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Editor's Note


Four years ago, in the 1988 Summer/Fall issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy, we wrote,

"[The two] presidential candidates, Michael Dukakis and George Bush, [proved] themselves extraordinarily adept time and again at not addressing any of the excruciatingly difficult choices a new administration will have to make. But the realities the new president will face cannot be indefinitely obscured. The prosperity we enjoy, the unparalleled splurge in consumption during the 1980s, has been fueled by borrowing against the future. Although this observation is not especially new — and repetition has robbed it of urgency — what we have yet to adequately grasp, that is, grasp to the point where the knowledge impels action, is the enormous cost of our excesses. The inescapable reality that that cost must now be met limits severely the choices open to us and has unsettling implications for the kind of society we may bequeath our children. We called the tune, danced with abandon to its seductive rhythms; now we must pay the piper."

But we have not paid the piper and, frankly, do not yet appear to be up to the challenge. The aspiration expresses itself a little more frequently perhaps, but the commitment is as weak and self-centered and shallow as ever.

Hence to this issue of the New England Journal of Public Policy. Public policy at the microlevel. None of the visionless clichés that pass for eloquent public discourse. But policy issues with intricate, complex dimensions, not amenable to easy remedy, posing alternative choices within shifting and sometimes treacherous parameters, especially when the underlying values are not so clear — issues, in short, that offer in their own parochial way a microcosm of the national landscape, the local tentacles of the many-headed monsters the new administration will have to face up to, especially when it comes down to having to make choices between outcomes and process.



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