Summrize Logo
All Categories

Snippets about: Policy

Scroll left and right !

The Dangers Of High-Stakes Testing

A significant portion of Chapter 1 is dedicated to exploring how high-stakes standardized testing can lead to cheating by teachers and administrators. As school rankings, funding, and teacher pay started being tied to test results in the 1990s, some teachers began manipulating results by:

  • Giving students correct answers during the test
  • Filling in answers themselves after the test
  • Selectively reporting results from certain students

Mathematical analysis by the authors uncovered cheating in around 5% of classrooms per year in the Chicago Public School system. This shows how incentive schemes can be exploited when the stakes are high enough.

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: Freakonomics

Author: Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Climate Solutions Must Benefit Workers And Communities, Not Just Corporations

To build a strong social mandate for climate action, policies must be designed to tangibly benefit ordinary people. Key strategies include:

  • Massive public investments in clean energy and transportation infrastructure, creating millions of good-paying union jobs
  • Retraining and transition support for workers in fossil fuel industries
  • Regulations requiring local hiring and domestic manufacturing for clean energy projects
  • Programs to reduce energy costs for consumers, especially low-income households
  • Empowering communities to own and control renewable energy projects, rather than just being passive recipients

Policymakers must resist corporate pressure to design climate policies in ways that benefit big business at the expense of workers and communities. Only a "people first" approach can build a lasting consensus for bold climate action.

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: This Changes Everything

Author: Naomi Klein

Traditional Knowledge Offers Alternatives To Extractivism

The chapter suggests that traditional Indigenous knowledge offers an alternative to extractivism. Indigenous cultures have long seen the earth as a living, sacred being rather than an inert resource.

For example, the Indigenous Bolivian concept of "buen vivir" or "living well" rejects consumerism and emphasizes living in harmony with nature's limits. This philosophy has inspired new constitutions in Bolivia and Ecuador that enshrine the rights of nature.

Policymakers should look to partner with Indigenous communities and learn from traditional ecological knowledge in charting a path beyond fossil fuels. Rather than seeing Indigenous lands as sacrifice zones for extraction, their sovereignty and land rights should be protected. And Indigenous communities should be empowered as leaders of the next economy.

Section: 1, Chapter: 6

Book: This Changes Everything

Author: Naomi Klein

Why Many Common Theories For The Crime Drop Are Wrong

The authors debunk several popular theories for why crime fell so sharply in the 1990s:

  • Tougher gun laws - Crime fell just as sharply in states without any changes to their gun laws, and the much-touted Brady Act only had a very modest impact
  • Increased use of capital punishment - The death penalty is applied too infrequently to have a large impact, and crime fell even in states without capital punishment
  • More innovative policing strategies - New York City's "broken windows" policing gets more credit than it likely deserves, as crime fell nationally even in cities that didn't adopt new policing tactics
  • The strong economy - The link between economic conditions and violent crime is relatively weak and inconsistent, and the timing doesn't match up (crime was falling before the 1990s boom)
  • Younger demographics - Demographic trends actually pointed towards a crime increase in the 1990s as the teenage share of the population rose

By process of elimination, the authors come back to legalized abortion, increased incarceration, more police, and the fading of the crack epidemic as the only factors that can really explain the magnitude and timing of the huge 1990s crime drop.

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: Freakonomics

Author: Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

The Limits of Power

Both the British Army in Ireland and California's Three Strikes law failed for the same fundamental reason: they were too confident in the utility of their own power. Both the British and California failed to ask themselves, "At what cost? And for how long?" They missed the inverted U-curve. Past a certain point, more force produces less compliance.

More punishment produces less deterrence. The marginal returns diminish, and the unintended consequences mount. Power is like medicine - it has an optimal dose range. Too little, and it's ineffective. Too much, and it becomes toxic. The trick is finding the sweet spot.

Section: 3, Chapter: 8

Book: David and Goliath

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

"Abortion Leads To Less Crime"

"Our theory does not suggest that the legalization of abortion can account for all of the decline in crime. Clearly, many other factors may also be at play: a strong economy, increases in the number of police, and the rising prison population, among them. But legalized abortion should not be overlooked. It was perhaps the single most important event of the last half century in leading to the abrupt and unexpected decline in crime that the United States has experienced."

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: Freakonomics

Author: Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

Walkability Depends On Getting Cars Under Control in Cities

For most of human history, cities were built around people. But for the past century, most American cities have been redesigned around the needs of the automobile, with disastrous results for walkability. Pedestrians cannot thrive in cities where cars are given priority in the allocation of space, speed, and subsidies.

While cars are useful and necessary in cities, they must be tamed and controlled, not given free reign, if walkers are to flourish. This isn't about being "anti-car", but about balance. Great walking cities like New York, London and Paris have plenty of cars, but have established rules that keep them from dominating the environment and harming pedestrians.

Section: 2, Chapter: 1

Book: Walkable City

Author: Jeff Speck

Covid-19 Illustrates The High Costs Of Managing Uncertainty With Crude Rules

The authors use the example of blanket social distancing rules during the Covid-19 pandemic to illustrate the economic costs of managing uncertainty with rules rather than predictions.

  • Social distancing was a crude but effective rule for limiting virus spread in the absence of information on who was infectious
  • However, it came at an enormous economic and social cost, disrupting work, education, and social connectivity for everyone rather than just the infectious
  • Better predictive tools for identifying infectious individuals, like rapid testing, could have enabled more normal life to continue safely for the majority. Realizing this would have required an "oiled" system able to flexibly adapt based on new information, rather than a "glued" system locked into rigid rules

Section: 3, Chapter: 7

Book: Power and Prediction

Author: Ajay Agrawal, Joshua Gans, Avi Goldfarb

Japan's Anti-Obesity Secret Weapon - Group Accountability?

Every Japanese workplace has a shocking anti-obesity ritual - mandatory annual weigh-ins and waistline checks for every employee. It's a group accountability practice unthinkable in the individualistic West. At first glance it seems dystopian, even unethical - a violation of body privacy and autonomy.

But the results are undeniable - Japan boasts stunning population-level leanness and health even as other rich nations balloon in weight. There may be a lesson here in hacking "social contagion" for good - making healthy choices the "easy" default through shared commitment, support, and positive peer pressure. What if we stopped framing body size as a purely personal, private affair and started treating it as a collective, public health responsibility?

Section: 1, Chapter: 12

Book: Magic PIll

Author: Johann Hari

The Principle of Legitimacy

For the law to be effective, it must be seen as legitimate by the population. Legitimacy has three components:

  1. People must feel they have a voice, and that if they speak up, they will be heard.
  2. The law must be predictable. There has to be a reasonable expectation that the rules tomorrow are going to be roughly the same as the rules today.
  3. The authority has to be fair. It can't treat one group differently from another.

When the British were seen as violating these principles in Northern Ireland, it created an opening for the IRA to position themselves as the legitimate authority in Catholic areas. Authority isn't just about power - it's about getting people to want to submit to your power. Establishing legitimacy is a precondition for authority to function.

Section: 3, Chapter: 7

Book: David and Goliath

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Making Cigarettes Less Compelling

Two strategies to make cigarettes less "sticky" to teens:

1. Lower nicotine levels below the "tipping point" of addiction

  • Evidence suggests there is a nicotine threshold below which the chemical "hook" of cigarettes doesn't fully take hold
  • By lowering nicotine in cigarettes, smoking becomes more of a casual habit than a physical addiction

2. Raise the age of the "stickiest" customers

  • Smokers who start as teens are much more likely to be lifelong smokers
  • By delaying the onset of smoking even a few years, the behavior is less likely to become a permanent lifestyle

Though teen smoking is a powerful epidemic, small changes in the stickiness and circumstances of the behavior can have an outsized effect in reversing it. The same factors that cause it to tip can also cause it to collapse.

Section: 1, Chapter: 7

Book: The Tipping Point

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

"Real Men Have Fabs"

The chip industry's landscape has undergone significant changes, moving away from the traditional model of integrated design and manufacturing within a single company. Foundries like TSMC have emerged, offering chip fabrication services to fabless companies that focus solely on design. This shift is driven by the increasing cost and complexity of building and operating fabs, as each generation of technological advancement requires more expensive equipment and expertise.

However, some industry veterans like Jerry Sanders, founder of AMD, remain staunch advocates of the integrated model, believing that owning fabs is essential for maintaining control and ensuring quality. He famously quipped, "Real men have fabs," reflecting a cultural attachment to the traditional way of doing things. However, the economic realities and the success of fabless companies are challenging this mindset.

Section: 6, Chapter: 35

Book: Chip War

Author: Chris Miller

Strategies for Gender-Responsive Tax Policy and Advocacy

To create more gender-equitable and pro-poor tax systems, we need:

  • Collection and analysis of sex-disaggregated tax data, to identify and address gender biases and impacts in tax policies and practices.
  • Gender impact assessments and budgeting of tax policies, to ensure that they promote gender equality and women's rights, and do not exacerbate inequalities.
  • Progressive and fair tax systems that tax wealth, assets, and high incomes more than consumption and labor, and that provide adequate revenues for gender-responsive public services and social protection.
  • Challenging gender stereotypes and norms that undervalue women's paid and unpaid work, and that justify unequal and unfair tax systems and public spending.

Section: 5, Chapter: 13

Book: Invisible Women

Author: Caroline Criado Perez

The Hidden Gender Bias in Tax Systems

Tax systems around the world often have implicit or explicit gender biases that disadvantage women and reinforce gender inequalities:

  • Joint filing of income taxes for married couples, as practiced in many countries like the US, can create a "marriage penalty" for women, as their income is taxed at a higher marginal rate than if they filed individually.
  • Tax credits or deductions for dependent spouses, as provided in countries like the UK and Japan, can discourage women's labor force participation and reinforce traditional gender roles.
  • Consumption taxes like VAT often apply to goods and services that women disproportionately consume, such as childcare, menstrual products, and basic necessities, making them more regressive for women.
  • Tax systems that favor capital gains, property, and corporate income over labor income tend to benefit men, who own more wealth and assets than women.
  • Lack of sex-disaggregated data and gender analysis in tax policy-making means that these biases often go unrecognized and uncorrected.

Section: 5, Chapter: 13

Book: Invisible Women

Author: Caroline Criado Perez

Universal Basic Income As A Solution

One proposed solution to the threat of mass unemployment caused by automation is universal basic income (UBI):

  • The government would tax a portion of the immense wealth generated by artificial intelligence and use it to provide all citizens with a guaranteed livable income, regardless of whether they work or not.
  • This could help prevent mass joblessness from leading to total economic and social collapse. Even if most people lost their jobs to machines, they would still have enough income to meet their basic needs and consume products and services.
  • UBI could be combined with universal free education, enabling the unemployed to gain new skills for the remaining human jobs. It could also be supplemented with socially useful make-work or jobs focused on human interaction.
  • However, UBI may not give unemployed people a sense of meaning and social status previously provided by jobs. Societies may need to radically change how they view work, leisure and the purpose of life as automation progresses.

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: 21 Lessons for the 21st Century

Author: Yuval Noah Harari

The Five Factors That Explain The 1990s Crime Drop

According to the authors, there were five key factors that drove the dramatic decline in U.S. crime in the 1990s:

  1. Increased incarceration - More criminals in prison meant fewer on the streets
  2. More police - A rising number of police per capita increased the risk of getting caught
  3. The end of the crack epidemic - Crack markets matured and violence subsided as dealers focused more on customer retention vs. turf wars
  4. Legalized abortion - Fewer unwanted pregnancies 20 years prior meant fewer children grew up in environments that incline one towards crime
  5. The strong 1990s economy - Economic growth and low unemployment made crime a relatively less attractive option

However, the authors argue the first four factors account for the lion's share of the crime drop, with abortion alone responsible for as much as 30% of the decline. Improved policing tactics and the innovative CompStat system rolled out in New York City, on the other hand, likely had little impact despite receiving significant media attention.

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: Freakonomics

Author: Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner

The Cobra Effect - Why Child Car Seats Don't Work

Child car seats are a well-intentioned innovation, mandated by law in all 50 U.S. states. But a closer look at the data reveals they are shockingly ineffective at their stated goal of reducing child auto fatalities:

  • Federal studies find car seats are only about 2% more effective at preventing fatalities than regular seatbelts
  • Observational data shows that 80-90%+ of car seats are installed or used incorrectly, rendering them ineffective
  • Car seat laws "crowd out" potentially more impactful solutions like driver safety training or stronger DUI enforcement

The authors dub this "the cobra effect" after an apocryphal tale of how a bounty on cobra skins backfired when people started breeding cobras. The lesson is that even the most well-meaning attempts to solve problems through legislation can have perverse unintended consequences. Policymakers must rigorously evaluate actual efficacy using data, not just rely on good intentions. More broadly, this story cautions against top-down mandates and argues for locality in problem-solving.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Super Freakonomics

Author: Steven D. Levitt , Stephen J. Dubner

China's Chip Strategy: Learning from the Neighbors

To develop its domestic chip industry, China's taking cues from the successful strategies employed by its neighbors: Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea. These strategies include:

  • Heavy government subsidies and investment
  • Attracting foreign-trained scientists and engineers
  • Forging partnerships with foreign firms for technology transfer
  • Leveraging competition between foreign companies to secure favorable deals

Section: 7, Chapter: 42

Book: Chip War

Author: Chris Miller

Walkable Cities Save Residents Time and Money While Boosting the Local Economy

The case of Portland, Oregon shows the tremendous financial upside of walkable urbanism for both households and entire metro regions:

  • The average Portland resident drives 20% less than their counterparts in other major metros, or about 4 miles less per day. This equates to $1.1 billion in savings per year that residents aren't spending on vehicles.
  • Less driving means less time wasted in traffic. Portland residents spend 11 minutes fewer per day stuck in peak hour congestion compared to 10 years ago. The entire region gains $1.5 billion worth of time savings.
  • When these savings from reduced car ownership and usage are spent locally, it provides a significant boost to neighborhood businesses. Portland's "Green Dividend" from walkability yields huge economic benefits for the region.

Section: 1, Chapter: 1

Book: Walkable City

Author: Jeff Speck

Broken Windows Theory: The Power Of Context

The Broken Windows theory argues that crime is the inevitable result of disorder:

  • If a window is broken and left unrepaired, people conclude that no one cares and no one is in charge
  • This sends a signal that anything goes and the sense of anarchy spreads
  • Relatively minor problems like graffiti, public disorder, and panhandling are "small cracks" that invite more serious crimes

"The impetus to engage in a certain kind of behavior does not come from a certain kind of person but from a feature of the environment."

An epidemic can be tipped by tiny changes in context, in the same way that New York's crime epidemic tipped when the police began fixing "broken windows" like graffiti and fare-beating.

Section: 1, Chapter: 4

Book: The Tipping Point

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

The Failed Logic of Three Strikes

Three Strikes was built on flawed assumptions about how criminals think. Here's what California could have done instead:

  • Target deterrence to the specific triggers of crime (e.g. gun laws, gang prevention).
  • Tailor sentences to the actual risk profile of the offender, not a blanket rule.
  • Prioritize certainty of punishment over severity.
  • Invest in rehabilitation, drug treatment, and job training to reduce recidivism.

California's "tough on crime" approach sounded appealing, but relied on emotion over data. A more targeted strategy could have reduced both crime and incarceration.

Section: 3, Chapter: 8

Book: David and Goliath

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

The Importance of Framing in Public Policy

The principles of framing and mental accounting have significant implications for public policy:

Choice architecture: Policymakers can design choices in a way that nudges people towards decisions that serve their own long-term interests, without restricting freedom of choice.

Disclosure policies: Information about risks and benefits should be presented in a clear, simple, and understandable format to help people make informed decisions.

Regulation of marketing practices: Firms should be discouraged from using manipulative framing tactics to exploit consumers' biases and vulnerabilities.

Section: 4, Chapter: 34

Book: Thinking, Fast and Slow

Author: Daniel Kahneman

The Inverted U-Curve Between Punishment and Crime

The relationship between punishment and crime follows an inverted U-curve. Increasing punishment and enforcement does deter crime up to a point. But after that point, additional punishment stops producing gains and can even make crime increase again. This is because extremely long sentences have diminishing returns in deterrence, since many criminals are not forward-thinking enough for the difference between a 10 vs. 20 year sentence to matter.

Meanwhile, over-incarceration imposes tremendous collateral damage on communities and families, which can cause crime to go back up. Children with incarcerated parents are much more likely to become criminals themselves. Putting too many people in jail can also overwhelm and delegitimize the justice system in the eyes of the community.

Section: 2, Chapter: 5

Book: David and Goliath

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Make Friendly And Unique Faces

Speck provides some key rules for creating engaging ground floor facades:

  • Ban blank walls and mirror glass windows. Mandate a minimum percentage of transparency.
  • Prohibit parking lots in front of buildings. Tuck them behind or wrap them with habitable space.
  • Limit storefront widths and require vertical articulation to create visual interest
  • Encourage creativity and uniqueness in signage, awnings, merchandise displays
  • Codify these rules into zoning to require them by right. Don't settle for conventional chain store designs - they can adapt to walkable formats if required.

Section: 2, Chapter: 9

Book: Walkable City

Author: Jeff Speck

The Key to Making Streets Safer Is Slowing Cars

Many traffic safety campaigns aimed at pedestrians - "wear bright clothing," "cross at the signal," etc. - implicitly blame the victim. They ignore the fact that streets are dangerous by design: built to prioritize maximum vehicle speed over pedestrian safety.

To reduce traffic deaths, we must address the root cause of reckless driving: streets designed like highways. Pedestrian fatalities aren't due to a lack of caution or personal responsibility among walkers. They're a direct result of wide lanes, long blocks, sweeping curves and other design factors that induce speeding and risky driving. Truly protecting pedestrians means fundamentally reshaping streets to slow cars down, not just cushioning walkers from the threat.

Section: 2, Chapter: 5

Book: Walkable City

Author: Jeff Speck

A Diverse Mix of Housing Options Downtown Benefits Everyone

A robust supply of housing in a variety of types and price points is key to a healthy downtown:

  • Having people from all walks of life and income levels makes downtown more vibrant and equitable. Restricting downtown living to only the wealthy is neither fair nor smart.
  • In most cities, the majority of current downtown housing is subsidized "affordable housing" isolated in towers and complexes. There is often a "missing middle" of market-rate options for the workforce.
  • Two effective tools for providing below-market-rate units are inclusionary zoning, which requires a % of new units to be affordable, and "granny flats" or accessory dwellings added to existing homes.

Section: 2, Chapter: 2

Book: Walkable City

Author: Jeff Speck

COMPAS Recidivism and Algorithmic Fairness

In 2016, a ProPublica investigation into the COMPAS criminal risk assessment tool concluded the tool was biased against Black defendants. Their analysis found that Black defendants who did not reoffend were 2x more likely to be classified as high-risk compared to White defendants.

The makers of COMPAS, Northpointe, countered that the model was equally accurate for White and Black defendants and had the same false positive rates for each risk score level, so could not be biased.

This sparked a heated debate in the algorithmic fairness community. A series of academic papers showed that the two notions of fairness - equal false positive rates and equal accuracy across groups - are mathematically incompatible if the base rates of the predicted variable differ across groups.

The COMPAS debate crystallized the realization that there are multiple conceptions of algorithmic fairness that often cannot be simultaneously satisfied. It brought the issue into the public eye and kickstarted the field of fairness in machine learning.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: The Alignment Problem

Author: Brian Christian

How Three Strikes Laws Overshot the Inverted U-Curve

California's 1994 "Three Strikes" law was intended to reduce crime by imposing harsh sentences on repeat offenders. It was championed by Mike Reynolds, whose daughter had been murdered by two career criminals.

The law did initially lead to a drop in crime, as offenders were taken off the streets. However, the costs - both economic and social - soon started to outweigh the benefits. California's prison population exploded, as even minor crimes led to life sentences if they were a "third strike." This proved enormously expensive, and the state soon had to start cutting other vital services, like education, to pay for prisons.

So while a certain degree of harsher sentencing can deter crime, Three Strikes took it too far. It overshot the inverted U-curve, maximizing punishment to the point of diminishing returns.

Section: 3, Chapter: 8

Book: David and Goliath

Author: Malcolm Gladwell

Obesity Rates Have Skyrocketed As America Has Rebuilt Itself Around The Car

Over the past 40 years, the US has undergone an unprecedented obesity epidemic fueled largely by our development patterns:

  • In the mid-1970s, only 1 in 10 Americans was obese. By 2007, that number had risen to a shocking 1 in 3 adults, with another third clinically overweight.
  • The childhood obesity rate has more than tripled since 1980. 25% of young men and 40% of young women are now too overweight to enlist in the military.
  • As recently as 1991, no state had an obesity rate above 20%. By 2007, only one state (Colorado) was still under 20%. Several states now exceed 30% of adults.
  • Numerous studies have directly linked time spent driving with increased risk of obesity. One study found a 6% rise in likelihood of obesity for each additional hour spent in a car per day.

Section: 1, Chapter: 2

Book: Walkable City

Author: Jeff Speck

Nudging in the UK

The Behavioural Insights Team (BIT), a.k.a. the "Nudge Unit", was set up in the UK Cabinet Office to apply behavioral science to improve public policy. A key innovation was the use of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) to rigorously test behavioral interventions.

For example, to increase tax collection, BIT ran an RCT sending different reminder letters to taxpayers. The most effective letter used social norms, telling recipients that most people in their town paid taxes on time and they were in the minority that hadn't.

This letter increased payment rates by over 5 percentage points, accelerating £9 million in revenue. The trial cost almost nothing since the letters were being sent anyway. Similar RCTs tested interventions in:

  • Encouraging people to join the organ donor registry
  • Getting people to pay court fines on time
  • Motivating job seekers to attend employment training

The UK's example is spreading, with "nudge units" being set up in governments around the world. RCTs are a crucial tool for evidence-based policy, and behavioral science expands the toolkit of solutions.

Section: 6, Chapter: 33

Book: Misbehaving

Author: Richard Thaler

    Summrize Footer

    Subscribe to Our Newsletter

    Become smarter every day with key takeaways delivered straight to your inbox. Perfect for busy people who want to learn from the smartest minds in just minutes!