On gaining firsthand experience: One of the reasons I went to work in Washington (for the third time now) is to understand how the different branches of our government work together in practice. I’ve had the opportunity to serve in the executive, legislative, and judicial branches. It gives me the ability to explain how the powers of the three can lead to cooperation or conflict beyond what we read in Supreme Court opinions.
Which is tougher: working in Berkeley or Washington? Making decisions in government is far more challenging. As a Berkeley professor, I have the resources of time and energy to fully consider and research a question of interest to me. We can spend years poring over the decision that a government agency, Congress, or a court made in a day or a week. Government officials sometimes must choose policies under conditions of extreme time pressure and incomplete information.
Would you consider another stint in D.C.? Public service is an important responsibility, especially for those of us who are members of a public university. Moving to Washington for a few years can be very disruptive to a professor’s research plans and personal life. But I think that it is important we make a contribution when our government calls. Personally, I would not want to hold again any of the jobs that I have held, not because I disliked them, but because it would feel like watching the same movie again.