The Policy Evaluation Process
Wilson's First Law: All policy interventions in social problems produce the intended effect--if the research is carried out by those implementing the policy or by their friends.
Wilson's Second Law: No policy intervention in social problems produces the intended effect--if the research is carried out by independent third parties, especially those skeptical of the policy.
-- JAMES Q. WILSON
POLICY EVALUATION IS learning about the effects, if any, of public policy, and trying to determine whether these effects are what was intended, and whether the effects are worth the costs of the policy. Americans often assume that if Congress passes a law and appropriates money for a particular purpose, and if the executive branch organizes a program and spends money to carry out the activities mandated by the law, then the effects of the law will be felt by society and will be those intended by Congress. But this seldom turns out to be the case.
According to the Government Accounting Office (GAO), "Program evaluation-- when it is available and of high-quality--provides sound information about what programs are actually delivering, how they are being managed, and the extent to which they are cost-effective." 1 Similar definitions of policy (program) evaluation are found in the literature in public administration. Most of these definitions include references to "objectives" or "goals" of policies, their "effects" or "impact' on "target" groups and populations, and their "costs." 2 It sounds simple, but it is not.
Policy evaluation is a very complex process. It involves, first, the specification of goals and objectives, that is, desired outcomes, of government programs. But the stated goals of programs are often ambiguously expressed, sometimes deliberately so by a Congress seeking to satisfy multiple interests simultaneously. We do not always