Friday, September 17, 2010

Complex Systems

Libertarian Megan McArdle is in favor of education reform. However, in her latest column she points out the major obstacle faced by reformers:

That's why radical reformers so often end up vilified (and frankly, so often end up making some colossal bloomers; institutions are complicated, and reformer's prescriptions are never as complex as the institution they are trying to change).

I think observations like this elevate the debate. They raise the legitimate question of how do we improve a complex system (my view: incrementally and experimentally). But, as Mark has noted, the debate has often drifted into the surreal with even staunch leftists desperately opposing government regulation of education. It is an odd debate.


  1. Vilified

    def: to be heaped with bountiful praise by the national media and occasionally criticized by people you are in the act of firing.

  2. Except, perhaps, in DC where you might lose a primary!

  3. Possibly, but given the landscape of Fall, 2010, there might be other factors that could have caused an incumbent to lose a primary.

  4. Agreed.

    But I saw a reformer conceding that the model of reform has some over-simplification implicit in it was a step forward. There is a space for evidence based improvement -- I'm just pretty sure they (the current generation of reform advocates) are focusing on the wrong things.