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POLICY AND EVIDENCE IN PARTISAN AGE Paperback – May 29, 2009


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Urban Institute Press; 1 edition (May 29, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0877667497
  • ISBN-13: 978-0877667490
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 6.2 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #402,821 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

While one would hope that legislators and policymakers would base their decisions on the best available empirical evidence, they are instead frequently governed by ideology. Many do not have the knowledge needed to sift through contradictory studies and reevaluate their opinions accordingly. In _Policy and Evidence in a Partisan Age_, Paul Wyckoff shows his talent for doing just that. His review of empirical research on timely domestic policy concerns demonstrates that many common beliefs about the effects of government action are false. He also makes sensible recommendations that, if followed, will teach policymakers to think in empirical terms. --John J. Donohue III, Leighton Homer Surbeck Professor of Law, Yale Law School

_Policy and Evidence in a Partisan Age_ makes a strong case for the provocative claim that public policies have shown little leverage over the most politically salient behaviors. Based on evidence rather than either liberal or conservative ideology, it appears that government has much less opportunity than commonly believed to induce either good or bad behaviors. Stimulating demand during recessions, speeding up national or local economic growth, and increasing children's human capital through schooling all seem less amenable to government policy than is commonly believed. The author argues that such common beliefs will only be changed if we inculcate better empirical smarts, not just among the lawyers who dominate government, but also among our many undergraduate economics majors who often learn theory divorced from evidence. --David L. Weimer, Professor of Public Affairs and Political Science, University of Wisconsin Madison

About the Author

Paul Gary Wyckoff directs the public policy program at Hamilton College. He teaches courses in applied statistics, ethics, and cost-benefit analysis, as well as issue-oriented courses on topics such as health care reform, education policy, and Social Security reform. Professor Wyckoff studied economics and political science at Hamilton College and later received a Ph.D. in economics from the University of Michigan. Prior to coming to Hamilton, he held positions at the Federal Reserve and Indiana University. Professor Wyckoff has published in numerous journals, including the _Journal of Policy Analysis and Management_, the _Review of Economics and Statistics_, the _Journal of Urban Economics_, and the _Journal of Education Finance_. This is his first book.

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Format: Paperback
As reviewer Thickstun points out, Professor Wyckoff places himself somewhere in the middle of the political spectrum. Like Eggers and O'Leary (2009) but in with less detail and insight, the author finds political policies of both parties often dominated by ideological assumptions that don't hold up. He cites historical reviews of stimulus policies that showed virtually all were too late or ineffective in significantly boosting the economy. He also faults conservatives Thfor simplistic assumptions. He takes a "third" view that government's main contributions should be to ease suffering, ease difficulties for those affected by change, etc.

I often have the impression that both parties - or most partisans in the U.S. political game, tend to be perceptive about their opponents' failings - but are blind to the shallowness and obvious weakinesses in their own positions. I see the same problem with the author's prescriptions. With special expertise in statistics, he makes a point of strongly recommending that lawyers (especially those involved with political policy) get better statistical training, and that such methods be more actively employed in preparing legislation. Whew! Although Wyckoff refers to the Obama victory in 2008, and so his manuscript was at least revised after the the devastating collapse of the U.S. mortgage and banking system in 2008, he completely ignores inability of Alan Greenspan and other economic policymakers in Washington to predict the crash. Alan Greenspan in particular was known for his indefatigable use of economic indicators and statistical tools in planning fiscal policy. He ruefully admitted at a Senate Hearing in October 2008 that the meltdown took him completely by surprise.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Bill Thickstun on August 15, 2010
Format: Paperback
This is an admirably brief, clear and interesting argument for better use of evidence in policy debates. General readers, legislators, policy makers and students should all find it both readable and eye-opening.

Many policy issues have obviously not been the subject of clear empirical studies. But politicians (on both left and right) often base their decisions solely on ideology, failing to evaluate evidence appropriately even where it does exist. Wyckoff attributes some of this tendency to the theoretical bent of economics departments and the lack of statistical training in law schools. He makes a number of practical suggestions for curricular reform.

In pursuing his larger argument, Wyckoff also offers a good deal of evidence to suggest that much of what politicians promise may be unattainable. Government may not actually be able to do much to create jobs or stimulate the economy, and attempts to change people's behavior through government policies have been largely unsuccessful. One might quibble with some of these points (he does not address the anti-smoking campaign, which appears to have had some success over the past 30 years), but the general case is compelling.

Wyckoff's attempt to position himself in the center of the ideological spectrum may seem disingenuous to those conservatives who reject all social policy as liberal meddling, and his critical analyses of various policy projects will certainly annoy those liberals who support them. But if we want to make effective social policy, Wyckoff argues that we should try to figure out what actually works.
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By Robert T. Cronkleton on August 13, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Policy and Evidence in a Partisan Age: The Great Divide is an example into what most people forget when they enter the voting booth: pragmatism. Instead of adhering to the idea that the political spectrum is cemented by either liberal thought or conservative thought, Professor Wyckoff takes a step back and sees how mosaic governance truly is. He is able to sew together statistics and case studies to substantiate the claim that government, whether it be a positive or negative influence on society, has much less impact than most politicians claim it does.

Not only does this book cover such complex and controversial topics such as Healthcare and Education, it covers them in a way that is easy to understand. By using techniques such as simple metaphor, Wyckoff is able to clearly explain complex ideas as he challenges the preconceptions of the reader. You will find yourself drawn into his arguments, whether you agree or disagree, simply because of how well they are explained and justified.

Professor Wyckoff's book also demonstrates a skill anyone contemplating politics should utilize: critical thought. People take for granted the ability of anyone who is able to see the bigger picture, acknowledge their own personal biases, and judge policy with objectivity and true thoughtfulness while backing their claims with evidence and insight. Wyckoff brilliantly demonstrates this skill throughout the book.

Keeping in mind that the two highest degrees I have received so far are my High School Diploma and International Baccalaureate Diploma, I would recommend this for anyone who is interested in politics. I feel it is refreshing to think that that there are still unique ideas about politics which consist of both sides of the ideological spectrum.
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