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Frans K.M. van Nispen

In: Handbook of Public Administration

Section 9: Budgeting and Finance

Edited by: B. Guy Peters & Jon Pierre

Subject: Public Administration (general)

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Budgeting and Finance
Budgeting and finance
The Call for a Budgetary Theory

The appeal of V.O. Key for a budgetary theory is a landmark in interest in public budgeting in modern history. Key clearly referred to a normative theory, raising the question: ‘On what basis shall it be decided to allocate X dollars to activity A instead of activity B?’ (Key, 1940/1978: 20). Early efforts to develop such a theory failed before Aaron Wildavsky took over the relay baton, issuing the first edition of his seminal The Politics of the Budgetary Process, which changed the budgetary landscape almost completely.1 He argued that the allocation of scarce resources is not a matter of arithmetics or calculation, but a matter of power. Furthermore, he claimed that the concept of ...

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