Views expressed in opinion columns are the author's own.
People across the political spectrum face a fundamental question about the nature of legislation and public policy in the United States: Why are laws often designed with such gaping flaws, and why can it be so difficult to change them? From health care to Social Security to tax filing, there are ways to save money, increase efficiency and improve policies without changing their intention. The federal government could make the taxpaying process easier by calculating your tax burden for you or getting rid of the penny, a waste of taxpayer money and a weight on the American economy.
However, there is a better way to create legislation. Lawmakers could incorporate design thinking into the implementation of laws. Design thinking is the process of testing, gathering feedback, redesigning, improving, retesting and continuing this process until the product, in this case policy, is the best it could be. Policies could be constantly tested, changed and retested in order to find a policy that actually works for the government and its citizens. Today, policy makers are supposed to evaluate situations and propose policies without knowing their real impacts. This makes experimenting with new policies nearly impossible, stagnating the government's ability to help people and reinforcing mediocre, lukewarm and inefficient policies.
Finland has incorporated design thinking into law-making. The country recently opened a bureau to test the effectiveness of potential policies and improve them before wholesale implementation. We can do the same in the United States. The best and most apropos example is health care. Imagine if the government could pass a health care bill like Obamacare with the ability to remove or change pieces that weren't working, without the bureaucratic red tape. Many of our policy issues would quickly disappear as the policy adapted to people's needs and concerns. There are many valid criticisms of Obamacare — even President Obama saw areas needing improvement — but because of the current legislative system those necessary modifications have become impossible.
A responsive bureaucratic and legal system would not only yield better policies, but it would also decrease partisanship. A system incorporating design thinking could ensure constant input from many stakeholders, including the two main parties and give policy control to non-partisan experts. Obviously, legislators can set financial or ideological parameters on bills, but more flexibility would allow for better implementation. Such an adaptable system would make policy more efficient and accessible to the people it is trying to help.
While such an idea seems impossible to implement at the federal level, this type of innovative policy making can be applied at different sectors and scales. Anything from a national immigration policy that changes to meet new realities, to this university's class registration system could improve with design thinking. Think about the current class registration system and recall all the student complaints. A design thinking approach could take student feedback, improve the system, test it again, regather feedback and continue the cycle until the best possible system is in place. While such an ideal is just a dream for our federal government at the moment, we should start using such an approach on a campus level and begin publicizing our results to create a norm of design thinking-based policy making that encourages broader use.
Moshe Klein is a junior economics and government and politics major. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.