Don't Toss Coins in Garbage Cans: A Prologue to Policy Design

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103 Citations (Scopus)


Threats to effective policy-making arising from ubiquitous circumstances of complexity and uncertainty are often taken as reasons to eschew both the attacking of social problems through public policy and cogitation, such as policy analysis, in the policy process. It is suggested here that, as complexity and uncertainty increase, more cogitation is required, not less; but it is crucial that cogitation be of the appropriate sort. Greater use should be made of policy design, as opposed to methods emphasising selection among prespecified alternatives. The required design task varies with the level of difficulty-defined by complexity, uncertainty, and lack of feedback-in any case at hand. A taxonomy of levels of difficulty is developed, together with a preliminary outline of the design task required at each level.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)345-367
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Public Policy
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 1983
Externally publishedYes


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