In the DC area, the McLean Bible Church broadcasts messages --- Not a Sermon, Just a Thought --- which takes everyday life issues and relates them to bible passages or the basic teachings of Christ in 60 second bits. In listening to these periodic messages over the last few years, I often thought that wouldn't it be a good thing if economists did something similar to erase public ignorance concerning policy issues.
The public (and politicians) often talk about public policy as if all that matters is intentions, but to the economists the question is never really one of intentions, but of incentives. When policies achieve their intended outcome it is because incentives were aligned correctly, when they fail to achieve those intended outcomes it is because incentives were not aligned appropriately for that purpose. There is also the matter of the use of knowledge, but for our present purpose we will just stay focused on intentions and incentives.
Consider the current case of the VA hospitals and the waiting line that veterans face. It is viewed as a scandal that someone must be held accountable for and that is the news story you read, hear and watch. But an economic analysis of the VA hospital system will reveal that it is the system that produces systemic incentives that make such waiting lines very predictable. In fact, you can read a wonderfully straightforward economic analysis of the VA system by Cotton Lindsay published in 1975 that clearly predicts the outcomes we are witnessing.
Its not a scandal, it is just incentives at work.