Producers of policy arguments

The policy analyst is a producer of policy arguments, more similar to a lawyer – a specialist in legal arguments – than to an engineer or scientist. His basic skills are not algorithmical but argumentative: the ability to probe assumptions critically, to produce and evaluate evidence, to keep many threads in hand, to draw for an argument from many disparate sources, to communicate effectively. He recognizes that to say anything of importance in public policy requires value judgments, which must be explained and justified, and is willing to apply his skills to any topic relevant to public discussion.

The image of the analyst as problem solver is misleading because the conclusions of policy analysis seldom can be rigorously proved. Demonstrative proof that a particular alternative ought to be chosen in a particular situation is possible only if the context of the policy problem is artificially restricted. One must assume that there is no disagreement about the appropriate formulation of the problem, no conflict of values and interests, and that the solution is, somehow, self-executing. Also, the analyst should have all the relevant information, including full knowledge of present and future preferences and all consequences of all possible alternatives.

Majone, G. (1989). “Analysis as Argument”, p. 21-22 in Majone. Evidence, Argument, and Persuasion in the Policy Process. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Through the reading week

Between today and tomorrow, I need to read a book and seven articles on ethnography and prepare a presentation on the topic, finish processing and uploading the photos from this year’s Clarkson Laureate awards ceremony, and produce an updated draft of the fossil fuel divestment lecture for U of T.

Bonus points if I make progress on regaining control of my email, which is in a disastrous state of neglect.