The Tyranny of Metrics

The Tyranny of Metrics

Jerry Z. Muller

Andrew Natsios, a distinguished public servant with long experience in international development, notes that the employees of government agencies in this field have “become infected with a very bad case of Obsessive Measurement Disorder, an intellectual dysfunction rooted in the notion that counting everything in government programs will produce better policy choices and improved management.” The emphasis on quantification leads to a neglect of programs with the longest-run potential benefits: those that improve the skills, knowledge, and norms of the civil service and judicial systems in underdeveloped nations. Those who suffer from Obsessive Measurement Disorder, Natsios writes, ignore “a central principle of development theory—that those development programs that are most precisely and easily measured are the least transformational, and those programs that are the most transformational are the least measureable.”

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