A song of public policy

In the hit HBO TV Series “The Game of Thrones”, the character Tyrion Lannister played by the actor Peter Dinklage has some of the best lines. Based on the books written by author George RR Martin, the show, in places, veers towards excesses of all kinds. That said, large portion of the books act like a mirror of societies from across the world. Plot elements include  prophecies,  violence, quest for peace,  food, famine, state finances, religion, deterrence, soothsaying, costs of war, alliances, etc.

Without delving too much into the story itself, a quote made by Tyrion in the latest season of the show demands attention, especially by public policy enthusiasts.

In response to another character’s question about “…what great thing has ever been accomplished without killing or cruelty?”, Tyrion Lannister says

It’s easy to confuse what is with what ought to be. Especially when what is has worked in your favor.

Essentially, this is how one can arrive at normative models to understand the dynamics of policy making. Intuitively, policy making must follow the process of selection ie., discard ideas those that do not work. However, the costs associated with a failed policy initiative are high (MNREGA is probably a good example) therefore it is imperative to evaluate and build normative models that work even in the ‘edge cases’.