Public Policy

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Public Policy
2013-04-03 23:30:06
Core Concepts

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  1. Bibliography
    Kraft, M., & Furlong, S. (2013). Public Policy: Politics, Analysis, and Alternatives (4 ed.). Los Angeles: Sage/CQ Press.
  2. Institutionalism
    • Policy is considered an organizational output. Public Policy is authoritatively determined, implemented, and enforced by government institutions. Broadly the major branches of government; judicial, legislative, executive represent policy-making institutions. Their policy instruments are executive orders, judicial decrees, and legislative actions. Government institutions give public policy legitimacy, universality, and coerciveness.
    • Many kinds of institutions can influence public policy: markets, individual firms or corporations; national, state, and local governments; voluntary associations such as political parties and interest groups; and foreign political regimes.
  3. Process model of public policy
    Policy as political activity involves the study of how policies are made.  It encompasses the processes of identifying problems, agenda setting, making policy proposals, implementation and evaluation of policies.  While these steps have a nice linear feel in practice they rarely occur in a neat step by step process.  The development of each phase can occur simultaneously and with varying time and intensity of activity.  NOTE: Gordon and Milakovich in Public Administration in America also treat policy making as a process.  NOTE:  Gordon and Milakovich in Public Administration in America also discuss various implementation and evaluation strategies.  The Richard Stillman text Public Administration: Concepts and Cases has good readings on implementation and evaluation.  For specialized information on evaluation see your research methods text by O’Sullivan and Rassel.
  4. Group theory
    • Policy is the output of group activity.  It emergesfrom the assumption that interaction among groups is the central fact ofpolitical life.  As such, the groupbecomes the essential bridge between the individual and government; and,politics becomes a struggle among groups to influence public policy.  Key considerations- who has to be included and who can be “safely ignored”?
    • A modern variant of interest group theory, the advocacy coalition framework (ACF) focuses on the interactions of competing advocacy coalitions, particularly within a policy subsystem such as agriculture, telecommunications, or environmental protection. Each coalition consists of policy actors from different public and private institutions and different levels of government who share a particular set of beliefs about the policies that government should promote.
  5. Elite theory
    • Policy is a reflection of the preference ofgoverning elite.  Policy doesn’t reflectthe demands of the people as much as it does the interests and values of theelite.  The people are viewed largely aspassive, apathetic, and ill informed. The elite are able to discern “that which is rational” more clearly thanthe non-elite who have fewer resources at their disposal.  Many question, however, the values thatinfluence their rationality (i.e., a given policy may be “rational,” but forwho?).
    • The role of different elites is particularly evident in the influence of subgovernments or issue networks such as agribusiness on farm policy, the defense industry weapons procurement, and pharmaceutical companies on health policy.
  6. Rationalism
    Policy is based on choices that provide themaximum gain to society.  Those policiesare chosen whose benefits exceed there cost by the largest amount.   Policy makers must know all of society’svalues and preferences, know all the policy alternatives available, know theconsequences of each policy, calculate ratio of benefits to cost for eachpolicy, select the most efficient policy. NOTE: Gordon and Milakovich in Public Administration in Americaalso discuss the rational approach to public policy in the context of policyanalysis.  Cost – benefit analysis andcost effectiveness analysis are two concepts consistent with the rationalapproach to policy making and analysis.
  7. Incrementalism
    Policy is a minor variation on previous adoptedpolicies.  Incrementalism recognizes that(a) policymakers do not have the time, information, or money to investigate allthe alternatives to existing policy; (b) that there may be heavy investments inexisting programs (i.e., sunk costs) which (for them) preclude the sensibilityof radical change; and (c), that incrementalism is politically expedient –agreements come relatively easy.  CharlesLindblom is an excellent reference on incremental policy making.
  8. Game theory
    Policy is a function of situations in which twoor more participants have choices to make and the outcome depends on the choicesmade by each.  Game theory is the studyof rational decisions in situations where two or more competitive participantshave interdependent choices to make.  Forinstance, by emphasizing second-strike capability, our deterrence strategyseeks to prevent nuclear war by making the consequences of a nuclear attackunacceptable to a rational enemy
  9. Public choice theory
    The idea that even in government politicalactors tend to act in their own self-interest. Just as in economics society benefits when each individual acts in theirown self-interest, likewise in public choice theory although individuals seekthere own interest mutual gains may be made through collectivedecision-making.   
  10. Systems theory
    Builds on the work of David Easton whoconceptualizes the political system involving the authoritative allocation ofvalues to society.  Public policy then isseen as an output of the political systems. Insofar as all the elements of the “system” are all (by definition)interrelated, it responds to the public’s supports and demands (the publicbeing part of the environment) as inputs with appropriate decisions, actions,policies, and programs as outputs. These, in turn, are evaluated and returned to the system in the form ofadditional demands/ support.  This demand-responsecycle is in keeping with the logic of systems theory – the idea thatresponsiveness is the key to how a system preserves itself.  
  11. Rational choice theory
    • assumes that in making decisions, individuals are rational actors; that is, they seek to maximize attainment of their preferences for further their self interest.
    • Tries to explain public policy in terms of the actions of self interested individual policy that, whether the voters, corporate lobbyists, agency officials, or legislators.
    • Example: the electoral incentive of legislators – cause members to advertise themselves, claimed credit, and take positions on the issues.
    • It forces people to think about the core motivation of individual political actors and its consequences for the larger political system and for public policy. It is especially useful to formulate predictions of how agency officials and the objects or targets policy actions are likely to respond to policy initiatives.
  12. The policy process model
    • Agenda setting: how problems are perceived and defined, command attention, and get onto political agenda.
    • Policy formulation: the design and drafting policy goals and strategies for achieving. Often involves the use of policy analysis.
    • Policy legitimation: the mobilization political support and formal enactment of policy. Includes justification or rationales for the policy action
    • policy implementation: provision of institutional resources for putting the programs into effect within a bureaucracy.
    • Policy and program evaluation: measurement and assessment of policy and program affects, including success or failure.
    • Policy change: modification policy goals and means in light of new information or shifting political environment.
  13. Policy instruments used by government
    • Regulation: laws that legislatures enact and the rules bureaucracies adopt. Government decrees that either require or prevent citizens from doing something. Ensures compliance, impose sanctions.
    • Government management:
    • Taxing and Spending:
    • Market Mechanisms:
    • Education, Information, and Persuasion:
  14. Policy typologies
    • According to Theodore Lowi, all government functions can be classified into three types.
    • Distributive:
    • Redistributive:
    • Regulatory:
  15. Reasons for government involvement in policy
    • Political reasons: reflect a notable shift in public opinion or the rise of a social movement pressing for action.
    • Moral or ethical reasons: government action is seen as the right thing to do even without public pressure.
    • Economics and market failures: market failures occur when the private market is not efficient by virtue of monopolies, externalities, information failure, and inability to provide for the public or collective good.
  16. Collective good criterion
    • Non-excludeability: occurs through pricing.
    • Non-rivalry: goods in which one person's consumption does not prevent another from consuming them.
  17. Dual federalism
    The period In the late 18th century where the functions and responsibilities of each level of government, federal and state, were distinct.
  18. Cooperative federalism
    • Cooperation on policymaking between national and state governments increased in the 20th century in response to the Great Depression of the 1930s and Pres. Roosevelt's new deal.
    • Characterized by money provided to the states through block grants and categorical grants.
  19. Informal policy actors
    • The public and public opinion.
    • Interest groups.
    • Issue networks.
  20. Determinants of agenda setting
    • Problem stream: the various bits of information available on the problem, whom it affects, and in what ways.
    • Policy stream: what might be done about the problem – the possible policy alternatives.
    • Political stream: the political climate for public mood typically reflected in public opinion surveys, the results of elections, and the activity and strength of interest groups.
    • When these three streams converge, policy entrepreneurs have their best chance to move problems and policy ideas onto the agenda.
  21. Steps in the policy analysis process
    • Define and analyze the problem: a description of an satisfactory set of conditions for which relief is sought, where it exists and who it affects, it's major causes, and how those causes might be affected by policy action.
    • Construct policy alternatives: creative approaches to distribution, redistribution, regulation.
    • Develop evaluative criteria: established the most suitable criteria for the problem and the alternatives and determine the likely effectiveness, social and political feasibility, or equity of the alternatives.
    • Assess the alternatives: determine which alternatives are better than others – which is most likely to produce the desired outcome. Range from cost-benefit analysis to ethical analysis.
    • Draw conclusions: decide which policy option is the most desirable given circumstances and the evaluative criteria.
  22. Orientations to policy analysis
    • Scientific: search for "truth" and build theory about policy actions and effects using the scientific method to test hypotheses and theories; policy relevance less important than advancing knowledge.
    • Professional: analyze policy alternatives for solving public problems by synthesizing research and theory to understand the consequences of policy alternatives; aims for objectivity, but with goal of practical value.
    • Political: advocate and support preferred policies using legal, economic, and political arguments consistent with value positions; aims to influence the policy debate to realize organizational goals and values.
  23. Schneider and Ingram: Policy Design Tools
    • Authority tools: government use their authority to urge will require people to behave in a certain way. The effectiveness of such tools depends on the perceived legitimacy of government.
    • Inducements and sanctions: governments provide incentives or penalties to appeal to individuals' rational pursuit of their self interest.
    • Capacity building tools: governments make available training, education, information, and technical assistance, aimed at informing or enlightening people.
    • Hortatory tools: governments invoke images and values through speeches, proclamations, and other communication to exhort people to behave in a certain way.
    • Learning tools: governments can encourage policy agents and target populations to participate and learn, for example, through citizen advisory panels and collaborative processes.
  24. Criteria for evaluating public policy proposals
    • Effectiveness: likelihood of achieving policy goals and objectives or demonstrated achievement of them.
    • Efficiency: the achievement of program goals or benefits in relationship to the costs. The least cost for a given benefit for the largest benefit for a given cost.
    • Equity: fairness or justice in the distribution of the policies costs, benefits, and risks across population subgroups.
    • Liberty/freedom: the extent to which public policy extends or restricts privacy and individual rights and choices.
    • Political feasibility: the extent to which selected officials except in support a policy proposal.
    • Social acceptability: the extent to which the public will accept and support a policy proposal.
    • Administrative feasibility: the likelihood that a department or agency can implement the policy well.
    • Technical feasibility: the availability and reliability of technology needed for policy implementation.