Researcher and Writer in Washington, DC

First We Kill All the Policy Wonks

Edward C. Banfield

The blog of the American Enterprise Institute carries my impishly titled, “First We Kill All the Policy Wonks” (January 21, 2011).

The piece is a response to a smart post by Mike Konczal, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute.

Its subject?  Edward C. Banfield’s essay, Policy Science As Metaphysical Madness (1977).

Obviously, I do not think wonks are bad; and I certainly do not want to see them killed.  (I’m one of them!)

I do, however, believe a gulf remains between policy analysis and politics, and that practitioners of the former spend too little time studying the latter.

Lawrence M. Mead of New York University has suggested a method to unite policy analysis and political analysis.  (See “Policy Studies and Political Science,” Policy Studies Review, vol. 5, no. 2 (Nov. 1985), and “Welfare Reform and the Platonic Master Science: An Interview with Lawrence Mead,” Public Administration Review, November/December 2006).  It is an approach that I used in my Failing Grades: The Federal Politics of Education Standards (Lynne Rienner Publishers, 2005), but otherwise has not much caught on with academics.

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