Randal Cooper For Congress

Democratic Candidate for Tennessee 6 congressional race

Data Driven Policy

There’s an old joke among engineers:

Q: Why did the engineer cross the road?

A: Because he looked in the file and that’s what they did last year.

Here’s the part where I ruin the joke by explaining it: Engineers find the joke hilarious because it plays on the engineering stereotype of being risk-averse. We’re much more likely to do something with a proven track record of success than to try something new that could have millions of dollars in cost overruns and potential unknown consequences. We’re also fond of buying the second version of a product to come to market, after they’ve had a chance to work out the bugs.

The same holds true of government policy.

When this country was founded, we didn’t have examples of what a democracy could be. Our system of government is often described as the ‘grand experiment” of democracy. An experiment that was, for its time, a rousing success–enough so that the countries in the control group generally abandoned their strong monarchies and established some variation of our system within fifty years. They saw the data, saw the success, and made changes.

After its early success, though, the US has been loath to embrace things that work. Other countries run circles around us in healthcare, education, child care,  transportation, infrastructure, public safety, and manufacturing, and we consistently fail to adopt the best practices of these countries to give Americans the opportunity to compete on a level playing field.

As an engineer, that’s what I’m trained to do: Find what works, copy it, and then make it better. My policies are informed by best practices, not industry lobbying efforts: the best outcome for Americans isn’t going to be the best outcome for the health insurance industry, or gun manufacturers, or the companies trying to skim billions in profits out of education, or giant telecoms.

Getting into the data and making sure that policies work makes me a different kind of candidate, and will make me a different kind of legislator.

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