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How to Make Better Economic Policy Choices

While public policy organizations are increasingly diversifying their decision-making approaches, many remain overly reliant on static tools such as cost-benefit analysis. Such tools have severe limitations, leading to policy errors with serious long-term consequences.

LONDON– The United Kingdom is entering its deepest recession in 300 years. Millions of jobs are at risk. And national debt has exceeded 100% of GDP. Now is hardly the time to explore the conceptual underpinnings of economic theory, right?

In fact, as governments everywhere are borrowing, spending, and regulating on an unprecedented scale, a deeper understanding of economic decision-making is essential both to accelerate the recovery and to avoid longer-term risks. That is why the UK Treasury’s new guidance on decision-making for transformational change is so welcome, and why finance ministries everywhere should follow suit.

In a recent study for the UK’s Better Regulation Executive, we found that, while public policy organizations are increasingly diversifying their approaches to decision-making, many remain overly reliant on static tools such as cost-benefit analysis. Such tools are ill-suited to understanding, predicting, and driving innovation and structural change in the economy.

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