Are Policy Analysts Nothing More Than Problem Solvers?

According to Banfield—no.  As was noted on the American Enterprise Institute Blog this past year,

Banfield turned upside down the commonplace notion that wonks were politically neutral problem-solvers.  Rather, he wrote, wonks tend to contribute problems not solutions to the political process.  From their perches in academia and the upper echelons of government, social scientists and policy analysts identify “problems” in need of government  attention.

Banfield’s work anticipates Deborah Stone’s in its identification of problems as being socially constructed, and the post-iron-triangle view of the policymaking process.

You may read more of the AEI post here, and see Banfield’s 1977 essay “Policy Science as Metaphysical Madness” for Banfield’s take on the role of wonks and policy analysis.  Full citation: Edward C. Banfield, “Policy Science as Metaphysical Madness,” in Robert C. Goldwin, ed., Statesmanship and Bureaucracy (Washington: American Enterprise Institute, 1977), pp. 1-35.

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