ONE Introducing Policy Messes
1. On the search for narratives to make sense of the financial mess, see
Yergin 2009 and Crook 2010.
2. A ‘‘wicked’’ problem has features that render it intractable to conven-
tional policy analysis (see, for example, Rittel and Webber 1973). First, there is
no definitive formulation of a problem and thus no definitive solution. Each
wicked problem is a symptom of other wicked problems and is therefore
difficult to parse and explain. Accordingly, the boundaries of problems and
solutions are under dispute, because the problems are so interrelated and
unpredictably so. Whatever solutions the decisionmaker generates are pro-
duced in the absence of any clear test to determine if they are really feasible or
effective over time. The financial meltdown has been termed a wicked prob-
lem (see, for example, Stapleton 2010).
3. When Kingdon writes of the ‘‘messiness’’ of public policy and agendas, he
allies it with ‘‘accident, fortuitous coupling and dumb luck’’ (1995, 206). Sim-
ilarly, Stone writes, ‘‘Politics is ‘messy,’ ‘unpredictable,’ an ‘obstacle course’ for
policy, and ‘a hostile environment’ for policy analysis’’ (2002, 376). Manage-
ment experts refer to the ‘‘messy process of experimentation, failure and
feedback’’ (London 2003).
4. Although not concerned with policy messes, Abrahamson and Freedman
(2006, chapters 3 and 5) list many kinds of mess and messy people found in
daily life (for another popular view, see Rigby 2008).
5. ‘‘Far from promoting ‘dispersion’ or ‘diversification’ [financial] innovation
has ended up producing concentrations of risk, plagued with deadly correla-
tions’’ (Tett 2009d).
6. Martin Feldstein, a Harvard economist and advocate of competitive mar-
kets, wrote about the issue of pricing toxic assets associated with the sub-
prime mortgage crisis: ‘‘The Treasury’s preliminary idea was to use a ‘reverse
auction,’ a method that works well when used to buy a single homogeneous
security (like a firm buying back its own shares). But that is not feasible for
buying the impaired securities, because of the enormous variety of underlying
mortgages and of the almost limitless number of different derivatives based
on those mortgages. The buyback will therefore involve a large number of
arbitrary valuation decisions by the Treasury staff and their investment-
banker advisers’’ (2008).
7. The 2008 financial mess and its sequelae have done little to dampen
Shiller’s promotion of financialization and innovation (Shiller 2012).
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