Public policy theory primer Presentation Transcript
Public Policy Theory Primer K. Smith & C. LarimerPublic Policy as a Concept and a Field (or Fields) of Study David Lockard
Question in Article• Is there an academic field (discipline)of Public Policy? – No single academic discipline – No defining research question – No fundamental problem – No unifying theory, conceptual framework, no unique analytical tools• If derivative (derived from)- not a focus of scholarly study in and of itself? – Policy economist – Policy political scientist• Can we stitch different fields into one cloth?
Public Policy is “whatevergovernments choose to do or not to do” (Dye 1987) Definition of Public Policy
Other Definitions of Public Policy• “The relationship of governmental unit to its environment” (Eyestone 1971)• The actions, projections, or pronouncements of governments on particular matters, the steps they take (or fail to take) to implement them, and the explanations they give for what happens (or does not happen). (Wilson 2006)
Narrow Definition of Public Policy• Purposive course of action or inaction undertaken by an actor or a set of actors in dealing with a problem or matter of concern (Anderson 1994)
Common Characteristics of PP Theodoulou (1995)• Policy is not random• Made by public authorities• Patterns of actions over time• Product of demand• Either purposive action/inaction• Government-directed course of action in response to pressure• Distinct purposes
Distinct Purposes• Resolving conflict over scarce resources• Regulating behavior• Motivating collective action• Protecting rights• Directing benefits towards the public interests
General Agreement Public Policy includes:• Process of making choices and the outcomes/actions of a particular decision• Choices backed by coercive power of state• Response to a perceived problem• (Birkland 2001)
Babel of Tongues• Confusion of sounds & noise• Talk past each other rather than to one another• Lack of agreement on what policy scholars are actually studying• Key reason field is intellectual fractured• Lack of agreement on definition of concept
Defining the Field(s) of Public PolicyCan’t clearly define concept maybe define the field(s)?
Defining the Field(s) of Public policy• Lack of general agreement on concept• Results in various disciplines with policy orientations adopting their own definition• Not a field of policy study but fields of policy study.• Policy scholars are free to jump fences depending on question at hand.• Instead of defining core concept define field(s) of study?
Defining the Field of Policy Studies (Policy Sciences)• Any research that relates to or promotes the public interest (Palumbo 1981)• Application of knowledge and rationality to perceived social problems (Dror 1968)• “…examination of critical social problems” (P.delon 1988)
Elements of the Field of Policy Study• Indentifying important societal problems (require government action)• Formulating solutions• Assessing impact on target problem
Range of Subfields of Policy Studies Developed independently• Policy Evaluation• Policy Analysis• Policy Process
Policy Evaluation• Ex Post-after the fact of action or inaction• OMG what have we done?• Assess the consequences of government action or inaction• Causal relationship (Cause and Effect)• Policy/Program and Outcome
Policy Analysis• Ex ante-before the fact of action or inaction• What should we do?• Best policy for particular problem• Decision rule-efficiency and effectiveness?
Policy Process• Policy making process• How and why of policy making?• Agenda setting-Why pay attention to a particular problem but not others?• Why policy changes or not over time?• Where does policy come from?
Advantages of Taxonomy Approach to Policy Studies• Subfields have rich intellectual history• Each with own framework• Clarifies a series of RQs for the field as a whole (Public Policy Studies)
RQ for Public Policy: Policy Process (PP), Analysis(PA), Evaluation(PE)• How does government decide which problem to pay attention to? (PP)• How does government decide what to do about a problem? (PP)• What values should government use to determine “best” response? (PA)• What are the intended results of action? (PA)• Have results been achieved? Why not? (PE)
So What Links Policy Fields?• RQ & CF are important means• improving the lot of society• Better understand the human condition
The Policy Sciences A Very Short History ofthe Field of Policy Studies
Students of Policy Since Antiquity• Advisers• Plato-the Republic• Machiavelli-The Prince• Political thinkers: Hobbes, Locke, Madison, A. Smith, Mill
Field of Public Policy Studies• Harold Lasswell (1940-1978)-grand vision for Policy Sciences (expert on propaganda)• Connect social sciences with policymaking• The Policy Orientation (1951) foundational article (goals, method, purposes)
Lasswell’s Concept of Public Policy• Policy-most important choices made in organized or private life.• Public Policy-response to the most important choices faced by government.• Policy Science-discipline to clarify & inform those choices & assess their impact.
Lasswell’s Distinguishing Characteristics of the Policy Sciences• Problem Oriented• Multidisciplinary• Methodologically sophisticated• Theoretically sophisticated• Value Oriented
Problem Oriented• Focused on major problems and issues faced by government• Formation, adoption, execution, & assessment of particular choices• Key focus-not on particular stage of policymaking (analysis, evaluation, process)• RQ1: What should we do to best address the problem?• RQ2: How should we do it?• RQ3: How do we know what we’ve done?
Multidisciplinary• Use all disciplines whose models, methods and findings could contribute to address the problem.
Methodologically Sophisticated• Advances in economic forecasting, psychometrics, and measurement of attitudes-helped government make effective decisions.• Quantitative methods
Theoretically sophisticated• Understand cause and effect in the real world• Interaction of social, economic, political systems• Conceptual framework required• Sophisticated theoretical models• Explain how and why things happen in larger world of human relations
Value Oriented• Policy sciences of democracy• Maximize democratic values• Realization of human dignity in theory and fact
Lasswell’s Vision• Similar to field of medicine-subspecialties- problem oriented• Policy science was to fill the gap between academics and politics• Like a doctor that diagnoses an illness• Understand causes and implications• Recommend treatment• Evaluate impact• Based on scientific grounded training
Hippocratic Oath of MD• Overarching goal or purpose of policy scientist – Greater good – General betterment of humanity• (first, do no harm)-not exactly
The Fracturing of the Policy Sciences Problem with Laswell’s vision
Contradictions in Laswell’s Vision• Elitism v. Democracy• Science v. Politics• Facts v. Values
Internal Contradictions in Vision• Elitism v. Democracy• Active role of expert scientist diagnosing and treating body politic• Passive role of citizen-the ultimate source of sovereign power• Science v. Politics or Facts v. Values• Science (objective, independent of observer, empirical analysis solves debate, subject to universal laws)• Politics (subjective perception, perception is reality, based on faith or belief, held by social units, no correct values) Values can & do dominate science-economics
Contradictions Fractured Field of Policy Studies into Fields• Policy evaluation studies• Policy analysis studies• Policy process studies
Common Root of Fields• Methodology• Cost-Benefit Analysis• Quantitative Analysis• Heroic assumptions
Common Root of Fields (Quantitative Methodology) Has Problems• Cost-benefit analysis-placing a dollar value on human life• Spotty historical record of number crunchers (wars, poverty, energy)• Academicians wary of normative values.• Politicians wary of value-free regression analysis
Central criticism of policy studies• piggyback other fields• borrowing conceptual framework without reciprocating• policy scholars are jack of all trades, master of none• No such thing as field of policy studies• A field needs a theory-broad conceptual framework-has none
No General Theoretical Framework for the Policy Sciences Why Build, When You Can Beg, Borrow & Steal
Two options for Policy Studies• ad hoc-make sense of complexity -use what works -assume what your must in given situation• Science –assumptions-highly complex world of public policymaking-set of causal relationships-base model on broad assumptions (economics)
Criticism overblown• Policy scholars constructed many conceptual frameworks-distributed• Produced functional theories within wide range of policy orientations• Produced core research questions, resulting in CF & impact on world
Conclusions• No general definition of concept- yet.• Not defined with degree of specificity-yet• But a lot of interest in topic• Activities of scholars reveal more differences than similarities• View field in plural with rough coherence• Starts with central RQ or set of explanatory frameworks to guide systematic search for answers
Field of Study RQ CF Methodology DisciplinePolicy Process 1)Why pay Bounded Quantitative Political Sc. attention to Rationality Economics some problems Multiple but not others? Streams 2)How are Punctuated policy options Equilibrium formulated Diffusion 3)Why does Theory policy change Systems TheoryPolicy Analysis 1)What should Welfare Quantitative PA we do? economics- Quantitative 2)What options- utilitarianism C-B Analysis problem Risk 3)which choice Assessment DelphiPolicy 1)What have we Program Theory Qualitative PAEvaluation done? Research Quantitative 2)what impact? Design Stats Frameworks Expert