Controlling Public Expenditure: The Theory of Expenditure Limitation

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "Controlling Public Expenditure: The Theory of Expenditure Limitation." OECD Journal on Budgeting. Vol. 2, No. 4, 2003.  
“What don’t I mean by expenditure limitation? This paper is not about why governments should choose to limit spending. If governments wish to increase spending, that is obviously their prerogative. Moreover, they are, on the evidence, very good at… More

Is Culture the Culprit?

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "Is Culture the Culprit?" Public Interest, Fall 1993.
Theory is golden. In its normative mode, it connects us to what we ought to do; in its empirical expression, it connects what we have done to the actual consequences for ourselves and for others. The Dream and the Nightmare: The Sixties” Legacy to the… More

Robert Bork and the Crime of Inequality

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "Robert Bork and the Crime of Inequality" Public Interest, Winter 1990.
Whereas other failed nominations to the Supreme Court have sunk from public view, the debate over Judge Robert Bork gains in intensity as if the state of the nation, and not merely the fate of an individual jurist, is at issue. Far from settling the matter,… More

How to Fix the Deficit – Really

– Wildavsky, Aaron and Joseph White. "How to Fix the Deficit - Really." Public Interest, Winter 1989.
American politics in the 1980s has been dominated by Ronald Reagan and federal budget deficits. Reagan is gone now, but the deficit remains. The new President and old Congress have many objectives and concerns, articulated in the electoral campaign; yet the… More

Where Bias and Influence Meet

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "Where Bias and Influence Meet" Public Interest, Spring 1988
Of the three great questions about the influence of the major media upon political opinion—Is there a systematic media bias? If so, in what direction does it flow? Is public opinion strongly influenced by the media?–the last is arguably the most… More

The Media’s ‘American Egalitarians’

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "The Media's 'American Egalitarians'" Public Interest, Summer 1987.
You are listening to Public Radio or viewing network television news or reading a major newspaper or news magazine. You are certain they are biased, i.e., slanted, systematically favoring one view over another. Yet media people deny that they favor one… More

Choosing Preferences by Constructing Institutions: A Cultural Theory of Preference Formation.

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "Choosing Preferences by Constructing Institutions: A Cultural Theory of Preference Formation." American Political Science Review, Vol 81, No. 1, pp. 3-22.
“Preferences come from the most ubiquitous human activity: living with other people. Support for and opposition to different ways of life, the shared values legitimating social relations (here called cultures) are the generators of diverse preferences.… More

The ‘Reverse Sequence’ in Civil Liberties

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "The 'Reverse Sequence' in Civil Liberties" Public Interest, Winter 1985.
A number of years I belonged to the American Civil Liberties Union. To me this membership was part of a commitment to perfecting American democracy. I became a political scientist for the same reason. The two commitments, American patriotism and democratic… More

The Once and Future School of Public Policy

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "The Once and Future School of Public Policy," The Public Interest. Spring 1985.
“I have two partially complementary and partially opposed views. One is that schools of public policy as they now exist will continue much as they are. The other is that social developments, particularly the growing polarization of elites, will… More

The Three Cultures: Explaining Anomalies in the American Welfare State

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "The Three Cultures: Explaining Anomalies in the American Welfare State." Public Interest, Fall 1982.
In the late 1940’s, at Brooklyn College, I became aware of a political anomaly: Some of my fellow student activists were neither capitalists nor socialists nor reformists.  Certainly they were on the left (involved with civil rights, folk music, plain… More

The Three-party System — 1980 and After

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "The Three-party System -- 1980 and After." Public Interest, Summer 1981.
The election of 1980 could be the beginning of a Republican renaissance, but it could just as well be the beginning of the end for the Republican Party. It could be the herald of limited government, but perhaps it is the siren song of big government,… More

Richer is Safer

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "Richer is Safer." Public Interest, Summer 1980.
The proverbial man from Mars, observing our safety efforts in the past decade, could not help but conclude that the youth of America were dropping like flies in the streets. Why else would the United States federal government be engaged in a desperate,… More

Oh, Bring Back My Party to Me!

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "Oh, Bring Back My Party to Me!" Public Interest, Fall 1979.
When Betty Furness said (after a White House meeting with consumer groups) that no one ever talked to Lyndon Johnson like that, was she suggesting that Jimmy Carter lacks a presidential personality or is it that his Democratic predecessors still had the… More

The Prophylactic Presidency

– Wildavsky, Aaron and Sanford Weiner. "The Prophylactic Presidency." Public Interest, Summer 1978
Most decisions are reactions to what has already happened. When evils are perceived, we attempt to mitigate them. Then our security depends on our capacity to cope with changing circumstances. Suppose, however, that collective confidence wanes, either because… More

The Past and Future Presidency

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "The Past and Future Presidency." Public Interest, Fall 1975
In the third volume of The American Commonwealth, Lord Bryce wrote, “Perhaps no form of Government needs great leaders so much as democracy.” Why, then, is it so difficult to find them? The faults of leadership are the everyday staple of conversation. All… More

The Annual Expenditure Increment, or how Congress can Regain Control of the Budget

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "The Annual Expenditure Increment, or how Congress can Regain Control of the Budget." Public Interest, Fall 1973.
Why does a President whose administration is responsible for a deficit of over $30 billion in the last fiscal year suddenly appear as a protector of the purse? Why do Congressmen who vote for their share of spending increases express unhappiness with the… More

Government and the People

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "Government and the People," Commentary Magazine, August 1973.
“We shall never learn what needs to be learned about the American political system until we understand not only what the system does to the people, but what the people do to the system. Political institutions are no different from other organizations:… More

Does Planning Work?

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "Does Planning Work?" Public Interest Summer 1971.
The individual versus the state; freedom versus dictatorship; private enterprise versus state control; price systems versus hierarchical command; rational economic choice versus irrational political interference. The debate over national economic planning in… More

The Politics of ABM

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "The Politics of ABM," Commentary Magazine, November 1969.
“Issues have lives of their own. Men cannot often choose the ground on which to fight major issues; they must take what the world offers up. There is always the danger, then, that the issue will control the men, rather than the men the issue. The recent… More

The Empty Head Blues — Black Rebellion and White Reaction?

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "The Empty Head Blues - Black Rebellion and White Reaction?" Public Interest, Spring 1968.  
Liberals have been moaning those empty-head blues. They feel bad. They know the sky is about to fall in. But they can’t think of anything to do. Having been too sanguine and too self-righteous about their part in the civil rights movement, they are too… More

PPBS: the Political Economy of Efficiency,

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "PBBS: The Political Economy of Efficiency," Public Interest, Summer 1967.
There was a day when the meaning of economic efficiency was reasonably dear. An objective met up with a technician. Efficiency consisted in meeting the objective at the lowest cost or in obtaining the maximum amount of the objective for a specified amount of… More

The Two Presidencies

– Wildavsky, Aaron. "The Two Presidencies," Trans-Action/Society, 4 (1966): 7-14.
“The United States has one president, but it has two presidencies; one presidency is for domestic affairs, and the other is concerned with defense and foreign policy. Since World War II, presidents have had greater success in controlling the… More