Home > Uncategorized > What works? Policy design without theory is useless

What works? Policy design without theory is useless

from Maria Alejandra Madi

Against a rationalist top down approach to policy making, the evidence-informed policy and practice has rapidly evolved in the last two decades.

In this line of research, a new book What Works Now? Evidence-informed Policy and Practice has been edited by Annette Boaz, Huw Davies, Alec Fraser and Sandra Nutley.  It offers not only a synthesis of the role of evidence in policy making but also an analysis of its use in recent economic models and practices in the UK, Australia, New Zealand, Scandinavia, Canada and the United States. In addition to the diversity of policy and practice settings where evidence is sought and gets applied, the book considers policy examples related to healthcare, social care, criminal justice, education, environment and international development.. At the core of the argument regarding the actual relevance of ‘know-about’, ‘know-what works’, ‘know-how’, ‘know-who’ and ‘know-why’ is the belief that evidence matters.

Considering this policy scenario, the relevant question at stake is  what are the implications of the new policy design practices that mainly rely on the belief that evidence matters?  read more . . .

  1. Frank Salter
    September 23, 2019 at 4:24 pm

    I don’t know if “a perverted view of methodology” is the appropriate description. It is more a lack of understanding of scientific methodology. If hypotheses which failed to concur with the empirical evidence were rejected for ever, then as shown by the quantity calculus there is NOT ONE conventional quantitative hypothesis which is possible to have theoretically validity. This would make it very easy to consider what remains.

  2. John deChadenedes
    September 23, 2019 at 4:40 pm

    Obviously, the idea that evidence doesn’t matter is absurd, ridiculous, nearly insane. If you have studied formal logic you know that if even one assumption is false, it is possible to prove anything at all. The climate demonstrations on Friday showed that hundreds of millions of people are now questioning the idea that the so-called externalities of the global finance capitalist system should be paid for by the poor and the vulnerable. The assumption that this is OK, one of the foundations of mainstream economics, is obviously false. If you instead assume the every enterprise should fully internalize all its costs of production and distribution…well, think about it. Clearly this would be a different world!

  3. Helen Sakho
    September 24, 2019 at 12:16 am

    Decades of negative externalities, all against the poor and the vulnerable should have by now made a difference to mainstream economics. But it has not! Global finance was always the winner and it is now controlled by fewer and fewer players.

    • Maria Alejandra Madi
      September 24, 2019 at 10:29 am

      dear Helen,

      Thanks for your comment. Indeed, your example is outstanding.


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