealing with laws that have a huge impact on people's
lives," says Barry Friedman, a law professor at New York University to
the Globe. "These aren't casual tests. ... Here we're talking about basic
benefits and fundamental rights." Citizens, of course, also might not
take to kindly to being treated like "lab rats" and being subjected to
the experimental whims of an overreaching government.
Americans wouldn't consume a new type of prescription drug without clinical testing, either, notes one of Tuhus-Dubrow's experts. Why should our nation's laws be any less rigorously inspected?
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