Political myopia—often in the form of the lightening quick pace of today’s electoral politics—can threaten the effectiveness of public policy, writes Richard Reeves, as such immediacy can replace long-term time horizons necessary to institute real governmental change.
Reeves asserts that one solution to political myopia lies in “the policy commitment device,” a relationship dynamic that commits policymakers to a longer-term perspective. Reeves utilizes the mythology of Ulysses, who ordered his sailors to tie him to the mast, so that he could hear the song of Sirens without steering his ship to the rocks. For a more modern-day understanding, look to how elected politicians have opted to hand the conduct of monetary policy to an independent central bank. And central banks are just one example of these policy commitment devices, intended to insulate certain areas of policy from immediate political pressure.
Reeves argues that a policy commitment device is a deeply political exercise, as politicians must willingly concede some power in the service of a long-term goal, without undermining the basic elements of representative democracy. There is also a danger of over-commitment: of binding policy too tightly to a particular goal or approach, at the cost of lost flexibility and accountability. But there is certainly scope for assessing the value of some of these new policy commitment devices. Finally, five candidates for such policy commitment devices to avoid political myopia are suggested and discussed in the paper:
- A national infrastructure bank
- an office of opportunity
- a federal minimum wage board
- a federal nuclear waste corporation;
- and a carbon tax.
"There are concerns that placing the [Israeli] embassy in Jerusalem would be a sign that the United States recognizes it as a part of Israel's sovereign territory, even though the position of the U.S. over the last 70 years or so is that Jerusalem is actually disputed territory, and that the status of it will have to be resolved through negotiations."
"I would be surprised if the State Department interpreted the Jerusalem Embassy Act as requiring it to break ground on a new embassy facility or take other such steps. The plain language of the statute only requires that the secretary of state determine and report to Congress that the U.S. Embassy in Jerusalem has officially opened."
"While positions within the international community vary, most foreign states have—like the United States—declined to take a position on who has sovereignty over Jerusalem and instead favor either negotiations to resolve this issue or international administration."