The Rational Model of Policy & Decision Making

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Selected Essays by Lefoko O. Molebatsi (2001) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Public Policy and Policy Analysis: The Rational Model Question: The rational model of public policy making, though heavily criticized, is the most widely used and or talked about model. Discuss why. By Lefoko O. Molebatsi (University of Botswana) Instructor: Prof G. S Maipose 2001


Selected Essays by Lefoko O. Molebatsi (2001) --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Introduction

According to Dunn (1994:330), rationality is a self conscious process of using explicit reasoned arguments to make and defend knowledge claims. The rational model of policy and decision making, although heavily criticized, is the most widely used and/or discussed model. The purpose of this short essay is to explore the reasons. It starts the discussion with the definition of the rational model, and then the rational comprehensive theory, and thereafter the concept of bounded rationality. Just before the conclusion, the paper discusses some criticisms of the rational model.

Definition Of The Rational Model

According to Owen E. Hughes, the rational model was well defined by Lindblom (1968, p.12) as: 1. faced with a given problem 2. a rational man first clarifies his goals, values or objectives and then ranks or otherwise organizes them in his mind; 3. he then lists all important possible ways of policies for-achieving his goals 4. and investigates all the important consequences that would follow from each of the alternative policies; 5. at which point he is in a position to compare consequences of each policy with goals 6. and so choose a policy with consequences most closely matching his goals1.

This is distinctly what policy models endeavor to do. As is well known following the work of Simon (1957), a completely rational decision...
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