I attended (and recorded!) an interesting panel discussion at the ASSA in Chicago
Environmental Economics, Policy, and Politice
Moderator: Robert Stavins (Harvard University)
Joseph Aldy (Harvard University)
Michael Greenstone (Massachusetts Institute of Technology)
Robert Hahn (University of Oxford)
Adele Morris (Brookings Institution)
Richard Newell (Duke University)
William Pizer (Duke University)
Most participants had worked for a few years "inside the machine" and then gone on to further academic research. They had a number of interesting stories.
In response to my question ("were you able to revoke policies that failed an economic cost-benefit?"), they answered "No. It's really hard to kill a policy that's in place. Most of the good we did was in preventing bad ideas from moving ahead."
Good news, I guess.
Bottom Line: It's hard to work for change from within the government. On the one hand you have access to decision makers and the policy process; on the other, you may be trapped in bureaucratic silos or excluded from decisions where the policy is to ignore economics.
Will someone remind me to play this for my benefit-cost analysis class in the fall on one of those days when I'm wrapped in a blanket, curled in a fetal ball and can't face delivering my lecture?