Successes, Failures and Directions for Reform
- New Horizons in Public Policy series
Chapter 7: The use of analysis
The scientist and the social scientist always strive to find clear answers to the questions they are addressing. That is no less true of me than it is of the scientists, economists and environmental analysts I spoke with in researching this book. But those analysts realize that the questions with which they are grappling are riddled with uncertainty and complexity. Similarly, in addressing in this chapter the question of how and when analysis affects policy, I will attempt to pull together the disparate threads of the four previous chapters and paint a picture of the use of analysis within government and the myriad things that affect its use. Throughout the more than 50 years in which academics and advocates have debated the role of analysis, much of the discussion has focused on normative questions. Comprehensive-rational analysis has been praised as a way both to lead to better public policy and to increase the transparency of decisions made within the bureaucracy, an unelected fourth branch of government. It has also been decried as a tool to delay or prevent decisions that would benefit the public, and as a replacement of a democratic form of governance with a technocratic one. For those in either camp, the results of the previous several chapters present some good news and some bad news. On one side of the ledger, the various forms of comprehensive-rational analysis have influenced public policy decisions.
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