Article: Edward C. Banfield, Ends and Means In Planning

Edward C. Banfield’s “Ends and Means In Planning” was published in 1959.  A decade earlier, Banfield—then a graduate student—was much enamored of government planning.  His 1949 “Congress and the Budget: A Planner’s Criticism,” sharply criticized how Congress appropriated funds.  Banfield thought it was irrational and parochial, and he thought Congress should spend the nation’s wealth according to “a method of allocating funds among competing interests in a manner calculated to achieve the optimum result.”

In the intervening time, Banfield’s analysis of how government and politics work changed greatly.  In “Ends and Means In Planning,” Banfield lays out the stark difference between how planning ought to be conducted and how it actually occurs. “In general organizations engage in opportunistic decision-making rather than in planning…. Moreover, such plans as are made are not the outcome of a careful consideration of alternative courses of action and their probable consequences.”

This realistic perspective has at least one immense implications—that it is difficult to establish government organizations that will rationally administer the policies in the public interest.  (Thus the order of the words in the title of Banfield’s 1955 book, whence this article is derived—Politics, Planning, and the Public Interest.)  Why this is the case is set forth concisely in “Ends and Means In Planning.”

Full Cites:

(1) Edward C. Banfield, “Ends and Means In Planning,” the International Social Science Journal, vol. xi, no. 3, 1959, pp. 361-368.  Reprinted in Edward C. Banfield, Here the People Rule: Selected Essays (Washingto, DC: AEI, 1991 ).

(2) Edward C. Banfield, “Congress and the Budget: A Planner’s Criticism,” American Political Science Review, vol. 43, no. 6, Dec. 1949, pp. 1217-1228.