Successes, Failures and Directions for Reform
New Horizons in Public Policy series
Chapter 1: Policy analysis: roots and branches
The premise is simple, really. When government makes a decision that affects the lives of its citizens, it should carefully analyze the impacts of that decision before proceeding. But the implementation of this premise has proven over the past 50 years to be both far more complicated and far more controversial than the premise itself. In this book, I explore the question of why government analysis of its decisions is so challenging. It is my hope that an exploration of the analysis of government decisions will lead to ideas for better incorporating analysis into public sector decision-making, and thereby lead to better decisions. Of course, not even the most stringent critics of analysis are suggesting that we should do no analysis of the impacts of government decisions. But structuring governmental decision-making in a democratic society requires great care. Ensuring that decisions are both responsive to the public will and reflect gains in the public welfare is a challenge that has been a continual struggle since the early republic. With many more public policy decisions now taking place in the unelected bureaucracy, the battle has taken on enhanced importance and a different character over the past several decades. Much of the battle over the use of analysis in U.S. policy-making has taken place within the context of regulation. Regulations are issued by agencies of the executive branch of government or by independent commissions.