G. Tracy Mehan III, whose reviews simultaneously annoy and enthrall me because they are so much better than mine, is back with another review written for The Environmental Forum: 'Analysis and Public Policy: Successes, Failures and Directions for Reform'.
In his email to me he described this book as a 'centrist, realist assessment.'
Here are the first few paragraphs.
Reading author Stuart Shapiro’s Analysis and Public Policy: Successes, Failures and Directions for Reform, this reviewer is reminded of Voltaire’s old quip that “the Holy Roman Empire was neither Holy, nor Roman, nor an Empire.” Is comprehensive-rational analysis in public policy, the subject of Shapiro’s book and a totem of government agencies, neither comprehensive, rational, nor analytical, much less effective, given the pressures of political, bureaucratic, or economic interests and various popular enthusiasms that ebb and ow with the latest tweets? All these vectors converge on the pur- portedly disinterested deliberations of regulatory o ces. Is objective analysis therein simply a white whale for policy wonks?
EPA’s newly promulgated risk management plan rule on hazardous substances, one with a questionable cost- benefit ratio, was catalyzed by an explosion of a fertilizer plant in Texas in 2013. This led to an executive order and now the regulation. The explosion was subsequently found to be the result of arson, not mismanagement. Was analysis trumped by politics?
"But politics is not going away,” Shapiro reminds us, and probably should not recede, given the unpleas- ant alternative of unelected technocratic elites riding roughshod over the populace. Analysis and Public Policy provides an exhaustive overview of comprehensive-rational analysis, its history, theory, and extensive academic literature, along with the results of 50 interviews with involved govern- ment offcials. It covers four kinds of analysis: cost-benefit analysis; risk assessment; environmental impact assessments; and other forms of more focused impact assessments in the reg- ulatory context such as those for small- businesses. It offers an unblinking view of these modes, with something to o end everyone — businesspeople, environmentalists, good-government types, and taxpayers. Rationality is a two-edge sword that can serve up answers and outcomes unsought and unwelcome by constituencies inside and outside of government.
Keep reading - lots more to come!
Another very timely item from Mr. Mehan. I think I will have to establish a separate posting category for him.
"Avoid any specific discussion of public policy at public meetings." - Quintus Tullius Cicero