Monday, December 21, 2009

A Lesson From Farming

Julian asked me the other day to give him some suggestions of things to read for work. I was caught off guard and suggested some of the usual suspects (Herman Goldstein on problem-oriented policing, George Kelling on broken windows, John Dewey on pragmatism, etc). A more recent idea comes courtesy of Aubrey, who recommended that I read this piece by Atul Gawande from the New Yorker. Gawande attempts to make a case in support of the Democrats' health-care bill by drawing an analogy with the government-initiated revolution in farming that took place in this country over the past 100 years or so. Along the way, Gawande affirms the value of demonstration projects and technical assistance, two core Center for Court Innovation activities. I wonder what Jonathan Safran Foer and other critics of the way food is brought to market in the U.S. would make of Gawande's uncritical support for modern food production techniques, but I found his argument for government-sponsored local innovation convincing.