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A Deliberative-Democratic Theory of Policy Analysis

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Abstract

This dissertation offers a normative account of policy analysis based on the idea that policy analysis must enable reasoned deliberation among equal citizens. It gives policy analysis a normative core, emphasizing the value of deliberation both as a means to govern on free and equal terms of social cooperation and as a means to make better public decisions. Policy analysis is one institution in a basic structure designed to make democratic deliberation possible.

Policy analysis is situated within the institutional structure of democracy by defining three roles for unelected analysts: (1) informing public deliberation, (2) ensuring policy justification, and (3) serving as a symbol of democratic legitimacy. These roles require analysts to be neutral, but not in a technical or objective sense. Rather, analysts can and must be held accountable for looking outward to collect evidence on all minimally acceptable reasons that citizens and policy makers believe to be relevant. In so doing, policy analysis is standardized and impersonal, without unjustifiably limiting public deliberations to only quantifiable impacts.

The dissertation charts a middle path between a purely quantitative approach to policy analysis and an argumentative approach, where all analysis is political argument. It does so through the mechanism of professional ethics, assigning analysts a duty to be comprehensively neutral. This standard acknowledges that analysis can never be value-free, but it does not abandon neutrality as a goal. Instead, it asks analysts to prepare citizens and policy makers to weigh controversial evidence and questions of equity. Taken together, the articles of this dissertation show how careful institutional design can enable an epistemic division of labor among experts, analysts, and citizens, while holding those professionals accountable for enabling deliberation on complex issues of public concern.

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This item is under embargo until October 12, 2023.