Guest blogger Jina Moore explores the background behind failed development projects, and why many organizations make the same mistakes over and over again.
If you haven't seen it yet, Stephen Walt's piece ("Where Do Bad Ideas Come From?") in the new issue of Foreign Policy demands a read. He starts with the obvious – that we never learn from our mistakes – but asks, when it comes to our policy decisions about the world, why?
The possibilities are probably endless, but Walt narrows them down. They come from age, a willful amnesia about what the generation (or more) before us learned from doing the same thing. They come from our optimism, or our naivete, that we can do better this time around. (David Rieff tackles narrows this particular blunder to our 21st century believe that we can technologize our way to success, a path he damned pretty persuasively recently in The New Republic.) They come from silence, imposed by political power in undemocratic regimes and by social taboo in democratic societies. They come from the strange inertia created by success. And they come from, and back to, good old interest: behind the policy that's chosen, there's always someone (or many someones) with political or, often, financial upside. (If for some reason you need any reminder of that, check out the NYT story on the Boeing-State Department, um, "synergy.")