Controlling Technocracy

cover art
184 pp., 6 x 9
ISBN: 9780878407415 (0878407413)

November 1999
LC: 99-18787

American Governance and Public Policy series



Controlling Technocracy
Citizen Rationality and the NIMBY Syndrome
Gregory E. McAvoy
Disputes over hazardous waste sites usually are resolved by giving greater weight to expert opinion over public "not-in-my-back-yard" reactions. Challenging the assumption that policy experts are better able to discern the general welfare, Gregory E. McAvoy here proposes that citizen opinion and democratic dissent occupy a vital, constructive place in environmental policymaking.

McAvoy explores the issues of citizen rationality, the tension between democracy and technocracy, and the link between public opinion and policy in the case of an unsuccessful attempt to site a hazardous waste facility in Minnesota. He shows how the site was defeated by citizens who had reasonable doubts over the need for the facility.

Offering a comprehensive look at the policymaking process, McAvoy examines the motivations of public officials, the resources they have for shaping opinion, the influence of interest groups, and the evolution of waste reduction programs in Minnesota and other states. Integrating archival material, interviews, and quantitative survey data, he argues that NIMBY movements can bring miscalculations to light and provide an essential check on policy experts' often partisan views.

This book will be of value to those who work or study in the fields of hazardous waste policy, facility siting, environmental policy, public policy, public administration, and political science.
Gregory E. McAvoy is an assistant professor of political science at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Gerard W. Boychuk, Karen Mossberger, and Mark C. Rom, Series Editors
"Challenges the assumptions behind the NIMBY interpretation of citizen-opposition, making a case for the virtues of democratic decision-making.… it is a welcome addition to the debate between experts and democrats. McAvoy's well-chosen case study suggests that we may not have to choose between two extremes."—Boston Book Review

"Challenges the widespread assumption that policy experts 'know best' on complex issues and ought to be accorded wide autonomy from citizens to pursue the 'common good.' McAvoy demonstrates that 'expert' answers rarely exist and that citizens can (and should) assert their values in challenging experts."—Larry R. Jacobs, associate professor of political science, University of Minnesota