Muddling Through

Topics: Policy analysis, Policy, Public policy Pages: 22 (7792 words) Published: August 7, 2012
The Science of "Muddling Through" Charles E. Lindblom Public Administration Review, Vol. 19, No. 2. (Spring, 1959), pp. 79-88. Stable URL: Public Administration Review is currently published by American Society for Public Administration.

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The Science of "Muddling Through"

Associate Professor of Economics Yale University
Short courses, books, and articles exhort administrators to make decisions more methodically, but there has been little analysis of the decision-making process now used by public administrators. The usual process is investigated here-and generally defended against proposals for more "scientific" methods. Decisions of individual administrators, of course, must be integrated with decisions of others to form the mosaic of public policy. This integration of individual decisions has become the major concern of organization theory, and the way individuals make decisions necessarily affects the way those decisions are best meshed with others'. In addition, decision-making method relates to allocation of decision-making responsibility-who should make what decision. More "scientific" decision-making also is discussed in this issue: "Tools for Decision-Making in Resources Planning."


an administrator is given responsibility for formulating policy with respect to inflation. He might start by trying to list all related values in order of importance, e.g., full employment, reasonable business profit, protection of small savings, prevention of a stock market crash. Then all possible policy outcomes could be rated as more or less efficient in attaining a maximum of these values. This would of course require a prodigious inquiry into values held by members of society and an equally prodigious set of calculations on how much of each value is equal to how much of each other value. He could then proceed to outline all possible policy alternatives. In a third step, he would undertake systematic comparison of his multitude of alternatives to determine which attains the greatest amount of values. I n comparing policies, he would take advantage of any theory available that generalized about classes of policies. I n considering inflation, for example, he would compare all policies in the light of the theory of prices. Since no alternatives are beyond his investigation, he would consider strict central control and the abolition of all prices and markets on the one hand and elimination of all public controls with reliance completely on the free market on the other, both in the light of whatever theoretical generalizations he could find on such hypothetical...
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