What should a faculty member do when advising a student interested in a policy career?
First, help your student understands there is a wide scope of possible careers fall into the ‘policy’ spectrum. The Policy Career Guide on LibertyGuide.com is a good place to start for descriptive accounts of the many kinds of policy careers one can pursue.
Second, a mentor ensure your student has a realistic understanding of the policy-making process. Too many students have romantic notions that policy involves meticulously preparing research on proposals for presentation to policy makers for careful evaluation and consideration. These students believe that being “right” about advocating particular policies means something in the political arena, and will likely become quickly disillusioned.
Encourage your students to become very familiar with public choice theory. Students serious about policy careers must understand the incentives in the political arena and have a solid understanding of social change theory. Understanding both public choice and social change theories will help students understand why a policy career encompasses many more skills sets than just academic research.
Below are a few articles that offer good introductions to public choice theory. For more recommendations, consult our economics reading list.
- The Road to Serfdom Chapter 10: “Why the Worst Get on Top” (link to condensed version of book) by Friedrich von Hayek
- “The Four Boneheaded Biases of Stupid Voters” Bryan Caplan in Reason Magazine
- “An Austrian Perspective on Public Choice” Peter Boettke and Peter Leeson
Opportunities for students interested in public policy:
- Liberty Guide, an IHS site focusing on Liberty-advancing jobs provides a more comprehensive and updated list of internship opportunities at many policy organizations.
- Internships at Reason, Mercatus, Cato, and state-based think tanks affiliated with the State Policy Network