September 9, 2013 11:44 pm

Apply a few principles, hope for best

From Mr Geoff Mulgan.

Sir, To the extent that Sir Samuel Brittan (“Politics resonates with the sound of quack policies’, September 6) is arguing for better evidence, and more thorough understanding of patterns of causation and side effects, then we should support him wholeheartedly. But unfortunately the report Sir Samuel endorses from the Institute of Economic Affairs presents itself as an attack on evidence-based policy, and comes from an organisation that for many years promoted the opposite of evidence-based policies.

The IEA’s approach to formulating policy – in common with many other think-tanks – was to start with a few theoretical economic principles and deduce what the right policy might be by applying the principles to new fields such as water provision or financial regulation. Then they would encourage government to implement the policy on a large scale. After that they would hope for the best. More than a few of the policies that resulted were disasters, which is why so many now favour more attention to evidence, and a humble experimentalism that tests ideas in the real world before taking them to scale.

Geoff Mulgan, Chief Executive, Nesta, London EC4, UK

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Letter in response to this letter:

Attack on IEA is without evidence / From Prof Philip Booth

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