Issues over the Horizon

Eleven Emerging Challenges

To celebrate the 60th Anniversary of the RAND Corporation and to uphold its tradition of taking on the big issues of tomorrow, a call went out to all RAND staff around the world, inviting them to propose essays on “important policy issues not currently receiving the attention they deserve in the public debate” — issues, in other words, that might be on the back burner today but will likely become front-burner issues within the next five years.

More than 100 issues were raised. The final product: the 11 essays published here. These were selected either because they highlight major public policy problems that have eluded the mainstream media radar or because they point toward major public policy solutions that have been likewise overlooked — or both.

Despite the wide range of topics, from corporate malfeasance to antimicrobial resistance, common themes emerge. The biggest one is the shaky financial footing that threatens to undermine several pillars of the public interest: Medicare, Social Security, roads, bridges, water systems, power grids, elections, military operations, diplomatic endeavors, and public health. At the same time, there are national and global reasons for hope. There is even a concluding vision of a new and better form of statecraft.

Readers might be tempted to connect the issues outlined here with those being debated on the U.S. presidential campaign trail, but that is not the intent. Our goal is to raise public awareness of several salient issues that will likely grow in prominence regardless of the election outcome.

—John Godges

The morning sunrise beams from behind a layer of clouds near Matthews, Virginia.
AP IMAGES/RON EDMONDS 
The morning sunrise beams from behind a layer of clouds near Matthews, Virginia, on September 9, 2007.