Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Consultant: A Critique of Urban Problem Solving

Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Consultant: A Critique of Urban Problem Solving

Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Consultant: A Critique of Urban Problem Solving

Politicians, Bureaucrats, and the Consultant: A Critique of Urban Problem Solving

Excerpt

The most promising answer to the challenge of complexity is not to ignore the challenge but to devise ways of meeting it.

Harold D. Lasswell

Public policy-makers deal with difficult problems in our complex society every day. Unfortunately, and seemingly related to the number of facts that compete for attention, these problems are becoming increasingly unmanageable. Solutions, even when they can be formulated, regularly create unimagined new problems. Indeed, complexity challenges the very essence of effective and legitimate control in society today.

This book explores the decision-making processes in two complex urban settings and details attempts to use large-scale computer simulation models for planning and development. It is both a case study and a theoretical work on these decision systems, featuring the interplay of politics, economics, and sophisticated problem-solving.

In Principle. One of the most promising techniques for meeting the challenge of complexity is the computer simulation. At the core of the technique is the idea of setting up "models which show the workings of very complex relationships—those which are too complex to be reduced to simple conclusions by means of mathematical or statistical analysis or ordinary reasoning." Piecemeal approaches to the social decision processes are intrinsically undesirable because they are inappropriate to the complexity we find there. Policy-makers must integrate their intuitive hunches with the partial theories, models, and descriptive insights of specialists in such a way that the setting and theories about the setting are made understandable to practitioner and specialist alike. Computer simulation models have that integrative capacity, or, as Kalman Cohen and Richard Cyert succinctly note, "the basic advantage of computer models is that they provide a language within which dynamic models can be constructed." What this means in one sense is that an analytic specialist may add, delete, reformulate, and interchange various bits of information from sources of varying quality with relative ease. The method becomes a means to synthesize information from disparate . . .

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