Normative Theory and Policy Evaluation

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Normative Theory and Policy Evaluation

By | May 2005
Page 1 of 4
Public Administration & Management:
An Interactive Journal
6, 3, 2001, pp. 87-90
Normative Theory and Policy
Evaluation
Stuart Nagel
MKM-PSO-DSI Center and University of Illinois
I. PROFESSIONAL ETHICS
An interesting question concerns the ethical obligations of people who do policy analysis research. Such research often involves ethical dilemmas that relate to:
1. Whether one's purposes should include prescription or evaluation, as well as prediction or explanation.
2. Whether or not to work to maximize the interests of a political party, special interest group, or only general societal interests.
3. Focusing on intended consequences versus all consequences. 4. Efficiency versus equity as policy goals.
5. Evaluation along versus evaluation plus diverse replication as an obligation.
6. Cost-incurring versus cost-saving in research.
7. Whether or not to share one's raw data.
8. Research validity versus questionable findings that are not sufficiently questioned.
9. Whether or not to put people at risk in policy evaluation. Openness may be the key factor underlying the resolution of ethical dilemmas in policy evaluation. The situation is like the blue sky laws that regulate the securities markets. A stockbroker can legitimately sell the blue sky so long as he informs potential customers and others what they are Normative Theory

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getting. Likewise, policy evaluators may be complying with basic ethical obligations when they make clear exactly what they are doing on matters such as in the above nine dilemmas.
Perhaps, however, to resolve these ethical dilemmas, more
affirmative critique may be needed than just openness in reporting one's research. In the analogy to the blue sky laws, one might argue that a stockbroker should have an ethical obligation not to sell worthless stock, rather than merely an obligation to report that she or he is selling stock in a corporation whose liabilities exceed its assets and which has been taking a loss in recent...