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Public policy


Lecture# 20 Public policy Science, Rationality, and the Policy Process Policy analysis is an important component of policy sciences. But researchers should keep ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Public policy

Lecture 20
  • Public policy

Introduction to Public Policy
  • What does Public Policy mean the meaning has
    changed over the years.
  • The creation of the policy sciences (the study of
    policy as a field) is closely associated with the
    work of Harold Lasswell (writing in the 1950s).

Harold Lasswell
  • Lasswell argued that the science of policy had
    three distinct characteristics that set it apart
    from other disciplines
  • it would/should be
  • - multi-disciplinary
  • - problem solving
  • - normative

  • multi-disciplinarypolicy sciences would break
    from the narrow study of political institutions
    and structures and embrace the work and findings
    of fields such as sociology, economics, law and

Problem Solving
  • 2. problem solvingpolicy science would adhere
    to a strict canon of relevance, orienting itself
    towards the solution of real world problems and
    not engaging in purely academic and often sterile

  • 3. normativepolicy science should not be
    cloaked in the guise of scientific objectivity,
    but should recognize the impossibility of
    separating goals and means, or values and
    techniques, in the study of government actions

The Evolution of the Policy Sciences
  • 1. While the emphasis on a multi-disciplinary
    approach remains, there is now a large body of
    literature focused on PP specifically. PP is now
    a discipline in and of itself with its own set of
    concepts, concerns, and a vocabulary and
    terminology all its own

  • 2. Over the past 50 years the virtual exclusive
    concern with concrete problem solving has waned.
    Lasswell intended for the policy sciences to
    generate conclusions and recommendations to solve
    existing social problems although this was a
    laudable concept government officials proved to
    be intractable and resistant to advice from
  • 3. Finally, the call for policy sciences to
    remain strictly normative or prescriptive was
    called into question

Defining Public Policy
  • - refers to the actions of government and the
    intentions that determine those actions
  • - is whatever governments choose to do or not to
    do (Thomas Dye)
  • - a set of inter-related decisions taken by a
    political actor or group of actors concerning the
    selection of goals and the means of achieving
    them within a specified situation where those
    decisions should, in principle, be within the
    power of those actors to achieve (Jenkins, 1978)

Conceptualizing Public Policy
  • Policy is a special kind of response, the
    central ordering element of which is an explicit
    statement of intent regarding future actions.
  • The policy response concept denotes what the
    agencies do in responding to environmental and
    structural stimuli. This concept is subdivided
    into policy statements, policy actions, and
    policy results.
  • a policy statement is the intent of the
    government to do something about some issue
  • a policy action is what an agency does to
    accomplish the goals identified in the statement
  • a policy result is what happens in the
    environment (or, less importantly, in the
    structure) following the agencys efforts to
    achieve the goal identified in the statements.

Indicators for Policy Action
  • 1) Rhetorical attention (attention given to
    specific programs and agencies) i.e.
    paragraph/page counts of testimony presented by
    agency personnel at hearings, agency reports,
    administrators speeches, etc.
  • 2) Planning actions number of formal plans
    announced by agency
  • 3) Acquisitive Actions number of authorization
    statutes amendments enacted of executive
    orders, department delegations, amount of
    appropriations, new personnel granted,
    acquisition of physical resources
  • 4) Implementing actions disbursal of resources
    expenditures, grants, loans, personnel assigned
    directives issued, directives enforced (cases)
    information collected and disseminated by agency
    contractual relations entered into, etc.

  • language under god
  • Administrative enforcing traffic laws-Orange
  • Legislative written statutes
  • Executive executive orders, vetoes,
  • Judicial deciding to hear a case, interpreting
    the law, written decisions
  • Symbolic concurrent resolutions (HCR029 Idaho
    Napoleon Dynamite)
  • nondecisions

Assessing definitions of public policy
  • -some are very complex and others are quite
  • -they all agree that public policies result from
    decisions made by government
  • -some take into account the intentions behind a
    government action
  • Our approach in this class, is to follow Dyes
    definition, which is PP is whatever governments
    choose to do or not to do.

  • Dyes definition makes a crucial distinction
    concerning public policy.
  • That government action, legislated and written
    into law is but one form of public policy.
  • Another form of public policy, are the many
    un-codified, non-legislated actions of government
    that are in themselves a form of public policy.
    In other words, governments decision not to
    address a particular policy area, is essentially
    public policy we may call it non public policy.

Other Distinctions Regarding Policy
  • 1. Public policies are constantly changing as
    they're shaped and reshaped modified and changed
    and sometimes rejected for new policies
  • Public policy must be inferred from the actions
    and behavior of the many government agencies and
    officials involved in policy making over time
  • Policy is a process, or an historical series of
    intentions, actions, it is not something that can
    be captured by pulling out a single event or
  • Policy is complex in that it takes place on
    multiple levels
  • Policy is an analytic category used by
    researchers and social scientists who study
    government activity

The Public Policy-Making Process
  • The study of public policy is firmly grounded in
    the study of politics, which is as ancient as
    human civilization itself.
  • Most of the ancient philosophers looked at
    politics in general, theoretical ways.
  • Platos Republic The search for justice. One of
    Platos objectives in the Republic was to show
    that justice is worthwhilethat just action is a
    good in itself, and that one ought to engage in
    just activity even when it doesnt seem to confer
    immediate advantage.
  • Aristotles Politics - Since we see that every
    city-state is a sort of community and that every
    community is established for the sake of some
    good (for everyone does everything for the sake
    of what they believe to be good), it is clear
    that every community aims at some good, and the
    community which has the most authority of all and
    includes all the others aims highest, that is, at
    the good with the most authority. This is what is
    called the city-state or political community.

  • Modern political theory.
  • Niccolo Machiavelli.
  • If we understand and plan the political actions
    we take in pursuit of our goals, we are better
    prepared to seize the political opportunities
    that arise in the normal course of political
  • Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, Weber,
  • Focused on the exercise of power between
    individuals, families, groups, communities, and
    the various levels of government.

  • The systematic study of public policy is a 20th
    century phenomenon.
  • Dates to 1922, when political scientist Charles
    Merriam sought to connect the theory and practice
    of politics to understanding the actual
    activities of government, that is, public policy.
  • Nevertheless, most of the literature on public
    policy dates back only about 50 years.

  • The study of politics is the attempt to explain
    the various ways in which power is exercised in
    the everyday world and how that power is used to
    allocate resources and benefits to some people
    and groups, and costs and burdens to other people
    and groups.

  • The study of public policy is the examination of
    the creation, by the government, of the rules,
    laws, goals, and standards that determine what
    government does or does not do to create
    resources, benefits, costs, and burdens.
  • In studying public policy, we focus on those
    decisions made (or implicitly accepted) by
    government and nongovernmental actors to address
    a problem that a significant number of people and
    groups consider to be important and in need of a

  • A major element of studying and teaching public
    policy is the reliance of policy studies on a
    broad range of the social sciences.

Table 1.1. Selected Disciplines That Study Public Policy Table 1.1. Selected Disciplines That Study Public Policy Table 1.1. Selected Disciplines That Study Public Policy Table 1.1. Selected Disciplines That Study Public Policy
Discipline Description Relationship to Public Policy Some important journals
Political Science The study of political relationships that is, the study of the processes by which societies seek to allocate political power and the benefits of such power, The political process is the process through which policies are made and enforced. American Political Science Review, American Journal of Political Science, Journal of Politics, Policy, Political Research Quarterly, Public Opinion Quarterly
Sociology Sociology is the study of social life, social change, and the social causes and consequences of human behavior. Sociologists investigate the structure of groups, organizations, and societies, and how people interact within these contexts. Community and group activities are an important part of policy making, because groups of people often form to make demands. American Sociological Review, Contemporary Sociology, Journal of Sociology
Economics The study of the allocation of resources in a community, however defined. Economists study markets and exchanges. Welfare economists seek to understand the extent to which an overall communitys welfare can be maximized. There are many economic factors that influence public policy, such as economic growth, productivity, employment, and the like. The tools of economics are often used to promote policies or to explain why policies succeed or fail. American Economic Review, Econometrica, Journal of Applied Economics, Journal of Political Economy.
Table 1.1. Selected Disciplines That Study Public Policy Table 1.1. Selected Disciplines That Study Public Policy Table 1.1. Selected Disciplines That Study Public Policy Table 1.1. Selected Disciplines That Study Public Policy
Discipline Description Relationship to Public Policy Some important journals
Public Administration The study of the management of government and nonprofit organizations, including the management of information, money, and personnel to achieve goals developed through the democratic process. The management of public programs is an integral part of the policy process. PA scholars study the motivation of program implementers and targets and help research innovations to improve service delivery. Public Administration Review, Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory
Public Policy The study of what governments choose to do or not to do, including studies of the policy process, policy implementation and impact, and evaluation. We give this label to the highly interdisciplinary study of the public policy process. Policy scholars develop theories about how the policy process works and develop tools and methods to analyze how policy is made and implemented. Journal of Policy Analysis and Management, Journal of Public Policy, Policy Studies Review, Policy Studies Journal, Journal of Policy History
  • Because the field of public policy studies is so
    new, it has yet to coalesce around a shared set
    of principles, theories, and priorities
  • For public policy to be useful, we must bridge
    the gap between what academics know and how
    practitioners and citizens use what we know to
    make better policy (or better policy arguments).

Policy Science as Applied Science
  • You may question whether policy is science, but
    science is defined as the state of knowing
    knowledge rather than ignorance or
  • The values of empirical science the number of
    teeth for men and women.

Policy Science as Applied Science
  • Anecdotal evidence versus scientific evidence
    The case of food stamps (discuss).
  • The problem with anecdotes is that they are
    little tidbits of information that are
    unsystematically gathered and that reflect the
    biases of the person relating the story.
  • Question Is the food stamp program a failure?

Policy Science as Applied Science
  • Scientific evidence (evaluation).
  • Compared to nonrecipients,
  • Participants spend a larger portion of their
    total expenditures on all food items.
  • Foods used at home by recipients have a greater
    monetary value per person and more nutrients per
  • Recipients are more likely to shop for food on a
    monthly basis, resulting in better planning and
    lower transportation costs.
  • The availability of twelve essential nutrients in
    the diet is higher for recipients.
  • One dollar increase in food stamp benefits
    increases food expenditures between 17 and 47
    cents, whereas a dollar increase in income only
    increases food expenditures 5 to 10 cents.
  • Information is
  • Peer-reviewed
  • Aggregate information rather than disconnected
  • Runs counter to common wisdom.

Policy Science as Applied Science
  • Do food stamps work? Not necessarily.
  • Difference between policy description and policy

Policy Studies as a Science
  • We can say that the careful study of public
    policy is scientific because it contributes to
    knowledge by relying on methodological rigor.
  • Policy analysts share a commitment to
    methodology, but not to any one particular method.

Policy Studies as a Science
  • Harold Lasswell argued that quantitative analysis
    and the scientific method were important elements
    of any policy science.
  • But, Lasswell recognized that you must combine
    quantitative and qualitative information.

Policy Studies as a Science
  • Lasswells recommendations for an empirically
    driven, methodologically rigorous, yet flexible
    style of policy research has served as the basis
    for policy studies in late 20th century.
  • But it is also driven by the desire to solve
  • No common paradigm. Dye lists eight theoretical
  • Most of these theories need testing.

Policy Studies as a Science
  • Theorizing is important, because they make sense
    of ambiguous evidence, and they develop concepts
    that apply to more than one case.

Science, Rationality, and the Policy Process
  • Policy analysis is an important component of
    policy sciences.
  • But researchers should keep rational analysis in
    context within the interplay of evidence, value
    and belief systems of the participants, the
    structure of the process, and the distribution of
  • Most policy analysis is not value neutral.
    Problem identification is rarely neutral, for

What Is Public Policy?
  • Attributes common to various definitions of
    public policy.
  • The policy is made in the publics name.
  • Policy is generally made or initiated by
  • Policy is interpreted and implemented by public
    and private actors.
  • Policy is what the government intends to do.
  • Policy is what the government chooses not to do.

What Is Public Policy?
Table 1.2. Defining Public Policy Table 1.2. Defining Public Policy
Definition Author
The term public policy always refers to the actions of government and the intentions that determine those actions. Clarke E. Cochran, et al.
Public policy is the outcome of the struggle in government over who gets what. Clarke E. Cochran, et al.
Whatever governments choose to do or not to do. Thomas Dye
Public policy consists of political decisions for implementing programs to achieve societal goals. Charles L. Cochran and Eloise F. Malone.
Stated most simply, public policy is the sum of government activities, whether acting directly or through agents, as it has an influence on the life of citizens. B. Guy Peters.
What Makes Public Policy Public?
  • The dominant ideological foundation of our
    constitutional system is classical liberalism.
  • John Locke.
  • Power derives from the consent of the governed.
  • Thus, government actions must be in the public
  • But people differ dramatically in what is the
    public interest.
  • Commercial interests versus environmentalists.

What Makes Public Policy Public?
  • Not even the most intense policy advocates are
    interested in every issue.
  • We delegate the power to make policies in our
    names to elected officials. However, we retain
    our interest in the outcome and our right to
    promote particular policies at any time.

Why Do We Study Public Policy?
  • To know more about the process for its own sake.
  • To know more about the process to inform
  • To learn how to promote preferred policy options.

  • Thank you
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