Public Planning: Failure and Redirection

Public Planning: Failure and Redirection

Public Planning: Failure and Redirection

Public Planning: Failure and Redirection

Excerpt

The viewpoint of this book is that most public programs in the United States have not worked well; some have not worked at all. Whether one defines "not working well" as failure to solve the problems for which public action is appropriate, failure to substantially improve the situation beyond what it would have been without the programs, or (a criterion that in a sense summarizes the others) failure of programs to live up to the reasonable expectations of their designers, most public programs have not worked well.

To explain this failure, one could blame the public planning process for not coming to grips with the realities of politics and bureaucracies in laying out programs, or one could blame the operation of the programs for failure to follow plans. In any case, a major gap between needs and expectations on the one side and program achievement on the other side exists.

The effort here, then, is to examine empirically this gap between expectations and achievements, to analyze its causes, and to suggest ways of narrowing it by improving achievements. The result, however, is not a general theory of public planning. For one thing, the evidence used is for planning and policy‐ making in the United States alone, and the generalizations are thus applicable only to the United States. It is frequently contended that planning has succeeded in smaller nations (Israel, the Netherlands, Scandinavia); to the extent that the contention can be borne out, it seems likely that success is due in large measure to smallness. At any rate, the United States, with its still-heterogeneous society and economy and its federal form of government, seems different enough to start within these national confines.

This leads to the second limit on generalization. The emphasis here is on national policy (including national policy for lo-

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