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Abstract

Evidence-based policy is gaining attention, and legislation and agency regulation have been no exception to calls for greater uptake of research evidence. Indeed, current interest in “moneyball for government” is part of a long history of efforts to promote research-based decisions in government, from the U.S. Census to cost-benefit analysis. But although evidence-based policy-making (EBPM) is often both feasible and desirable, there are reasons to be skeptical of the capacity of EBPM in governmental decision-making. EBPM is itself bounded by limits on rationality, the capacity of science, the objectivity of science, and the authority we wish to give technocrats. Where values are highly contentious, efforts to produce and use evidence in legislative and regulatory decisions may go so far awry that they become “sham” versions of evidence-based choices.

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