The Public Interest

From Priorities to Goals

Irving Kristol

Summer 1971

DISCUSSION of public policy today is in an interesting state of confusion—interesting, because the confusion reflects an unnoticed shift in the terms of the discussion. The shift is from argument over the selection of priorities to controversy over the choice of goals—a shift from means to ends, from economics to political philosophy as the articles by Daniel Bell and E. J. Mishan put it. It is hard to imagine a more important distinction—yet it has been blurred by the fact that so many people still talk of “reordering our priorities” when what they have in mind, more often than not unwittingly, is actually the redefinition of the purposes of our political life.

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