Old and New: Rational Government

Editor’s Note: The Radin study, “Science and Policy Analysis in the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs” is available here.

From: Administration & Society | Editorial

First Published January 11, 2018

In this issue’s lead article, Beryl Radin examines the use of cost–benefit analysis in the U.S. Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA). She focuses on how other political actors respond to OIRA’s analyses and actions. Attention to policy analysis first appeared among A&S research articles in Volume 6, in Duncan MacRae, Jr.’s “Policy Analysis as an Applied Social Science Discipline.” In his essay, MacRae made the case for policy analysis as a hybrid discipline connecting science and policymaking. He offered a careful, thorough case for the idea even as he raised concerns in his conclusion that such an applied discipline might impinge on the “freedom, detachment, and generality” of universities, as well as giving policy analysts a considerable measure of political “advantage” over ordinary citizens (MacRae, 1975, p. 386). It seems impossible to deny that MacRae’s idea came to fruition, and that it has posed the very problems he contemplated. That might help explain Radin’s findings that scientists in regulatory agencies have accused OIRA of imposing its own judgment about the nature and validity of scientific evidence supporting a regulatory action. Radin concludes, in essence, that trying to stand astride different value systems—science and politics, for example—in the effort to make government decisions more rational does not make decision making any less political, or less conflictual.

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