Sanctified Snake Oil: The Effect of Junk Science on Public Policy

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Praeger, Jan 1, 2001 - Political Science - 224 pages
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Government supported junk social science-or sanctified snake oil as Sarnoff terms it-exists in all policy arenas along the entire political spectrum, as policy advocates seek to justify the continuation of ineffective programs and to block alternative solutions. This form of junk science is particularly dangerous and wasteful in terms of tax dollars because professional confirmation, media investigation and government support lend it an unwarranted imprimatur of validity. Sarnoff argues that it confuses the public and convinces them to support programs as ends in themselves, rather than determining whether or not such efforts actually achieve purported goals.

Ineffectiveness, incompetence, lack of technology, ideology masquerading as policy, and even outright fraud serve to perpetuate the general confusion. This situation is exacerbated by the proliferation of media attention, much of it unmonitored for accuracy or bias. Sanctified snake oil, Sarnoff contends, spawns industries that drain public resources and attention from real, serious cases and distort public perceptions of the magnitude of the issues involved. This study sheds new light on this muddle and offers recommendations which will make it more difficult for junk science to represent itself as legitimate social policy.

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What Is Sanctified Snake Oil?
The History of Sanctified Snake Oil
The Sanctification Paradigms

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About the author (2001)

SUSAN KISS SARNOFF is an Assistant Professor of Social Work at Ohio University. She specializes in teaching Social Policy and in analyzing government bureaucracies, public and private benefits, and criminal justice policy. She is the author of Paying for Crime: The Policies and Possibilities of Crime Victim Reimbursement (Praeger, 1996), and is currently conducting research on social work regulation and ethics.

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