Why Doesn’t Government Test Laws

Sunday, January 10, 2010 posted by mattadmin

Anyone who has started a business, a new project or product at work, a movie, a book, basically everything that we see throughout our lives began with a test. Tests might be in the form of market research, pilot groups, alpha or beta tests, and so on, but for the most part anything new is tested before it is launched to the masses. So that begs a very important question, why doesn’t congress (government) have to test laws before they are put in place?

I’m sure the government tests some things, for example, new weapons or technologies that are developed. They probably test new software and other systems, but when congress passes a law, it is law for the entire nation as long as the president doesn’t veto. How do they know the laws are right and what impact they are going to have?

Let’s say Hollywood wants to produce a new TV show or movie for national release either by theatre or national television. Corporate America isn’t going to just take a guess and hope the show or movie is going to be profitable. No, they do diligence first through pilot screenings and releases. If certain benchmarks are met, the investment would then be made. It’s common sense really to manage your risk and get feedback before investing thousands or millions of dollars into a new project (government is often making billion or trillion dollar decisions). Corporate America would probably then go as far to test its marketing campaigns for the new project, weeding out what works and what doesn’t.

Software companies and web sites follow a similar framework. Software with many users is often upgraded regularly to fix bugs or provide new enhancements. As new and better code is developed it is tested internally and once approved for release is often released to a pilot group, and then a region, and finally to everyone if everything goes smooth. Web sites often throttle traffic to different versions of web sites before releasing something to everyone. For example, Amazon could throttle a small percentage of traffic to a beta site, measure the results and performance, and if everything looks good it could be implemented and made available to all users. Many web sites do this to measure changes and how they affect sales.

We often test things in our own personal lives. We might ask a friend or family member for their opinion before purchasing something or making some other type of decision. This feedback is often very valuable because you may not have any experience with the decision, but a friend may and that might be very helpful.

At the end of the day testing determines what works and what doesn’t and creates data that can be turned into knowledge so key decisions can be mode. However, Washington D.C. is somehow above the same common sense that everyone else in the country uses. Often times the decisions that are made affect the entire world. Lives, economies, across the globe are affected.

Some may argue that certain decisions cannot be tested. The decision to go to war is a tough one to test and some of the recent decisions regarding Lehman Brothers, TARP, and stimulus spending would have been difficult to test because time is a huge factor in the success. But healthcare reform is something that can be tested before it is made into law as time isn’t as much of a factor.

Benchmarks for success should also be included in the law so that government decisions can be measured for success or failure and at least there would be an opportunity to take corrective action.

So in conclusion, the government should test new legislation and the performance should be measured and analyzed to help make the government more effective in its policy making and strategy for the nation and the world.

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