MUSTS Colloquium with Guus Dix on Ranking Reforms

Wednesday, December 13 2017, 15:30-17:00, in the Attic (Grote Gracht 80-82, Maastricht).

Ranking Reforms: Commensurable Futures and Bounded Projectivity at the Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis

According to Dutch policy-oriented economists, the introduction of performance pay for primary and secondary school teachers would lead to one and a half percent economic growth in 2070. By modeling the relationship between current policy interventions and future outcomes, they were able to establish a ranking of educational reforms on which performance pay scored best. This article explores the way economic experts came to rank policy measures on the basis of their economic growth potential. More in particular, it analyzes two key processes at work here – commensuration and boundary work – that made it possible to make the distant future part of the political present. First, the ‘future’ of individual policy measures was made commensurable by linking foreign experimental results to the long-run performance of the student population and the labor force in The Netherlands. Second, the exclusive focus on the growth potential is made possible by working on the boundaries between (experimental) economics and other kinds of political and scientific expertise.

Guus Dix was a postdoctoral researcher at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Societies. He is working on two connected research projects. In a historical book project Incentives: A Genealogy (under contract at Princeton University Press) he traces the development of ‘incentivization’ as a framework to understand and act upon human behavior from late 19th century mechanical engineers to 21st century neoliberalism. In a qualitative research project on a Dutch policy experiment with monetary incentives in education, he explores the role of economic expertise (forecasting, experimental economics, microeconomic theories) in policymaking processes.