Economics Department


Date of this Version

June 1995


Published by Journal of Economic Issues Vol.XXIX, No. 2, June 1995. Copyright © 1991 Journal of Economic Issues. Used by Permission.


As an extension of my recent policymaking chapter, Institutionalist Policymaking [Hayden 1993, 283-331], this paper deals with policy criteria in an instrumentalist or pragmatist framework. The works of Charles Peirce and Thorstein Veblen emphasized criteria-Peirce with explicit discussion of their character and Veblen with active application in his evaluations of various economies and institutions. Few scholars have continued in their tradition; Seymour Melman [1983], with his excellent Veblenian application of criteria in industrial policy studies, is a notable exception. Interest in the subject of criteria, except by individualist philosophers, has been scarce in the twentieth century until recently. Thirty years ago, it was unique to find a discussion of criteria even briefly presented in books concerned with policymaking, planning, political science, economics, and the like. Today, such discussion has become much more robust. Given the fact that we are the political descendants of the Greeks, one might have expected evaluative criteria to have been a major concern all along.

As the interest in the subject has grown, so has the breadth of its definition. In current literature, the term "criteria" is often used interchangeably with standards, goals, decision rules, particle levels, and so forth. For the purpose here, its original definition as standards for judgment is recaptured-policy judgment in this case. In a policy paradigm, policy criteria are prior to policy evaluation, and policy evaluation is prior to and determines the establishment of goals, program standards, decision rules, and so forth. Or stated differently, we need to judge policy before we can know what goals, decision rules, or particle standards are to be implemented. For example, applying the decision rule of producing where marginal costs are equal to marginal benefits is not a policy judgment. The judgments have been made prior to that decision by establishing a system that calls for such a misguided rule.

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