Table of Contents 

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Alfred de Grazia:



DEMOCRACY, according to the theory just stated, is a social condition in which contrasting values are maintained in an equilibrium. It is an eclectic whole that does not take a definite position on any group of issues, although the component strains of democracy may take such a position. It is a condition, but not a position. This theory puts one in an awkward predicament when he is asked "What is the program of democracy?" The eclectic democrat must reply that there is no program of democracy. To advocate a conservative program would eliminate, for example, the influence of democrats like the relativist jurist, Oliver Wendell Holmes, who wanted to let people go to the devil in their own way. To advocate an elitist program would do an injustice to someone like Dr. George Gallup who would prefer to have his polls of what people want used as guides to what government ought to do. And so on.

Therefore, democratic society has no end save that of being an eternal equilibrium under which all four strains of democracy may continue to exist and to prosper. There is no single view on any issue that so well suits democracy that every democrat must in principle agree with it. (This statement is one of fact, not of ethics. Indeed this very statement itself must be bitterly opposed as a moral principle by strong groups in the community, if the democratic condition is to survive. For this statement must be distinguished from the moral belief of the relativist democrats, who would desire a society in which everyone believes that it takes all sorts of people to make a democracy. If everyone believed this or too many people believed this, the sense of community, the beliefs that men need to carry on a vigorous life, would wither away. If this scientific fact becomes the moral belief of the community as a whole, it will destroy the basis for the democratic operation of the community. Again we must warn ourselves not to look for our values in scientific theory.)

If democracy is a social condition, how can it act? Democracy does not act. The government acts. Public officials act to carry out policies that are agreed upon, for various reasons, by a good part of those who hold to any one or a mixture of the democratic strains we have described. In this case, a variety of motives is being satisfied. The government acts also to carry out functions that one of the general democratic strains, through its sponsors, has succeeded in foisting upon the community as a whole. In this second case, there is only temporary ascendancy. These two kinds of matters form the settled objectives of the government. In addition a continuing dispute over the execution of policy occurs in the political arena. Thus, legislation to control floods in the Missouri Valley may be passed for a variety of motives and, later on, questions may arise about the efficiency of the authorized public officials in controlling floods.

All the disputed problems of democracy do not have to be solved before the government can act. Moreover the government can act in many ways without proving any component strain of democracy right or wrong. The government can carry the mails, wage a war, build dams, provide pensions, and perform a hundred other functions, choosing any one of many methods, without taking a philosophical stand on the egalitarian, elitist, conservative, or relativist position. We must be clear, however, on the point that the government is not carrying out the policies of democracy as an eclectic whole.

Since this book, with its eclectic theory of democracy, is not intended to provide practical advice to people of any special viewpoint to the exclusion of others, we cannot favor our elitist friends, nor our egalitarian friends, nor the others, with special formulae. They will have to work out their own methods of political action. We do, however, propose to help them all together during the balance of this book, by showing them how to think and speak clearly about liberty, rights, and public policies. Then they can examine their own personal condition and human conditions generally with respect to the character of their liberties and can recognize and evaluate the effects of political policies.

Therefore, this chapter seeks to give the practical philosopher an understanding of the nature of individual liberty and rights and of rational public policy. The climax of the political struggle occurs here. All that one knows about political science in general, and all that one thinks the government ought to be, come together in the controversies over freedom and controls, and over the problem of making politics a rational form of human behavior.

In achieving this general objective, we will, in this chapter, undertake the following specific tasks. In the first section, we will define and describe individual liberty and rights. We will show how liberties often are changed and restrained. We will discuss collective or public policy, showing how political policies develop and relate to individual liberties, and also how the process of restraint works in and out of the process of achieving individual liberties and public policies.

Then we will analyze policy, asking: What is a "rational" policy? What private and public groups make policy? How can one determine the goals of public policy? What parts of the governmental apparatus specialize in policy making? And finally, we ask: How can the rational planning of public policy be increased?



A person's right is his ability to pursue a course of behavior under the protection of the law. The law is often based on community customs. It is formally defined by legislatures, courts, and other official bodies. It is enforced by courts, executive officials, and administrative officers. Therefore the protection afforded by law to a right may spring from activities of the courts or the officials of the government. Different times and places may display different institutions that assist one's rights.


The customs of a community may provide a liberty that is otherwise unrecognized. For example, men wanted for political crimes have often found refuge among the common people. The practice has been encountered so frequently in historical annals to warrant its mention as a guarantor of liberty alongside the courts and legislatures. Tocqueville wrote of early nineteenth-century Europe that neither monarchy nor the majority of people ruled absolutely. The executive and the community each protected certain liberties from abuse by the other.

In any constitutional state in Europe, every sort of religious and political theory may be freely preached and disseminated; for there is no country in Europe so subdued by any single authority as not to protect the man who raises his voice in the cause of truth from the consequences of his hardihood. If he is unfortunate enough to live under an absolute government, the people are often on his side; if he inhabits a free country, he can, if necessary, find a shelter behind the throne. [1]

This opposition of political forces, we believe, is an important protection of liberty, despite the absence of official organs of government obligated to protect it. Still, it is best not to call an activity protected by the force of community sentiment a right, but to preserve the use of the word right only for the actual ability of a person to pursue a course of behavior under the protection of law, that is, under the protection of ethical directives enforced by public officers.


We know already that courts work continuously to protect the rights of individuals. We need say little more about how the courts perform this task. The subject of civil and political rights is often taught in America by means of the decisions of the Supreme Court. These decisions, protecting individuals in their opinions on heated questions, or in their unpopular agitation, or in their free worship, grant rights on the basis of constitutional law, statutory law, and judge-made law.

An overwhelming number of the world's constitutions declare the existence of a variety of rights respecting conscience, equality, free religion, a free press, free labor unions, social security, education, property, and other matters. Many of the rights contained in the written constitutions, of course, have no reference to reality; the stipulated protection is simply not to be had by any means-popular, legislative, or judicial.

Whether rights exist can be known by examining the past behavior of the public, the executive and legislative officials, and the courts. It would be naive to take the few words of a constitutional phrase as more than a moral affirmation of unknown strength and meaning. One has to do legal and social research, for example, before he can predict that the banning of a street meeting will be prohibited by the Supreme Court as a violation of the first amendment to the Constitution. Also, the legal doctrine of the legal omnipotence of the British Parliament does not mean that the Parliament has the right to do anything, in our usage of the word "right." Parliament is bound to act in consideration of the threat of resistances from the public and the courts, and in accord with the ingrained habits and viewpoints of its elected members.


Disregarding the presence or absence of protection in law, we can also talk about the ability of people to do as they wish. This ability is defined as a liberty or freedom. Possessed of a liberty or freedom, a man will (1) visualize a desirable future situation (value) and resolve to achieve it (valuegoal); (2) take means to achieve it; and, (3) be as able as any man in similar circumstances to achieve it. These are the three essential elements of liberty (see Figure lla). A liberty that is protected by law is a right (see Figure llb); a liberty that is pursued in defiance of law is a wrong. Liberties that are in the process of being achieved for the first time by pioneering individuals usually hover in the shadows between a right and a wrong. If they are important in effect-like free speech is -their first appearance is likely to be associated with political turmoil and even revolution.


Since important liberties are contested violently as they are born, they are often transformed as quickly as possible into rights, so that they may be protected and nurtured. Constitutions that spring from revolutionary periods are careful to name as rights the various liberties for which the revolutions are fought. Several important objectives of the American Revolution, among them free speech, the right to petition, and the right to assemble in public meeting, were guaranteed afterwards in the constitutions of the states and the federal government. In France, political equality, so firmly denied under the ancien regime, was strongly emphasized in the Declaration of the Rights of Man. In the Soviet Constitution, economic security, one of the rights for which the Russian Revolution was fought, is declared a right of the masses.



As many liberties exist as there are human wishes that may successfully be fulfilled, whether the wish is to express emotions or to establish a town library. Liberties truly begin in the cradle and end with the grave. But, as endless as the process of liberty may be, the process of restraint is as long. Restraint is the canceling or training of liberties (see Figure 11c and lld). The canceling or training comes by way of the sanctions of the law and social intercourse, through frustration and through conscience. One may be restrained in his liberty by a deity, a leader, a partner, a brother or father, a teacher, a book, or an editorial. The law, too, systematically compels behavior and remains, therefore, a restraint upon liberty so long as there remains any consciousness among people that they are being restrained. When all feeling of restraint vanishes, there is no longer any point in calling attention to the restraint or to the law itself (in the doubtful event that such a law still exists). The new, unwitting behavior no longer presents a problem of significance to the study of liberty. The slave who does not know he is a slave is not concerned with liberty, although an outsider may, from a different point of view, demand a change in the condition of slaves.

Examining in this light the course of a man's existence, one can picture it as an endless series of liberties and restraints. In political terms, the "life" of a society is this endless series multiplied by all the members of the community.


Our distinction between individual liberty and policy will perhaps be clearer if we think of a policy as a collective liberty (see Figure 12a). Any group that has a goal and can succeed in various ways in achieving it has a collective liberty or a policy. When the government has such a policy, it may be called a public or a political policy, and, since the government has the authority to carry out its policies, it does so with the legal protections of a right (see Figure 12c). Of course, a policy, which provides a goal, a course of action, and an achievement for many people, is usually carried out by a few people. As we shall see shortly, the analysis of a policy is by no means as easy as the analysis of the liberty of a single person.



The crucial aspect of a liberty or policy is the process of actualizing the goal. It is easy to visualize future heavens, but the method for arriving there presents grave difficulties. Such a dream had better be called a utopia than a liberty or policy. So one should always pay the closest attention to the means. A policy of "peace and plenty" sounds well to the ears but is only the beginning of a most arduous road.

The advent of science on the historical scene has given men greater visions of practical methods for solving problems than they ever had before. A man who believes firmly in "science" usually believes strongly in the possibility of "progress."

Now every policy has a method. The method may be execrable. It may be hopeless. But it is present. When it fails, of course, the liberty or the policy is not actualized. In recent times, more than ever before, men have resorted to planning-the attempt to employ scientific method in the execution of policy (see Figures 12b and 12c).

Political policies may plan for varying periods-a month, five years, or indefinitely. They differ widely regarding the variety of activities they may affect and how much they affect them. Plans may have a limited effect or a total effect, in the latter case bringing about a so-called "planned society"socialist, fascist, communist, or something else yet to be invented. And plans vary greatly in the extent to which their creation reflects a maximum of rational and scientific method.


To summarize the foregoing remarks may be helpful, for their implications are important. Everyone has liberties and restraints. Every liberty involves a method, conscious or unconscious. Political policies are collective liberties. Most policies inflict restraints on some people. Only careful studies of past policies and projected policies will disclose who will probably be affected by the expected operations of the policy. Only factual studies of each policy in operation will reveal who is affected and how much he is affected. When the method of a policy is carried out with conscious attempts at a scientific method, that method may be called a plan.

It follows, furthermore, that the desire for liberty and the plan emerging from that desire may not produce the desired liberty-the plan may be scientific in intent but unscientific in fact. (Of course, the desired liberty may itself be impossible to obtain, but to pass such a judgment also requires scientific evidence.) Also, more than one plan may be feasible and it need not necessarily be an extensive plan.

An example, in tabular form, may aid in the comprehension of the relationships among liberty, rights, restraints, policies, and plans:

1 A goal is possessed A pioneer desires to build a cabin.
2 A liberty is predicted He assumes or believes that no obstacle need intervene to prevent his building a home for his family.
3 Past restraints are present liberties While at one time, he saw no need for a home, now, in order to be a respected member of the community, he must provide a permanent abode for his family. He has, however, become so conditioned and convinced of the value of settling down and building a home, that what were once restraints are now regarded by him as positive liberties.
4 Unconscious method He builds a cabin like his father and neighbors built, employing techniques the origin of which and the meanings of which are mostly unknown to him.
5 Scientific observation A visiting scientist observes that certain structural principles of physics and human principles of use-value are being used well, others badly, in implementing the conscious or latent desires of the pioneer and his family.
6 Conscious planning A later home builder profits from newly available plans for building homes and adapts his plans to these specifications.
7 Scientific observation Again the scientist observes that certain structural and human principles, consciously employed, are being used well, but that others are not well used in implementing the conscious or latent desires of the pioneer and his family.
8 Restraints The builder is restrained by the availability of certain materials only, by his personal resources, by family pressures, and by the specifications of the particular plan he chose to follow.
9 Alternative plan The builder might choose a different style of construction.
10 New protected liberties or rights are acquired Builder acquires a legal residence, a status as home owner, sometimes the right to vote or run for office (if a property qualification is demanded). He and others elect governing officials.
11 The officials organize some liberties into rights While no one may have disputed his original liberty to build, he now has additional court and legislative protection for his property holdings.
12 A private threat to his rights A tannery wishes to build a factory next to his house, reducing its value.
13 Protection by right is sought for the original liberty The home owner seeks to establish his liberty and right to be free of a nuisance by appealing to the courts for an injunction against the tannery.
14 One liberty prevails over another The court holds the tannery is not prohibited by the common law or statutes. No right to be free of such a nuisance exists.
15 An individual liberty is transformed into a collective liberty or right The home owner unites with others to demand zoning legislation prohibiting manufacturing industry in the community.
16 Political or public policy results The village council reserves the area in question for residential purposes only.
17 The policy is only partly scientific While taking into account the desires of most members of the community for relief from industrial nuisances, the council fails to zone against another common disintegrator of property values and optimum family living, the use of residential dwellings as rooming houses.
18 The partly scientific character of the policy takes organized protection as a right from certain desires, and allows free play on the liberties of others Rooming-house keepers buy homes in the area for business purposes.
19 The original liberty and right conflict with new restraints The home owner, confounded now by his involvement in the property and the property's depreciation, must either evolve a new liberty or cut down his expectations from his old one.
20 New liberty evolves from old resraints He is taken with the idea of turning his home into a rooming house and using the payments received therefrom to help build a new home in a better area.
21 Broader political planning is demanded This time he examines carefully the restrictions present in his new neighborhood to see whether he will avoid all harmful possibilities

Thus is life an endless series of liberties and restraints; it is interspersed with rights and fraught with individual and political plans that distribute and redistribute, efficiently and inefficiently, a multitude of liberties and restraints. When restraints are imposed overwhelmingly on one group, the process may be called persecution (see Figure 13). Political policies weave in and out of the fabric of existence, now clearly designed and then again confused in purpose and effect. It is useless to assign the words "democratic" or "undemocratic," or the words "bad" or "good" to the meaning of liberty, restraint, plans, or policies. Such superfluous meanings only encumber clear analysis. Water is not inherently good, inasmuch as people may sometimes drown in it or fields be flooded with it; nor is water bad, for people must have it or die of thirst. Such usages may be emotionally impressive, just as we are impressed with the imprecations addressed by a character of Eugene O'Neill to the "she-devil" sea, but they bode only danger for sanity and order in the world of fact. Depending on the values held by the one who makes the statement, our key words may be sometimes called "good" and sometimes called "bad."


What 92 anti-Nazis, in their own life stories, report to have occurred to them under the Nazis. The table gives percentage of subjects reporting restriction and expansion of freedom in various spheres of activity.*


Source: With permission, from G. W. Allport, J. S. Bruner, and E. M. Jandorf,
"Personality under Social Catastrophe," p. 357
in Clyde Kluckhohn and Henry A. Murray,
Personality in Nature, Society, and Culture
(New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1949).



An important problem of individual liberty and public policy is whether enough is known about the behavior affected by the liberty or policy to make them rational, that is, productive of the intended effects. Liberty and policy, therefore, are defined as rational in so far as they take into account all foreseeable things that lie between their goal and its achievement. Liberty and policy are irrational whenever their results are in any considerable part in excess of, in addition to, or insufficient to their goals, and these occurrences might have been foreseen. Where conscious scientific method is being used, a rational liberty or policy has a perfect plan and or policy has an imperfect plan (see Figures 12d and e).

A liberty or policy is rational, we have said, in so far as it maximizes its foresight of consequences, irrational in so far as it is ignorant of known consequences. The consequences themselves may be good or bad, desirable or undesirable. Thus, if one plans a vacation to the seashore for a rest and swim, he is rational in believing that the seashore can provide both things, rational in bringing oil and umbrellas to protect himself from the burning sun that he foresees to be there, rational in knowing that a crowded beach will disturb him some of the time. He is irrational if he does not look into weather reports that predict two weeks of cold and stormy weather.

One may be irrational about both desirable and undesirable consequences. He may further be irrational about things that he might know and predict but does not know and predict, and also about things he cannot possibly know and predict-that is, it is to a degree irrational to lack complete foreknowledge of all contingencies.

Similarly, a legislature may declare that within three years there will be a power shortage in a community and order the construction of dams and new powerhouses. The legislature is rational in so far as it uses the best that science can offer in predicting the power shortage correctly. It is rational also if it realized that the power system will drain the treasury of resources-an undesirable, but a foreseen, consequence of its policy. The legislature, however, is neither rational nor irrational if it develops that, against scientific expectations, the cost of the power system does not drain the treasury. It is just lucky.


But now let us be clear about rationality and values. If the legislature foresees correctly that the treasury will be drained, and goes ahead anyway, because it prefers public power to financial security, it is rational. It is so, even if a majority of people disagree. If a commander were to sacrifice a thousand troops to win a medal, his plan would be rational if he got the medal, even though the results might be most undesirable to practically everyone. We are not entitled to call some value that we do not share irrational, except for purposes of propaganda. We can only call irrational those decisions that do not take known consequences into account.


It must be admitted that our use of the word "rational" makes it difficult to tell in advance whether many policies are rational. But we cannot expect lawmakers to be omniscient, that is, aware of consequences not even the greatest minds can foresee. To call a policy rational because it foresees everything that men know can happen but overlooks a great deal that is known later or is not to be known at all requires that we prove that knowledge was or was not available before calling any policy rational. We must warn ourselves not to demand omniscience from either individual liberty or political policy in practical affairs. Else few purposive actions would survive the gauntlet. In a world of profound mysteries, we are entitled to applaud heartily the men who are relatively rational.



There is no single rational way of organizing human behavior to make or execute policy. Under different circumstances, men organize in different ways to create liberty and policy. Human activities may take the form of individual liberties, the policies of business corporations, or the policies of political reformers. At other times, human activities may result in planning boards, pension plans, political movements and, finally, the formal activities of government agencies on a high level of authority.


At the height of the popularity of classical economics during the last century, it was believed widely that the most efficacious method of achieving social goals was by individual liberty. To Adam Smith, Herbert Spencer, and Charles Sumner it seemed that a maximum of well-being in the population could be achieved if individuals were allowed to plan their own activities as they wished and could, without any positive direction. By the laws of unorganized human behavior, these writers thought, each man had automatically to work towards the good of the whole population. A kind of "invisible hand," wrote Adam Smith, operated to transform each man's selfinterest into the general good. The effects, for example, of a man's desire for profit, would be the manufacture of a better product to outstrip his competitors. This would be a material gain for the rest of society.

True, such influences by a single individual would be imperceptible from an over-all view but just as one vote out of forty millions helps to elect a president, one slight influence helps to maintain a condition whereby the whole of society increases its material well-being. Individual abilities and the tastes of the massed individual consumers provide the conditions for a "greater," "natural" plan to work. No group policy is necessary; the state's only policy must be to protect this normal social condition.

This explanation of society has come to be called a defense of planlessness. Strictly speaking, however, it declares that, for certain material values which everyone presumably shares, individual planning is most effective. The theory argues that the conditions of political planning introduce some necessary accompaniments that may be rational (that is, foreseen) but undesirable as well as some accompaniments that are irrational and mostly undesirable, that together far outweigh the possible rational advantages of political planning.



A second mode of organization of policy holds that private groupings may by co-operation produce policies that possess rational advantages unknown to public policy. The theory is derived partly from the Smithian view, and partly from a belief in the value of voluntary social organization. A group of firms, for example, may "govern" a segment of the economy within limits. They may set wages and hours for the industry, adjust prices to their own views, and enforce fair trades practices. Or, in the noneconomic sphere, religious groups may pursue common goals co-operatively rather than under the direction of public authority. Or recreational, fraternal, and educational groups may establish the conditions for their own operations independently of a general directive from the state.

Policies of this kind have a limited influence on the behavior of the people concerned: adherence to the group policy is voluntary; the behavior that can be controlled is limited in scope; the instruments available for maintaining the organized movement are economic and social, rather than political. Thus an organization of religious groups to govern the preaching of the gospel cannot force all groups to agree; it can possibly affect the preaching but not the practice. It can only accomplish its goals by persuasion and propaganda and by successfully competing with outsiders in organizing the total number of souls available.


Another type of policy authority is the local jurisdiction. Towns, cities, states and mixed authorities of private and public interests furnish a variety of schemes for focusing group values on specific functional tasks. Cities and towns operate a number of industries-sewage disposal, water supply protective services, housing developments, parks, and many others. Just about everything that the federal government in America is doing was done initially by some state government. And, in many cases, state governments now perform functions once done by cities and towns. Certain electric power systems, water supply systems, port facilities, and other enterprises are controlled and operated by mixed authorities, in which political jurisdictions and private enterprise join. Both may furnish capital, ideas, and direction to the task at hand.

Many of these local authorities are quite intimately connected with the affected populations. Sewage disposal and water supply for example, are particular enterprises in which the goals are fairly clear, the need very general, and the means not very debatable. In certain types of activities, the interests directly concerned, although a minority of the total population of the jurisdiction, do not run into heavy opposition and public activities on their behalf are generally countenanced. The Port of New York Authority, for example, has many problems of detailed planning of facilities in the New York area, but its over-all purpose is clear. The interests involved - shippers, local officials, workers - are agreed in principle and the operations are tangible and observable.

On other matters, however, opposing values clash and the policy operates in a completely political milieu, that is, subject to struggle from beginning to end. Public housing developments in most American communities typify this kind of public policy activity.

There is little difference, indeed, between the nature of the political battle over controversial policy in such localities and in the national and international spheres of interest. Thus, the American states, after some controversy, regulated private grain elevators and erected public ones as a matter of course. Later efforts to bring the national government into the field also was the cue for a renewal of controversy over the legitimacy of such regulation by national agencies.

One reason why national rather than local governments have engaged in large-scale projects is that the instruments of national policy are more varied and strong than those of any other authority. The national government has access to the total resources of a community; adequate financing and information may be obtained; and the enforcement of policy is likely to be relatively unhindered by problems of competing jurisdictions and limited police power.


It is no more than fair to say that all attempts at setting up some principle whereby policy making can be organized most efficiently in one or another type of jurisdiction have failed. This failure has occurred not only because special interests tend to advocate that kind of policy organization that will give them the most favorable treatment. Many neutral observers have striven for such a principle. Thus in the field of state-federal relations, certain business interests in richer states prefer leaving expensive social legislation to the states, feeling that their tax rates will be raised if the federal government assumes such functions. But more neutral bodies, such as the Council of State Governments, have been unable to extract a principle for assigning one function to the federal government and another to the states.

Perhaps the major reason for this failure to establish a principle by which policy making will be organized under one jurisdiction rather than another is the weakness of political science to foretell sufficiently the consequences, direct and indirect, of any species of policy organization. This same inherent complexity produces disagreement about the relative merits of assigning decisions mostly to individuals (the Adam Smith idea) or to private groups. It may well be that there is no such thing as a "general principle" for assigning policy making to various levels. Perhaps the individual merits of assigning a task like policy to a local level or a national level may vary from time to time. Similarly, with road building, at one time the localities may be assigned the task because the national government may have "too many" things to do, although at another time the national government may build roads because the localities where roads are needed for national travel are too poor to build them.

The nearest approach to such a principle is the "scope of interdependence" idea. According to this theory, the policy of maximum effectiveness can be obtained in an organization whose scope includes all persons or events directly connected with the plan. Thus a railroad that operates only within one state or a sewage system that serves only one city should be controlled respectively by that state and that city. Similarly, a transcontinental railroad ought to be governed, if it cannot be left entirely to a private group, only by the national government.

The scope of interdependence is not, however, always a clear idea. Before it can be considered appropriate to a particular situation, one must have rejected the possibilities inherent in "natural" adjustments through the medium of supply and demand. The stated idea, that is, assumes that some political plan is necessary. Some matters, like the distribution of magazines and books, occur through many individual and private group plans with results considered generally to be satisfactory. Government intervention is not considered necessary for their adequate operation.

Moreover, the idea, when applied without foresight to a situation, may ignore considerations other than efficiency taken in a rather narrow sense. Assuming, for example, that a network of government restaurants throughout the land would provide everyone with cheaper meals, such a policy is not necessarily in order. Multitudes of people like to own restaurants or eat in quaint places. To take a more realistic example, many people would rather preserve the habit of doing business in the same county seat that served their grandfathers than to consolidate two counties into a single unit with a different county seat. They would prefer tradition to efficiency and they are not impressed by the scope of interdependence idea.


Whatever the group or jurisdiction that adopts a policy, the policy cannot be evaluated apart from its goals. If there is no goal, there is no achievement; if there is no goal, there can be no plan. If a government has no idea what it will spend its money for, its tax system can hardly be called a policy; it is merely an unplanned fiscal habit. We need to know the objectives behind political policy not only to talk sensibly about the means taken to achieve policy, but also in order to separate purposeful action from the medley of random and purely habitual action occurring in the political process at all times.

The chief methods of understanding the goals of public policy, the form of action that concerns us mainly here, are the statements of written law, the study of the legislative process, the study of the administrative process, and the reactive formations that arise to encounter any plan. In addition, nothing prevents us from hypothesizing goals for policies, based on our own values. Thus if we believe that, whatever they may state, policies must agree with public opinion, then we may interpret the goals of a policy in the light of what we know to be the public's views about the policy.

One must be careful in all cases, however, to state clearly the position he is taking in declaring what are the goals of a policy. Only terrible confusion can arise if one applies a mixture of motives and values to appraising the goals of a policy. He can, if he is unscrupulous or ignorant, assert that any policy is impractical by defining the terms of the goal to suit himself. For example, if one says that the negotiations in 1944 and 1945 that gave the occupation of Eastern Germany to Russia were intended to provide the United States with a predominant military position in Europe, then the means taken can easily be proved ineffective. But that would be falsifying the goals of the American representatives. In fact, military strength was only one motive; others included the desire to be friendly with the Soviet Union and the desire to end hostilities quickly and demobilize the American economy and armies. The rationality of the policy makers cannot be properly judged by ignoring their motives or imputing motives that are not present.

Another common example of this inversion of goal and plan is the kind of propaganda that says a goal is achieved no matter how far the plan has progressed. There is some reason to believe that the goals of the various four-year and five-year plans of totalitarian states have been redefined in view of what has been accomplished so as to cover the fact that the original goals were not met.


Returning to the methods of studying goals, we should be most happy to be able to say that the face of a law gives its goals without doubt. Unfortunately this cannot be said. In the Discourse on the Understanding of Statutes, written during the reign of Queen Elizabeth, Egerton assures us how elusive is the intent of a statute: "So manie hedes as there were so manie wines; so manie statute makers, so manie minds." And we may quote two renowned latter-day legislators to show the doubts among the legislators themselves. Declared T. V. Smith: "The predicament of the legislator is that every vote is a dozen votes upon as many issues wrapped up together, tied in a verbal package, and given a single number of this bill or that. To decide what issue of the many hidden in each bill one wants to vote upon is delicate, but to make certain that the vote will be actually on that rather than upon another issue is indelicate presumption."

Paul H. Douglas, Senator from Illinois, expressed almost the same sentiments when he wrote of the roll calls of a session of the Senate: "As the clerk called our names, those of us on the Senate floor had to answer either `aye' or `no.' Many times we wished an issue had never arisen. Many times the issue itself is not clear. Many times we felt that the truest answer was neither `aye' nor `no' but `maybe.' "


In most cases, the interpretation of legislative will is not complete nor accurate in details. It must remain a general interpretation. As Paul Douglas stated: "In each vote on a particular measure the Senators also vote on a general principle. Indeed, it is the operation of the general principle on their thoughts which gives a discernible unity to most of their decisions." In the case of each legislator, so to speak, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

And so also are the goals of the corporate legislature more than the sum of goals of the individual legislators. The idea that there is a "legislative will" that can be found in a law is a fiction. Also it is a necessary fiction. The signed bill is like a bulkhead slammed against complexity and confusion. A new start is made; the goal is now set.

The bulkhead, however, is defective. Almost all public bills use general terms to describe general situations and to describe general methods and general ends. In order to summarize its prescription, the bill must distort the summed-up goals. Since a summary often lacks precision and requires interpretation, this distortion may occasion controversy later on, requiring the reopening of inquiry into the original motives.

From this inescapable condition of the legislative process, we are led to conclude that any directive put forth by many minds and any general directive put forth by a single mired will lack complete clarity, and that greater clarity can only come from the minds through which the directive filters - the administrators, judges, and the affected or interested population. We may thence conclude that the goals of policy are conditioned by all influential elements in the political process (see Figure 14). What exists as the central core of the goals of policy is a ponderable motive, a generalized and often high-powered surge in a given direction.


The policy method is conditioned by the shape of the goals; its effects are conditioned by the reactions of the target population, which (1) resist and/or modify the policy method and (2) send signals to the forces that shape the goals.


One can foresee how, under such conditions, an undiminished, though more limited, struggle will accompany the policy process. There is little possibility that goals will be so precisely drawn as to make their execution purely a question of administrative efficiency. All the forces that originally lock in struggle over the first statement of a goal return to the struggle to interpret the goal. For example, the original and subsequent federal legislation regulating the operation of radio stations left to the Radio Commission and, later on, the Federal Communications Commission, the task of seeing that radio broadcasting was conducted according to the "public interest." The struggle among many groups to define the "public interest" has raged undiminished for twenty-five years. In general, this process of interpreting the goal continues over a long period of time-one might say until the policy is functioning smoothly - but it is really longer than that-until the policy becomes habitual behavior on the part of the affected population. In this struggle, every participant - the legislators, the executives, the judges, the lobbyists or some other interest-proclaims his interpretation of the goal as the true one and tries to establish an atmosphere of policy administration that is congenial to his own values.

We may also observe the important fact that the clarification of the goals of policy is itself a great power. He who utters general commands but leaves their definition to others may be revered after the manner of prophets or soothsayers, but he concedes much of his power in fact to those who interpret his words and carry them out in action. The organization of policy method is a crucial phase in the achievement of policy and has an important effect on the ultimate form of the policy.


The policy function, be it corporative, city, or national, is not likely to be found evenly assigned to officers throughout the executive hierarchy. The goals and the methods of the policy are most likely to be set in the offices where the most important decisions are made. This would be in the legislature and in the offices of the top executives. Thus the most important policy makers in the American federal government are to be found in the congressional committees and their staffs, in the offices of the President and his cabinet members, and in the offices of several major quasi-independent regulatory agencies like the Federal Communications Commission. One finds the same situation prevailing in other countries.


Legislatures have maintained an increasingly anachronous position with respect to the "knowing" and "planning" functions of government. Blessed with the collegiate spirit, they have neglected to ask themselves whether a group of amateurs might know everything about everything until the last great day. By contrast with the executive arm of the government, they have failed conspicuously in reinforcing their judgments and prescriptions with scientific planning aids. Old remedies for a lack of omniscience are available and are used. These are the committee sessions, the committee hearings, the committee reports-all ways of adjusting goals to realities and predicting the consequences of legislative policies.

But most observers are impressed rather by the febrility of the scientific legislation movement than by its slow growth in the twentieth century. Legislative drafting aids, reference services such as those the Library of Congress provides to Congressmen, the information granted freely by pressure groups, the help afforded by administrative agencies-all of these are embryos of planning agencies present in slowly developing form as adjuncts to legislatures. Legislators, on the whole, however, are slow to appreciate the instrumentalities of social science. They tend to regard streamlined legislative techniques that employ experts on social consequences (which, after all, is another name for social scientists) like people regarded the first automobiles-with suspicion, with awe colored by fear, and with uncertainty regarding the role that the new gadgets might play in their lives.


In the executive branch of government, the situation has been different. We find important planning agencies in every department of the federal government and in the President's office. The agencies are quite confident of their ability to draw up the blueprints of political policy. One may mention, in the United States, the defunct National Resources Planning Board that, given the assignment to evaluate national human and material resources and the means to their full realization and utilization, strove mightily to furnish a grand scheme for the total organization of the American economy. Its career, ended by Congressional opposition, left an example that was not forgotten. Many of the interests, techniques, and even personnel of that older oganization may be discovered in continuing staff agencies of the executive branch. Among them are the Bureau of the Budget, the Council of Economic Advisors, and the National Security Council. On a slightly lower level in the Security Establishment alone, one finds the Research and Development Board, the Munitions Board, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Central Intelligence Agency.

As we can see from their titles, most staff planning agencies are preoccupied with national defense. In matters of war, few dispute the efficacy of planning. On social and economic matters in peacetime, Congress lacks faith in over-all planning. The plans are made, nevertheless, but almost in private chambers, one might say. The departments contain many offices devoted to long-term projects and defining future needs. The Bureau of the Budget, with a central function not to be dismissed lightly-for fiscal planning is generally agreed to have good effects-has taken under its wing the planning of the total operations of the executive branch of government. Similarly, abroad, the British Treasury has played a staff planning role of great importance, owing in part to the preferred position its historical bookkeeping function gave it.


A major problem faced by every authority in its internal planning is how to mesh plans into operations. There is likely to be great conflict between "thinking" and "acting" divisions of a department. Separating the planning into "thinking" and "acting" activities means in effect that you give to one office the right to say what must be done and how it must be done, and to another the task of doing the job. When the separation is great, the plans are developed in too general a form and operations remain anarchic. Thus the National Resources Planning Board (NRPB), mentioned above, tended towards ever broader reaches of ideas and projects. The actual powerdrive of the executive branch was out of touch with the NRPB plans and went ahead little concerned with them. On the other hand, when policy method is left to the operating officers it often depends on mere lunch-hour hunches, or it is molded in the heat of solving immediate operational problems.

Perhaps both these extreme situations allow one to understand better why bookkeeping agencies tend to become effective planning agencies. Their work is intimately geared to operations. By handling the detailed transactions of all the offices, agencies like the British Treasury or the American Bureau of the Budget become acquainted with the total picture of agency operations. Yet the primary focus of attention of budget and financial officers on spending and saving inclines them towards a material evaluation of all problems. "Feasible" plans then become plans whereby the least is spent, everything can be accounted for in dollars and cents, and a maximum of standardized practice and central authority is maintained.

Planning within the organized authority, therefore, is systematic and effective in proportion to both its close sympathy with operations and its everyday aloofness from operations. It is also conditioned according to the motives that form the guiding influences within the planning agency-broad if the agency is top level, broad if the agency is not preoccupied with simple accounting.


In these last few pages, we have used the word "planning" with greater frequency. It seems to have been used as a synonym for "policy method." In fact, we have used "planning" to refer to one kind of policy method. As we have talked more and more about the large-scale agencies of governments and the huge and enduring projects in which they are engaged, we have gradually slipped into the use of the word plan, meaning by it the conscious application of scientific method to assist in achieving the goals of policy.

There is no need to define the term "political planning" too tightly. The line between the method a skillful executive uses to achieve his policy and the method a special staff of administrators and engineers uses to control the development of an atomic energy center is set by degrees according to four criteria: complexity of the goal, complexity of the method, size of the task, and duration of the task. When these four factors are considerable in a policy situation, what we call a plan is likely to emerge-that is, a complicated end result, the requirement of different special skills, an undertaking affecting millions of people, and an enduring operation combine to give an advantage to that organization of policy method called planning.

Reviewing again these factors that precipitate planning, we find that they are present in all modern governments. All governments today undertake numerous and complicated functions affecting the whole population over long periods of time. We should be very much surprised, therefore, if we heard nothing about planning in political discussion. The contrary, of course, is true; political planning is a most popular topic of political argumentation. It seems, however, if we listen carefully to the debate, that there is little disagreement over the question whether policy method should incorporate planning. Almost offhand, it is granted that if government is to undertake functions of great complexity and duration, political planning, as we use the term, should be substituted for haphazard and unscientific policy method.

The popular debate, however, has little to do with political planning versus hunch methods of carrying through policies. The real argument is whether or not the government should or should not undertake large-scale functions like regulating factories, operating mines and mills, or providing medical care to the whole population. We are tempted to ignore here this debate, having treated it briefly in Chapter Two and elsewhere, if it were not for one consideration. We must continue to insist that planning according to scientific methods is inevitable and necessary to maximize the rationality of public policy. This must be done as much for the benefit of those who are in favor of many government functions as for those who favor few public functions. Political planning is only partially understood when it is viewed as a way of streamlining the policy methods of government. Political planning is fully understood when it is viewed as a completely objective means of exposing the full consequences of policy. Many architects of planning today-be they executives or legislators-are like the magicians of early times, primitive scientists possessed of a few techniques and a dreadful role, unable themselves to see where their science ends and their quackery begins. This is said with malice towards no one but in an effort to emphasize the limitations of rationality in public policy today.


It is rare indeed that a political policy or plan carries with it a full recognition of its political implications. A noteworthy historical exception that most countries have encountered is the attempt to keep military affairs under the control of civilians. An army is felt necessary but its potential political power is feared. Thus, although it made an exception in the case of General George C. Marshall, American law forbids a military man being chosen Secretary of Defense. But very often foresight is not part of the plan. For example, we have affirmation by the pens of writers like Robert Brady and Bruce Catton that many business leaders, faced with the inevitability of political planning, venture into the government to reconcile their own and the public interest to reconcile their own tastes, both in peace and war. It can be said that this phenomenon was scarcely predicted in the establishment of the Federal Trade Commission in 1914 but was better foreseen in the creation of the War Production Board in World War II. One also wonders, on this question of politization, how many civil service reformers realized that when they were taking appointive officeholders out of party politics, they were introducing a new kind of "administrative" politics among career officials. Or, when a new governmental function is established, how many realize that the prestige of politics tends to be enhanced and that of private business diminished?

Nor is it always foreseen how a new pattern of political planning will introduce a bureaucratic form of organization. So much is attention concentrated on the job to be done and whether it ought to be done that the inevitable machinery that follows is forgotten. No one has the remotest idea of the total impact of a given number of departments, bureaus, divisions, and positions on the economy. Rather, those who are "against bureaucracy" struggle against those who are "for bureaucracy" as if each new issue were the one that would make or destroy the social structure.

Sometimes the method used for the enforcement of public policy is deliberately inadequate. The American national minimum wages and hours legislation and civil rights legislation are only two examples of programs that were handicapped by insufficient staff and appropriations. More commonly, the goal of a policy is accompanied by a naive policy method. Wrote Thurman Arnold of the various attempts to restrain monopolies in America: "The actual result of the antitrust laws was to promote the growth of great industrial organizations by deflecting the attack on them into purely moral and ceremonial channels."

When political policy turns to the values of the people to be affected, it rarely considers the question of the varying particular demands, for the applied science of administration in its present state is secure only when it limits demands. It abhors complex or increasingly varied demands. We may illustrate how political policy in fulfilling one demand sometimes ignores equally meritorious demands. When the American federal government decided to grant money to the states for old-age assistance, aid to the blind, and aid to dependent children, most members of the government did not mean to "deprive" poor people of ordinary relief or foresee that such would occur. Yet, because the states had to match federal funds with their own money, the states tended to allocate their resources to the programs for which they would get equivalent federal money rather than to programs that they would support entirely by themselves. This and other cases showed that federal matching grants tended to "starve" nongrant programs of the states.

Controversy over the increased productivity that may or may not be induced by political planning is often confusedwhich means that it is often prey to decisions by political force and propaganda, rather than by true planning in a scientific spirit. If each new policy were assessed as to the necessary frustration it inflicts on some individual liberties, the indirect effects it has on the total redistribution of social resources, the necessary sacrifice of long-run technological improvements to the policy of supplying all needs, and the negative and positive effects on the workers involved, it might be better judged as a contribution or a handicap to a society.


The conclusion one comes to, after surveying contemporary experience, is that political policy and planning today tend to be most rational when their effects are most immediately perceived and most isolated from other social events. This experience indicates therefore that political policy and planning can be rational at least to the extent of taking in all known and operating factors. But political activity of this sort has been very rare in human history. Most existing legislation, examined in the light of what might have been known and foreseen but was not so known and foreseen because of various reasons, would be judged irrational. And if society has not collapsed under this burden of irrationality, it is because mankind is very durable and tough and because irrational policies and plans, like a defective slot machine, hand out lucky advantages as well as unlucky disadvantages.

As we know it today, the "planned society," in the last analysis, is itself unplanned. Special parts of it are rationally planned. The rest of it, product of despair in private planning and faith in public planning, moves on, an inexorable kismet. The only remedy for its planlessness-in local, national, and international affairs-is, strangely enough, faith in the idea of rational planning. If a science is so good as to explain beyond cavil some of what lies in store for mankind, it can command attention to desirable alternatives. Not only restraints and regimentation, but also valuable liberties can be planned. This, to our mind, is the major justification of political science.

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