Sunday, January 18, 2009

Cooking in the Shower

Might as well follow one incomplete thought related to Van Jones with another.

Van wants to solve two problems at once. He wants to employ one at risk resource, poor people, to heal and protect another, the natural world.

And one naysayer is getting metaphorical:

Let’s say I want to have a dinner party. It’s important that I cook dinner, and I’d also like to take a shower before the guests arrive. You might think, Well, it would be really efficient for me to cook dinner in the shower. But it turns out that if I try that I’m not going to get very clean and it’s not going to be a very good dinner. And that is an illustration of the fact that it is not always best to try to address two challenges with what in the policy world we call a single-policy instrument.

That's Harvard professor Robert Stavins, quoted in last week's New Yorker.

And, as much as it hurts to disagree with a good metaphor, if Van has the versatility, as the article reports, to charm both a roomful of high school dropouts and the leaders of the liberal elite, I say turn the water on, bust out the pots and pans, offer to help, and see how it goes.

If it fails, it fails. Van'll learn. We'll all learn.

I feel a little irresponsible dismission Professor Stavins before I really understand his opinion and counter-recommendations, but the fact that "it is not always best to try to address two challenges with what in the policy world we call a single-policy instrument" doesn't mean the right people in the right crisis given the right support can't and won't kill both birds with the same stone.

And I'm ready to bet that Van is the right people.

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