Article Title

Editor's Note


In the public domain, ideas undergird the specific policy decisions that elected officials and administrators make in order to achieve the shared goals their communities and constituencies articulate. Ideas are the pistons that drive the engines of change. The study of change, moreover, is a study of our ambivalence toward it. On the one hand, we embrace it with some assumption of its inevitable desirability, equating it with progress, with our aspirations for social improvement, with our propensity for wanting society to be better off, though what "better off" means often remains unclear and inchoate. Public figures routinely offer us a vision of the future that consists of little more than earnestly delivered promises to "get this country moving again." They appeal to our imbedded sense of the frontier, of the uncharted as the guidebook to the promised land. We, in turn, mistake their calls to action for accomplishment. On the other hand, we resist change, associating it with sectional and special-interest lobbies, who both promote and resist it; with social, economic, and political disruptions that outweigh the perceived benefits; and with public intervention for ideological imperative rather than for the social good. The connection between the process of change and the philosophy of policy-making in the United States is a theme in Robert B. Reich's The Power of Public Ideas (1987). Reich argues that "thoughtless adherence to outmoded formulations of problems, choices, and responsibilities can threaten a society's survival," and consequently that "policymaking should be more than and different from the discovery of what people want"; that "it should entail the creation of contexts in which people can critically evaluate and revise what they believe."

This issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy examines policy questions relating to change and resistance to change and the policy consequences of the failure to create the contexts Reich describes.

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