Seeking Examples of Long-Term Decisions
Do Policy Makers Think Long-Term?
The RAND Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition seeks to improve understanding of how today’s actions can enhance humanity’s long-term future. In so many cases, decision-makers focus only on the near-term. Thus, we are compiling a list of examples where public and private sector organizations explicitly acted on a long-term view. As our definition, we say:
Long-term decisions occur when reflecting on potential events decades or more in the future causes decision makers to consider and perhaps choose near-term actions different than those they would otherwise pursue.
Policies to Address Climate Change: Governments have agreed to the Kyoto Protocol limiting greenhouse gases emissions in order to prevent damage that would only occur decades in the future. Policy makers’ statements, and the importance of long-term environmental assessments such as those produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), suggest that these near-term actions are influenced by the anticipation of potential events decades in the future.
U.S. Constitution: As made clear from records of the debates at the Philadelphia convention, many provisions of the U.S. Constitution were influenced by expectations about how the new country might grow in the future. For instance, the bicameral legislature, with membership of one branch based on population and the other on states, was intended to preserve the rights of the original small coastal states as the country expanded into the interior of North America.
Treaty of Versailles: Based on their stated visions and goals, the leaders of the victorious Allied powers all sought, ultimately unsuccessfully, a peace settlement that would prevent another continental war for decades to come.
Not all decisions with long-term impacts represent long-term decisions. For instance, some businesses generate profound long-term changes through a series of steps each motivated entirely by near-term considerations. Bill Gates created one of the world’s largest companies over the course of several decades, but near-term business goals explain all his key near-term choices.
Please suggest your own examples of long-term decisions
We would very much appreciate any examples of past long-term decisions, successful and unsuccessful, and your brief assessment of why these decisions qualify as long-term. We will post the results of this query on the Pardee Center website. You may send suggestions directly to Robert Lempert, Director, RAND Frederick S. Pardee Center for Longer Range Global Policy and the Future Human Condition at: Robert_Lempert@rand.org