Lindblom, Charles E. & Edward J. Woodhouse. The Policy Making Process (Third Edition). Prentice Hall: Englewood Cliffs, NJ, 1993

Chapter 1: The Challenge Facing Policy Making

p.2 -- Why are humans not more effective in actually solving social problems? Why do avowedly democratic governments so often appear to be unresponsive to many of their citizens?
p.3 -- What interferes with intelligence and popular control in attacking social problems?

Policy occurs through a system as much as through policy makers
policy makers usually focus on an already narrowed down range of options, winnowed down to fit into a broad area of basic agreement
focusing on policy makers is not a good way to assess the effectiveness of policy-making process

  • a leader implies a follower
  • politician and bureaucrats as lenses through which various sources of ideas refract
  • politician as functionary

Foci of the book:

  • legislators
  • interest groups
  • governmental agencies
  • broader influences - human limitations, conflict between reasoned judgment and exercise of power, role of business, inequality

Cognitive Limits and Impairments

problems often too complex for comprehensive human conception and perception
the mind simply cannot grasp the complexity of social reality

p.5 -- There is a deep and persistent unwillingness in Western culture to acknowledge the difficulties arising from the world's complexity and humans' modest cognitive abilities.

unless human limits are taken seriously, it is impossible to assess the magnitude of the task facing a political system
unless political action accounts for the inability to fully comprehend complex problems, policy making will not fare well.
social limits on perceptions

  • arbitrary standards
  • inadequate schooling
  • lack of competition of ideas in the media

Analysis Versus Power

intellectual approaches are often somewhat bloodless and mechanical
however, analysis is our primary weapon against the unreasoned exercise of power

p.7 -- People want democracy to be informed and well analyzed, perhaps even correct and scientific; yet they also want policy making to be democratic and hence necessarily an exercise of power.

policy making is political in that it involves the use of authority
competition of ideas the best road to truth - democracy has best chance for informed and reasoned policy making
but does competition produce reason or contention
where is the balance between politics of power and politics of analysis

The Policy-Making Roles of Business

important public tasks delegated to the business sector in market economies
business managers are like a second set of public officials

  • organize labor force
  • allocate resources
  • plan capital investments
  • organizational tasks of economic life

public in the sense of mattering to everyone, and being as important as government decisions

  • jobs / employment / unemployment
  • price levels
  • economic expansion

consumer influence is limited to voting with dollars and feet
can only specify roughly what goods to sell and where and to keep costs down

p.8 -- What remains invariant is that there is this second set of public officials, and that policy making by the "private sector" constitutes a system of control over society's directions that rivals government in overall import.
p.8 -- Society and government are forever trying to play catch-up, to correct or mitigate the problems introduced by the technological and entrepreneurial ingenuity of the business sector

business executives major players in political life - puts pressure on politicians

Socioeconomic and Political Inequality

social and economic inequalities translate into political inequalities
the existence of a decision making elite is a fact of political life
donations to election campaigns come more from the rich than the poor
interest groups orient themselves toward their source of funding

Are there political mechanisms in democracy which compensate for inequality?
How does inequality effect the democratic process?
How does it effect intelligent decision making?

How to Study the Policy Process

  • analysis of component steps
  • sources of problems
  • how agenda is set
  • who that actors are
  • how actors formulate policy for action
  • how action ensues
  • how policy is implemented

p.10 -- The step by step approach also risks assuming that policy making proceeds through a coherent and rational process.

policy process like a primeval soup
problem and policy definition may not so much occur as gel
from timing, events, opportunities, and compromise
policy may arise from

  • compromise
  • inaction
  • as a byproduct of other actions
  • gradual emergence

p.11 -- Policy making is a complexly interactive process without beginning or end.

Chapter 2: The Limits of Analysis

The Ubiquity of Analysis

How far does analysis and reasoned discussion go in policy making?

  • gather facts
  • interpret facts
  • debate issues

limits of analysis

  • exercise of power
  • limits of ability to reach conclusive judgments on complex issues

facts and arguments vital to the political debate

  • informed discussion
  • specialized professional studies

some government agencies exist purely to engage in analysis

p.14 -- A kind of analysis sometimes called planning focuses on understanding interrelations among policies in various areas over time.
planning and zoning

p.15 -- There runs a deep and wide river of information and opinion fed by many springs, from formal research projects to letters to the editor, some of which makes it way into the thinking of those with direct influence over policy.
analysis suppressed in authoritarian systems

Limits on Analysis as a Substitute for Politics

Why, given its obvious merits, do governments not make even more use of analysis?
Why is there not less decision making on the basis of power and more on the basis of reasoned inquiry?

  • policy maker overwhelmed by advice and information (TMI!)
  • quantity of information extant, but quality sometimes lacking: especially on specific issues
  • hard to predict what will be important


p.16 -- To reach a solution without any exercise of power, sheer information and reasoning alone would have to be sufficient to bring all relevant parties into agreement.

  • but people disagree
  • people and information they gather are fallible
  • differences have to be reconciled by power
  • differences in facts and logic will create analytical impasses
  • agendas and bias can enter into analysis, as well as analysis being incomplete or poorly done
  • analysis less frequently resolves issues and more frequently raises new issues and questions

Too much and too little information

  • too little info before the search, too much afterward
  • this is why senators and reps specialize in a specific policy field

Conflict of Values

p.19 -- To make policy solely by analysis also would require a harmony of interests of values among all individuals and groups.
Is majority the answer to conflicting values?

Public Interest Criterion

  • public interest - universal good - values believed to serve everyone
  • but who decides what is in the public interest
  • maximization of total utility

Time and Cost

  • analysis must be completed on time with the resources available
  • impossible for complex problems

p.21 -- Each major study undertaken by the Office of Technology Assessment, for example, costs nearly a million dollars -- and these studies are neither comprehensive nor conclusive.
fallible resources do not get heavy investment

p.21 -- Most policy questions therefore are decided by faster, cheaper methods than by analysis: most commonly, by delegating responsibility for decisions to designated officials who must decide, drawing on whatever information is available.

Problem Formation

  • analysis could eliminate politics only if all problems could be reduced to analytical definitions
  • there is never a clear cut problem definition
  • there is never a purely analytical way of specifying problems and priorities


p.22 -- If professional analysis deserves to be seen as no more than an input to political interaction and judgment, never a substitute for it, then inquiry and judgment by ordinary people remain at the heart of the policy making process.

Chapter 3: The Potential Intelligence of Democracy

p.23 -- If complex social problems cannot be solved through analysis, then shaping a better world will depend largely on the extent to which political arrangements evoke fair and sensible judgments.

How can government be organized to locate power and wisdom in the same place?

  • democratic politics tries to solve this by making official responsive to citizenry

Democratic virtue does not rest in

  • freedom of speech, press, etc.
  • elections

p.24 -- To the extent that democratic systems do work, it is largely because they half-wittingly utilize strategies that render complex social problems far more manageable than could be achieved via analysis alone.

Agreement in Lieu of Complete Understanding

  • political participants interact to formulate policy
  • interactive policy making helps to cope with complexity and time constraints


  • bias in decision makers
  • each pursues a mixture of private purpose and a vision of the public interest
  • but the interaction of such partisanship can be very beneficial

Each party declares their high priority problems

  • action is taken not when a policy is found to be correct
  • but when an agreement is reached

Some criteria of an intelligent political process:

  • concerns of any sizable number of people are taken into account
  • reasonable trade-offs are made in the face of conflicting values
  • policy actions take into account available information

Search for Agreement

  • getting what one wants without backlash
  • the need for allies
  • objectors are motivated to formulate strong counterproposals
  • the need to win delimits a sphere of reasonableness
  • moderation is encouraged to avoid wasting time and energy
  • The process of substituting politics for analysis

p.26 -- political interaction achieves a form of understanding that cannot be produced through analysis alone.
understanding -- a shared agreement

Strategic Analysis

as partisans interact, they analyze

Simple incremental analysis

  • keeping close to the status quo
  • makes most of available knowledge
  • - easier to win

Focus on a few policy options
Focus on ills to be remedied
Does thoughtful policy require policy makers to formulate an organized set of policy aspirations, or should they focus merely on ameliorating the most pressing problems?

Trial and Error

  • policy as a never ending process
  • allows the development of a feel for the issue

Fragmentation of Analysis Among Partisans

  • interest groups will inevitably neglect to address issues outside their immediate scope
  • to cope with this, different people become watchdogs for different needs (the partisans watch each other)
  • a division of labor leads to different parties bringing different analysis and research to the table related to their agendas

p.31 -- Many advocates of more analysis and less politics in public policy making have simply taken for granted that analysis should always be placed at the service of some government functionary who has comprehensive responsibilities in a problem area. But there is no such person, because each official deals at any given time with limited problems, within a limited perspective.
interest groups tend to arise to fill in the analysis gaps


p.31 -- There is never a point at which thinking, research, and action is "objective", or "unbiased."

  • all human activities are partisan
  • information seeking and shaping interact with political interaction, judgment and action

Chapter 4: The Imprecision of Voting

Do voters determine policy indirectly via their votes for elected representatives?
Or are they merely choosing between would-be rulers?
Just how much control over policy do ordinary citizens attain via the vote and other activities associated with electoral politics?
To what extent are deficiencies in policy making due to electoral mechanisms and other aspects of the voting process?

Looseness of Control

policy fails to correspond with public opinion at least one third of the time
Issues that make it difficult to translate majority viewpoints into public policy:

  • voter ignorance of candidate positions
  • voter ignorance of policy issues
  • issues not put to voters - candidates avoid taking a stand during elections
  • single dimension of the vote (yes/no)
  • one vote versus many policies (candidates don't agree with their voters on all issues)
  • electoral mechanisms

Help From Political Parties

  • strong political party can formulate policy packages
  • can tie candidates to a platform

Limits on party effectiveness

  • focus on helping a vocal minority
  • is not helpful to voters who are not guided by the party agenda
  • thoughtful independent voting v. habitual disregard for party stance
  • appeals often emotive/charismatic rather than issue oriented
  • candidates may run as independent or defect


  • each candidate has an incentive to avoid offending any clear majority
  • electoral process is based on an aware and critical electorate

Chapter 5: Elected Functionaries

p.45 -- Because electoral controls are too imprecise to determine more than the broadest contours of policy making, direct authority rests largely in the hands of elected functionaries, their appointees, and civil servants.

policy making aspects not amenable to the mass public

  • distilling rough ideas into polished proposals
  • fleshing out and adopting policies

elected officials constitute an elite of sorts

  • both necessary to the democratic process and a threat to it
  • can lose touch with the masses

Complications of Democratic Policy Making

  • channels for resolving conflict and promoting cooperation
  • organization complications make assigning blame difficult

pluralistic policy systems

  • difficult to understand
  • difficult to predict and plan for
  • difficult to participate in

Complications of Liberty

p.47 -- Designers of political systems did not singularly attend to considerations of efficient and democratic policy making, because another consideration loomed even larger: curbing the power of rulers to engage in arbitrary action.

liberty v. popular control of policy v. maximally efficient or effective policy making
complications of separation of powers and checks and balances
bicameral house conservative by definition (twice the chance of inaction)
protection of private property rights

Organizing and Coordinating

organizing is crucial for coordination

p.49 -- Any elected functionary has to act on more issues than a single person could fully understand.

  • responsibility must be delegated and coordinated
  • wherever there is delegation there is a narrowing of vision

Legislative Parties

partisan voting and legislating

Executive Leadership

deference to leader of political party - expedites the process at the cost of a diversity of opinion
democracies require inventive leadership
leaders must be able to restructure political controversy, find common ground, and move the debate forward
but there is no agreed upon formula for choosing a leader
and no mechanism to hold them to their word

Self-Selected Roles

self selected role of the functionary may not be that of serving the public so much as holding office

  • addressing the issues may be less effective in winning votes than getting pork and addressing high profile individual constituent issues
  • take conspicuous and popular stands without taking any real action
  • working for the wants of the people v. working for the wants of the elite

p.55 -- the system within which elected functionaries work lacks a systematic strategy for inducing them to perform in ways that lead to intelligent, democratic outcomes.

Chapter 6: Bureaucratic Policy Making

Do civil servants act as a corrective for other flaws in the policy process?
Or does bureaucracy share and even exacerbate problems found elsewhere in the policy making process?
  • largest part of any government - both in staff and budget
  • brings knowledge base
  • less politically motivated (fairer) than elected officials
  • also slow, ponderous and byzantine

But on the whole bureaucracy works surprisingly well

Why is the enormous collective experience of the bureaucracy less effective than many people would want?
What keeps government bureaucracies from being more responsive to popular needs?

Are Bureaucrats Policy Makers?

traditional theory - leaders set policy, administrators implement it
bureaucrats active participants in policy-making process

p.59 -- Administrative actions typically modify or set policy in the process of trying to implement it, and agencies not infrequently are instructed by elected functionaries to make policy.

  • based on the number of choices made, policy making is overwhelmingly a bureaucratic process
  • must decide how closely to follow regulations

p.60 -- If the aim is to understand how governments come to do what they do, however, the term policy needs to be applied to actual practice, not merely to formally announced intentions.

  • funding limits action
  • legislative haste may lead to ambiguities needing interpretation
  • may be due to an inability to agree on specifics or as an intentional act of compromise

Bureaucratic Intelligence

p.62 -- One reason it sometimes makes good sense to delegate policy-making authority to the bureaucracy is that new policies may be developed early in the life cycle of a social problem, when there is little experience on which to base a regulatory effort.

  • problem may be not yet clearly defined
  • problems change in nature as time goes on
  • bureaucrats are also often experts able to negotiate their field better than elected officials
  • allows for trial and error iteration without continued legislative action
  • focused on a time frame beyond the next election

Limits on Bureaucratic Intelligence

  • focus on budgets, power, turf
  • preoccupation with process instead of results
  • get caught in a narrow set of interests or goals
  • personal ambitions

Specialization and Coordination

some limitations implicit in bureaucracy, which exists for the purpose of specialization for specific job
Where does the division of labor devolve into fragmentation?

Centralized Coordination versus Mutual Adjustment

  • need for cooperation
  • but coordination usually requires a better knowledge of the interstices than are normally extant in the components

p.67 -- It is impossible unambiguously calculate even how a single complex policy will interact with another, much less how it will interact with all others.
adds additional layers of bureaucracy

Another way of coordinating

  • decentralized coordination via partisan interaction and mutual adjustment
  • tends to increase the number of angles effectively addressed

Democratic Supervision of the Bureaucracy

p.68 -- Elected functionaries spend great effort to learn what the bureaucratic agencies are doing, and trying to induce the agencies to behave as they desire.

  • but elected officials only have time to scrutinize a small segment of the bureaucracy
  • temptation to wait for evidence to surface before seeking a target (fire-alarm method)
  • - partisan politics can help this process by having more than one group willing to address an issue
  • especially if it will embarrass the competition
  • easier to focus on making new laws than monitoring old ones

Democratic versus Intelligent

  • bureaucracy spends an inordinate amount of time protecting itself from charges brought by special interests
  • bureaucrats tend to pay far more attention to constraints than to goals
  • easier to escape punishment for missed goals than broken constraints


a necessary evil

p.72 -- It allows complex governments to function but sets sharp limits on the degree of intelligence and public responsiveness that ordinarily can be expected.

Chapter 7: Interest Groups in Policy Making

p.73 -- When survey researchers ask people what they consider the main deficiency in American government, nearly half say that organized interests and lobbies obstruct democracy by exerting too much influence; more than 80 percent agree that "special interests get more from government than people do."

Who Are They?

  • group does not adequately describe the number of organizations seeking to influence policy
  • a wealthy or famous person can constitute their own interest group
  • government officials can serve as interest groups

p.75 -- Very loosely, then, interest group activities are interactions through which individuals and private groups not holding government authority seek to influence policy, together with those policy-influencing interactions of government officials that go well beyond the direct use of their authority.

Indispensability of Interest Group Activity

exercise in liberty

Clarifying and Articulating What Citizens Want

Forming a Feasible Agenda

p.76 -- The number of alternative policies that a government might pursue on any issue is at least as large as the number of citizens, each of whom might have his or her own idea of a good policy.

  • overcomes overwhelming plurality
  • interest groups may not be primarily policy making bodies (e.g., professional organizations)
  • may promote a passive, let the group take care of it, mentality in members

Monitoring Governance

Interactive Problem Solving

Coalition Building -- must be a coalition capable of acting on the policy

Source of Interest-Group Influence

Within government, power brokering, bargaining with one's own in-house resources and authority
How do NGO's achieve influence?

Delivering the Vote

  • sponsoring candidates
  • getting voters to turn out

Campaign Funding

  • PACs only tend to attract like minded elected officials
  • most effective on low visibility or specialized issues
  • speaking fees / honoraria


p.82 -- By clarifying and articulating what people want, monitoring government's performance, and otherwise joining in the policy-making process, do interest groups somehow win an influential role for themselves.

  • lobbying
  • requires a diversity of viewpoints to be effective at making good policy

Three types of persuasion

  • contacting government officials directly
  • testifying at hearings
  • presenting research results or technical information

Interest-Group Leaders as an Elite

Troublesome Aspects of Interest Groups

p.84 -- Because organized groups serve such indispensable political functions, contributing both to the intelligence of the policy-making process and to the diversity of viewpoints brought to bear in representative democratic systems, government functionaries grant participation in policy making to those perceived as spokespersons for social concerns entitled to consideration.

  • requires having an organization
  • but the organization need not really represent what it claims to

Political Inequality

  • no interest group equally represents all citizens
  • interest group tools - votes, analytical skills, money, organization, readiness - mostly distributed unequally
  • if all interest groups have equal influence, that is still unequal since that would mean Ross Perot would have the same influence as the entire membership of the AFL-CIO.
  • business groups tend to have the advantage
  • thoughtful dissidents may be ignored at a great cost to intelligent policy making

Subordination of Common to Segmental Interests

  • neglect common good for segmental concerns
  • viewpoints shared by all probably do not exist - but if one interest gains supremacy, their will is imposed at the cost of the common good
  • interest group politics emphasizes difference rather than commonality

Too Many Veto Points

  • narrow interests can prevent the implementation of an effective compromise
  • a minority of members can paralyze a policy
  • to stop a policy requires focusing on only one link
  • to promote a policy requires focusing on all the links
  • vetoes at various levels to keep government in check and preserve liberty, but at the cost of action

p.88 -- If vetoes can stop policy initiatives at many points, groups of citizens can control their government only when they want it to desist. Not even a large majority may be able to systematically and routinely control it when they want it to act.

Chapter 8: The Position of Business in Policy Making

The most important extra-governmental obstruction to democratic, intelligent steering of society is the business sector's influence over public policy.

A Privileged Position for Business?

Business as a rival system to public policy making

p.91 -- business would play a unique and powerful role in the overall scope of public policy making even if corporate executives never exercised any influence over elections, political activities, or governmental actions.
but they do exercise influence

The logic

  • business managers perform economic function essential to all of us
  • if economic functions falter then suffering ensues
  • economic problems are blamed on poor governance, putting pressure on politicians to favor business
  • rules of market sharply delimit government control of business

p.93 -- Government officials must find out what business needs even if corporate executives do not take the trouble to speak for these requirements; must give managers enough of what they need to motivate production, jobs, growth.
businesses therefore may get precedence over citizens.

The Range and Kinds of Control

  • business leaders will always ask for more than they can get
  • business leaders can threaten to take business elsewhere, layoff worker, close the facility, etc.

two types of benefit

  • regulation favorable to business
  • arrangements allowing business involvement in policy making

p.95 -- Businesspeople usually exercise control without great expenditure of attention of deliberation. They simply operate under circumstances in which both they and government officials know that continued performance depends on business indulgences, benefits, privileges, and incentives.

Are Business Privileges Unique?

  • no other group really gets similar consideration
  • not even unions

Additional Forms of Business Influence

p.96 -- Businesspeople bring electoral controls into line by entering into interest-group, party, and other electoral activities and achieving disproportionate influence.

  • do not enter on a parity
  • other parties only have electoral controls at their disposal
  • businesses can use it as a supplement

Persuasion of Citizens
there is a tendency to perceive private enterprise and democracy as inseparable

p.98 -- few are able to consider the possibility that business demands obstruct citizens' demands and that some aspects of the present business system may be an undemocratic element fitting oddly into a society aspiring to be more democratic.
important issues are removed from the policy debate

Advantages in Electoral Politics

  • funding
  • available organizations
  • access


there is conflict within the business sector, which helps to keep it in check

p.102 -- The political strength of business appears to grow when there is widespread concern about the strength of the economy and to decline when faith in the economy returns.

Fears of regulations

  • politicians fear it may be detrimental to the economy
  • citizens feel that they may suffer
  • businesses try to promote this fear of business failure

p.103 -- It is impossible to determine just how government might behave toward business in the absence of political activity by business, because a high level of such activity has for so long been a routine feature of political life.
[hasn't it always been a feature of political life???]

Chapter 9: Political Inequality

Democracy and Inequality

political inequality does not deprive citizens of control -- just some citizens exercise more control than others

p.104 -- The norm of political equality harks back to the axiom that democracy requires not simply responsiveness to citizens, but an equal distribution among them of capacities for exerting influence.

  • if not equality then what justifiable distribution
  • impossible to justify systematic deviations from equality
  • egalitarians cannot agree on the meaning of political equality

Patterns of Unequal Participation

  • many people do not vote
  • either too difficult to register or lack of motivation
  • levels of information gathering on issues

Causes of Inequality

  • people differ in their ability to process and use information
  • more educated participate more in political process

some people become socialized to participate in the political process

p.109 -- People participate if taught to believe it matters, if helped to acquire verbal and other skills of citizenship, if indoctrinated with aspirations and expectations that stimulate rather than paralyze, and if taught to see themselves as members of the political community. Citizens not socialized in these ways are not likely to vote or otherwise participate in politics.
socialization may go against participation - submissive consumer

Organization, Funding, and Access

alone a single citizen can do almost nothing - people must join together

Wealth, Favors, and Deference

p.111 -- donations are a normal part of the process by which busy officials set priorities for their time, and most citizens are excluded from the bidding due to lack of capital.
in industrial society wealthy elite are businessmen, not landowners

Inequality and Intelligent Policy Making

  • importance is a relative term and heavily influenced by inequality
  • importance is determined by awareness and motivation of those setting the agenda
  • business interests resist resolving economic inequality

Chapter 10: Impaired Inquiry

p.114 -- Because democratic political interaction is the primary basis for wise policy making, the quality of people's thinking can have a huge influence on whether their interactions result in sensible and fair policy agreements. Extended inquiry into the thinking abilities and inquiry skills of both ordinary citizens and political elites therefore may be among the most consequential investigations students of public policy can make in trying to understand what goes right and wrong in the effort to shape policy.

  • biological limitations to thinking about complexity
  • easier to make emotive inferences than logical ones
  • vulnerable to simplistic thinking and symbolic manipulation

Schooling and Other Sources of Impairment

  • education as an instrument to control the masses
  • structured to induce habits of compliance
  • employers seek docile workers


  • archetypal authority figure
  • often restrict child for their own convenience

Peer Groups and Media
peer group - unthinking conformity

p.117 -- No peer group encourages intense probing and disagreement regarding its own norms, not even university professors.
media offers the conventional in place of objectivity

Unilateral Communications from Elite to Mass

  • exacerbated by electronic media
  • free speech not equal to free competition of ideas

Results of Impairment

p.120 -- Some ideas thereby come close to silencing others, excluding them from discussion as irrelevant, inappropriate, or even unthinkable. This may not be a problem in traditional cultures; in technological societies, however, excessive conformity fundamentally undermines social problem solving.

Impairment and Elite Advantage

easier for elite to preserve advantages

Suspiciously High Levels of Agreement

  • that no citizenry in any democracy has voted to dismantle the structure of wealth and privilege is an extraordinary fact
  • people do not disagree on the big issues, only the little ones

Indoctrination, Obfuscation, Suppression

p.121 -- Who or what has taught hundreds of millions of people to refrain from challenging the fundamentals of existing political and economic processes?

p.122 -- That no democracy has put on its agenda a major frontal assault on wealth and its attendant privileges is a historical fact of pivotal importance.

  • the one's in favor are usually those who teach virtue to the less favored
  • maintain the status quo for their own welfare
  • disagreements between the elites are about secondary issues, not the primary issues that make them elite in the first place
  • people are kept from inquiring into the source of their disadvantage


  • masses partially indoctrinated to only ask for what politicians are willing to give them
  • solution may require fundamental changes to indoctrinating institutions

Chapter 11: Making the Most of Analysis

p.126 -- Unfortunately for deliberate efforts to accelerate political progress, it is far from obvious how to get more people to have better ideas.
a strengthened competition of ideas is a core element in improving the capacity for democratic decision making

three changes for professional analysts

  • better adapted to partisan nature of politics
  • acknowledgment of conflict, uncertainty and resource scarcity
  • alleviation of professional impairments

Adapting Analysis to Politics

  • uncertainty and disagreement are unavoidable in political life
  • but policy analysis not specifically adapted to being useful in such a setting
  • tend to assume uncertainty and conflict can be circumvented by information and logic

p.127 -- analysis should aim to improve the quality of political interaction, not try to substitute for it

Partisan Analysis
it should be acknowledged that analysis is partisan

Analysis for Conflict Resolution

three methods for conflict resolution

  • nonrational / irrational persuasion - propaganda, advertising, emotive appeals
  • logrolling, vetoes, bribery, interpersonal means not based on selling merits
  • informed and reasoned persuasion

analysis should focus on reasoned reduction of conflict - elucidating the sticking points

  • use of analysis does not require conclusiveness, only plausibility
  • makes task more manageable
  • focus resources on proposals rather than the entire issue
  • concentrate on proposals that stand a chance of winning
  • focus on proposals that need additional information to succeed

Thoughtful Partisanship

  • analysis should be adapted to its audience
  • aimed to helped partisans interact

p.130 -- As obvious as its seems, in fact policy professionals virtually never discuss the thorny issue of how to figure out what their actual or hypothetical clients actually need.

Intelligent Trial and Error

  • how to make inevitable errors less damaging
  • how to learn from them more rapidly
  • Heading Off Unbearable Errors
  • Flexibility
  • Speeding Up Learning

Reducing Professional Impairment

  • learn to practice critical thinking and skepticism
  • learn to make good arguments and provide good evidence
  • be open to challenge


  • obstructive jargon
  • weak research designs
  • excessive quantification
  • faddishness
  • better peer review

p.135 -- Professional policy analysts tend to end up supporting the existing order and its prevailing distribution of privileges and deprivations. Policy professionals like all social, physical, and biological scientists, become dependent on elite grants, take employment with elites, seek acceptance by elites, identify with elites.

  • lack of challenge to the foundations
  • tendency to place burden of proof on dissenters

Chapter 12: More Democracy


  • actual or potential participants do not bring requisite skills and motivation
  • human cognitive limits
  • factual uncertainty
  • disagreement / partisanship

Potentially Remediable Deficiencies

most policy process problems appear fixable

p141 -- It is pretty clear that contemporary democracies are actually only feeble imitations of the aspirations embodied in the word democracy.
policy making is political

p.141 -- Hence what counts most is whether social processes and power relations are set up to promote intelligent inquiry, debate, and mutual adjustment among those with stakes and insights concerning the broad spectrum of social problems and possibilities.

p. 142 -- If the political universe is not set up to evoke, receive, negotiate, and act sensibly and fairly on complaints and policy proposals, then potentially good ideas will never have much of a chance to be developed, debated, and acted upon.

Three primary obstructions

  • the privileged position of business
  • inequality
  • impaired thought


  • remove tax breaks for legal expenses of contesting policies
  • shared authority in the work place

Reducing Inequality

  • campaign finance reform
  • suffrage
  • enforcement of existing laws
  • parliamentary system

Reducing Impairment

  • competition of ideas
  • reduction of right of money as free speech



Copyright 2000 -- Peter L. Kantor []