Running through this chapter is a recurrent problem in policy making, both in Britain and elsewhere: how far is it possible to make policy in a rational way where alternatives are systematically considered and the best chosen according to the evidence? As we will see the number of ill-considered choices which lead to policy fiascos is exasperatingly high in the United Kingdom - leading some, indeed, to think that we are uniquely exposed to policy failure. But as the frequent attempts to develop ‘rational’ models for policy choice (see Documenting Politics 18.2 below) suggest, there may be powerful forces engrained in the very character of modern government which limit the possibilities of rational choice. ‘Politics’, in the sense of partisan interests, commonly intrude, but it may be more than a matter of the disturbing influence of politics: as Briefing 18.1 below shows, some important theorists of the policy process think muddle is inevitable, and indeed may be preferable to attempts to think of policy choice in a comprehensively rational way.
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