The Politics of Information: new book by Bryan Jones and Frank Baumgartner

Bryan Jones and longtime collaborator Frank Baumgartner (UNC) have published a new book, The Politics of Information: Problem Definition and the Course of Public Policy in America.

At theThe Politics of Information most basic level, the book grapples with the overabundance of information — how information floods into government, and the difficulty and politics of dealing with it. Embracing the reality of complexity, Jones and Baumgartner coin the phrase the “paradox of search,” alluding to the fact that the more comprehensively government collects and processes information when investigating a problem, the more problems it finds, the more the complexity of the issue multiplies, and the greater the potential (and likelihood) for creating solutions, programs, and institutions to deal with it.

More information = more problems to solve (Photo: Information Overload, by Gveret Tered)

More information = more problems to solve (Photo: Information Overload, by Gveret Tered)

In this way, the growth of government follows from the search for information and attempts to understand problems. But, as different institutions emerge to address problems, coordination becomes difficult. Both organizationally and politically, limiting the flow of information becomes a strategy to impose leadership and control, to gain organizational clarification, and stem the growth of government. The danger is in the consequent risk of leaving real problems unaddressed.