A failure of strategic thinking by ministers has been blamed by MPs for a series of policy blunders which have dogged the Government.
A scathing report by the Commons Public Administration Committee said the lack of a proper national strategy lay behind a string of "mistakes", from the Budget to the threatened strike by tanker drivers.
It said too much policy was driven by short-term decision-making and attacked the "poor quality" of national strategy in Whitehall.
The report dismissed the Government's aims set out in the coalition agreement as "well-meaning but ... too meaningless to serve any useful purpose" as they offered no indication of the policies it might pursue as a result. It said the Cabinet and various Cabinet committees were incapable of carrying out anything more than a "patch-and-mend" approach to policy-making.
It warned that "chaotic strategy" - just "muddling through" - risked creating a "vicious circle", where weak leadership led to bad policy, further undermining public trust in government.
The report went on to list a series of policy errors where a lack of "coherent and relevant strategic aims" lay behind some of the problems.
They included the rethink on the Royal Navy's aircraft carriers, lower-than-expected economic growth, the likelihood that child poverty reduction targets will be missed, as well as difficulties over welfare spending, airport policy, and energy and climate change.
"Policy decisions are made for short-term reasons, little reflecting the longer-term interests of the nation. Poor strategic thinking militates against clear presentation, which was evident in the aftermath of the Budget and in response to the possibility of industrial action by tanker drivers."
The committee chairman, Tory MP Bernard Jenkin, said: "National strategy must be informed by a coherent assessment of the public's values and aspirations. This is not about abdicating policy-making to opinion polls, but national strategy must appreciate what sort of country the public aspires for the UK to be. Failing to do so in the long term undermines national self-confidence, and in the short term could have catastrophic consequences."
A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "The truth is the Government has a very clear objective to bring down the deficit and get the economy growing again, creating jobs and opportunities for people across the country, while ensuring the protection and security of all our interests and citizens. In parallel with that, we are taking forward an ambitious programme of radical reform in education, welfare, health and local government, which will give power and choice to individuals and their communities."