Predicting the Future in Science, Economics, and Politics
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Predicting the Future in Science, Economics, and Politics

Edited by Frank Whelon Wayman, Paul R. Williamson, Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Solomon Polachek

It is a puzzle that while academic research has increased in specialization, the important and complex problems facing humans urgently require a synthesis of understanding. This unique collaboration attempts to address such a problem by bringing together a host of prominent scholars from across the sciences to offer new insights into predicting the future. They demonstrate that long-term trends and short-term incentives need to be understood in order to adopt effective policies, or even to comprehend where we currently stand and the sort of future that awaits us.
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Chapter 6: Long-term policy problems: definition, origins, and responses

Detlef F. Sprinz


Long-term policy issues are becoming a challenge for many industrialized and industrializing countries alike. This applies to environmental problems (such as global climate change), financial issues (such as public debt or public pension plans), or public health (long-term care for the elderly). In the following, I will define the population of long-term policy issues, discuss which policy problems may qualify, explore the reasons why they exist, and summarize policy designs to cope with them. Long-term environmental problems will serve as the main focal point of the discussion. These include global climate change, where the stakes are anticipated to be very large. Another issue is the construction, now, of homes and businesses on vulnerable shorelines, where rising sea levels and increasingly severe storms might make it virtually certain that in a generation or two, a catastrophe will occur. I begin the discussion with this example as presented in The Economist: A government might, for instance, want to discourage building in areas prone to hurricanes. So it warns citizens that no compensation will be given for houses in such areas should disaster strike. If people believe the warning, they will not build. But if they expect (as history suggests they should) that the government is likely to soften its stance and pay for hurricane damage after all, they will ignore the warning.

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