Policy Science as Metaphysical Madness

In Robert C. Goldwin, ed., Statesmanship and Bureaucracy (Washington: American Enterprise Institute, 1977), pp. 1-35. Reprinted in Edward C. Banfield, Here the People Rule: Selected Essays (Washington, DC: AEI, 1991).


In the past dozen years or so, policy-oriented social science research and analysis has become a growth industry in the United States. This has occurred in response to demand created by the spate of social welfare programs initiated by the Great Society and, for the most part, continued and expanded by the later administrations. Whereas in 1965 federal agencies spent about $235 million on applied social science research, in 1975 they spent almost $1 billion. Of the approximately $7.4 billion spent in these eleven years about two-thirds was under contract.1 This brought into being several large independent research bodies, some quasi-public and others private, and it greatly increased the amount of university-based policy-oriented social research and the supply of social scientists. According to the 1970 census, the number of social scientists increased by 163 percent in the 1960s, an increase larger than that of any other major occupational group nearly three times that of professional and technical workers as a whole.

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