The policy environment comprises of four sub-environments, viz. structural, social, economic and political. The structural refers to the constitutional and traditional and legal structures comprising of the three organs of state and parties. The social environment is primarily related to demographic preferences. The economic environment relates to governmental action such as tax expenditures and transfer payments and people’s perceptions of well-being. Finally, the political environment comprises what Kingdon calls the national mood.
The major criticism of Easton’s notion of a systems model is that most depictions of this model treat the political system as a black box (whose internal workings are unexplained), rather than opening the box to understand the processes that occur within it. This is not a fatal flaw of this model, rather it has prompted analysts to attempt an opening of this box. Easton was perhaps the first to attempt a systemic view of the political system.
The policy stage moves through the stages shown on the slide.
Into this environment go inputs that create decisions and ultimately lead to outputs. It is various permutations and combinations of this model that have spawned a variety of other models some of which treat the individual actor while others treat the institution as the focus of policy making and politics.
Central to an understanding of policy making is the meaning of the “policymaking” process. The emphasis on policy making relates more to the processes than to the actual decision making. Thus structure, contexts and constraints of processes and the actual decisions and events that occur are inter-related to arrive at generalizable propositions in arriving at a framework of analysis.
All theories and models are derived from some type of framework. Frameworks provide a foundation of inquiry by defining the the social and physical landscape and thereby concentrating analysis in these areas by different types of actors. In other words frameworks serve the purpose of an outline that helps analysts to organize their inquiry. Frameworks are not intended to be prescriptive by their nature.
All the frameworks consider the individual as the motivator of action. The IAD framework most clearly specifies the individual as an actor and posits a set of general variables that structure the individual. Thus an IAD-based theory would have to identify the structure of preferences, general types of selection criteria, levels and types of information an individual is likely to possess and so on. The ACF views the individual as being structured by a hierarchically ordered set of beliefs, the ability to process information and a set of goals or preferences. Neither does the ACF require a specific model of the individual nor does the IAD require a specific model. They are like open platforms that do not impose any normative qualifying standards where a decision may or may not occur. Berry and berry’s framework presumes that a decision would be taken in any process and thus shifts the focus from the individual actor to the factors that surround their actions based upon this presumption. Hofferbert’s framework that places elite behavior at the stage preceding the policy decision stage fails to identify variables for elite behavior patterns.
The basic unit of analysis remains the individual in most of the frameworks. The IAD framework is perhaps the most explicit when it comes to defining the variables of analysis followed by ACF. However, while the IAD does not require any specific model ACF does not prescribe any specific model of the individual. Berry and Berry’s framework is based on the assumption that a state will adopt a policy and therefore examines factors that lead to the creation of such policy. It is not necessary that every policy process would culminate in a state decision. Thus the focus shifts from the individuals to the factors that condition their behavior. Hofferbert’s framework appears to be the least developed of all the frameworks. Nor has it specified any variables against which individual behavior would be measured.
The most well-developed classes of variables in the IAD framework relate to the action arena. The variables here relate to participants, their positions, their actions, the information they possess, the outcomes and the distribution of the costs and benefits of those outcomes. However, for the action situation the variables are less well-defined. Thus while rules-in-use are well-defined, the characteristics of the physical environment and the community are not. Similarly, the ACF’s variables that characterize a stable, mature policy subsystem and belief systems are carefully developed. However, characteristics of forums are yet to be incorporated in ACF. Forums could also be defined as venues in which competition and decision making occur. Hofferbert’s stage-by-stage and inter-stage analysis attempts to relate socioeconomic variables to policy outputs that, at best, tells only part of a set of events or a decision that occurs and may not be fair representation when other variables are factored in. Against this, Berry and Berry’s variables appear to be more plausible considering the consistency of interest group behavior in the US.
While the IAD and Hofferbert do not specify the unit of analysis, ACF and Berry & Berry specify the units of analysis. However, such specification is not at a micro level but a macro one. Thus the unit of analysis could be cities, organizations or countries, not necessarily the state alone. The flexibility of the policy subsystem allows sufficient flexibility to encompass highly specific policy too, eg. stream riparian protection
Only the IAD FW pays explicit attention to levels of analysis. The choice of which level to focus on remains that of the analyst. If the analyst chooses to focus on an action situation exclusively at the operational level, the collective-choice, and perhaps the constitutional choice, level is nevertheless included because the rules-in-use that structure the operational level originate from the other two levels. ACF and B&B to the contrary, have implicit levels of attention to levels. These are primarily collective-choice FWs that view policy changes over a long time span. Individual actors actions are therefore only implicit. The Hofferbert FW is primarily historical-geographic and based on socio-economic composition while the variables related to elite behavior and govt. institutions is a collective-choice one.
Policy stages by themselves do not constitute a framework. This is mainly on account of of general classes of variables or “universal elements” and general relationships among them not having been developed. Here too the IAD framework encompasses all the stages primarily due to its attention to all levels of action. It enables the analyst to capture in a series of interactive action situations the different choice levels at which decisions and actions occur. These policy stages can also be linked together. Thus the collective-action situation of the policy adoption stage could feed into the collective-action situation of the policy implementation stage as a public agency makes the rules in pursuance of its legislative mandate.. This, in turn, could be linked to the operational-level action situation of the implementation stage as the same agency applies the rules. Feedback loops could exist between the implementation operational-action situation and the implementation collective-choice situation, and between the implementation operational-action situation and the policy adoption collective-action situation. This would enable the legislature and the agency to change the operational-level rules if the outcomes were undesirable.
From the previous discussion, Schlager has compared four theories, viz, CP, AC, MS and PE
Schlager adopts Blomquist’s five fold classification because these criteria “represent essential elements of theories and of the policymaking process and provide critical points of comparison for the four theories.”
Each theory uses rationality models assuming that individuals are goal-oriented and therefore act in ways they believe make them better off. Individuals are boundedly rational and the contexts of policymaking drive this assumption. Individuals are not maximizers, rather satisficers. Thus their norms of behavior guide their search for alternatives. Such preferences may assume greater complexity as more information becomes available for individuals to act in their strategic interest. There are major variations in theory as the subsequent discussion would show.
Common pool situations are complex and often individuals may have poorly structured preferences. AS they gather information over a span of time their preferences would become more structured. Such preferences may be weighed in terms of costs and benefits that impel behavior but are not adequate milestones to enhancing the predictive capability of CP. In the case of PE too individual preferences are relatively fixed and slow to change. This theory does not explain the “internal calculation processes” of decision-making. Thus it is not possible to show how two individuals in identical situations take different decisions. Therefore the situational factors assume greater importance over individual preferences.
PE does not consider the fact that information can also be used to reframe a situation and change the choices of individuals. Newer information may lead to change in belief systems that again would alter the preferences of individuals. Thus belief systems are not static, rather they are dynamic and subject to incremental change that would have an impact on policy decision making. MS similarly emphasizes on individual choice from an array of choices present in a garbage can.
The MS theory does not pay much attention to collective action. Rather it views policy entrepreneurs as catalysts of change. PE shares this feature with MS. Instead of examining the emergence of groups and the coordinating mechanisms used to promote collective action, PE examines the “residue” of collective action such as changes in policy images and changes of venues. PE thus pays more attention to the consequences of interest and interest activity than the modes of how interests organize themselves.
AC contends that coalitions come together for policy decisions. However, this assumes a high degree of coordination between groups. Evidence adduced by Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith shows that commonality of interest between interest groups at different points in time leads to more policy changes than any planned collective action like that of a coalition. Thus change is more incremental as sub-parts of issues are decided upon at the instance of a variety of interest groups, rather than any pre-meditated coalition-based attempt at larger scale reform. Thus there is a need to define the scope of collective action. These models presume the inability of individuals to cooperate in achieving outcomes compared to individual action. To the contrary, CP explains collective action that is found in three dominant models, viz. tragedy of he commons, the prisoners’ dilemma and the logic of collective action (Ostrom, 1990). CP challenges the individual actions-centric assumptions of AC, MS and PE although it does not posit that individuals will act in concert. Rather poses a set of conditions and relations among those conditions that supports collective action and inhibits free-riding behavior. Similarly, CP des not lay much stress on individual policy entrepreneurs as substitutes for collective action. In sucm, CP focuses on the characteristics of the physical world, community and the rules-in-use to explain collective action.
The individual focus of MS is most evident in its political streams approach. Despite Zahiariadis’ combining the three variables of national mood, pressure-group campaigns an d administrative or legislative turnover into a single one of governing parties, there are several other forces that are required to be included in the political stream. Secondly, although the policy entrepreneur occupies a central position in MS yet his actions are conditioned by institutions and affects an entrepreneur’s access to and choice of strategies for joining streams. Institutional emphasis would also contribute to greater theoretical consistency rather then individual choices and preferences and enable comparison between policy communities. Apart from this is the fact that study of institutions would show how different processes within institutions affect the coupling of streams. Once a standardized set of principles is arrived at for institutional structure, cross-policy comparisons would become possible.
AC conceptualizes institutions at a macro level only. If as B&J argue that in a system of positive feedback, relatively small events can produce relatively large system wide changes, it follows that both macro-level processes and macro-level outcomes are factored into the analysis. In other words, here too the emphasis needs to shift to institutions. Schlager suggests that the IAD framework may be good place to start with since it would help identify the rules and changes in rules and thereby enable standardized cross-policy comparisons. While CP treats institutions at a micro-level it comes up with innumerable rules that give rise to problems of appropriate rule configuration for analysts. There are presently no meta rules to guide an analyst who then has to depend only oh his judgment.
AC, MS and PE all speak of major change in a system and move on the assumption that major decisions would be taken in a system arising from various pressures. However, the identification of major and minor change has nowhere been quantified. This assumes greater importance when one considers the fact that a minor change for one subsystem may be a major change for another subsystem, even with the same system. In effect the definition of change and that of subsystem are flawed.
MS confines itself to analyzing pre-decision processes in the policy-making process. It relies on agenda setting and the specification of policy alternatives as the primary DVs and seeks to explain these with exogenous IVs. In the absence of a clear definition of any of the streams, analysis perhaps becomes unsystematic and individualized to analyzing a specific policy rather than evolving broad generalizable propositions for cross-policy analysis. PE has an approach similar to that of MS except that the DV of agenda setting is explained by IVs of interest group activity, mass mobilizations, media images, etc.
AC is marginally ahead of MS and PE in that the unit of analysis is the decision. The DV, policy decisions emerging from a subsystem is explained by AC activity and exogenous events. AC relies primarily on case studies. However, so far such case studies have not been developed further into generalizable propositions.
Although mainly incrementalist in its outlook, CP has perhaps had the greatest measure of success in prediction relative to MS, PE and AC. The primary reason for this success stems from the IAD framework that helps explain a specific action situation in which a given set of rules or policies are implemented and evaluated. While it is able to explain an action situation, it is equally able to explain the origins of operational level rules-in-use, i.e. policy implementation stage. In its emphasis on implementation and evaluation lies the significance of CP over the other theories.
PA 763 Kristen O’Donovan & Shantanu Basu 21 st March 2007 Models of the Policy Process
The Policy Frameworks Overview & Comparison PA 763 Shantanu Basu 21 st March 2007
The Pioneer Model – David Easton Policy Environment Structural Social Economic Political Government Parties Legislature Demographics Transfer paytts Tax expend. National mood
Easton’s Systems Theory Inputs Election results Public opinion Communications to elected officials Media coverage of issues Personal experiences of decision makers THE POLITICAL SYSTEM or The Black Box Translates inputs to outputs. Environments influence policy making and politics Outputs Laws Regulations Decisions Adapted from Birkland, Thomas, A. (2005): Introduction to the Policy Process. ME Sharpe, New York. P. 202
The Policy Stages Issue emergence Agenda setting Alternative selection Enactment Implementation Evaluation F e e d b a c k Adapted from Birkland, Thomas, A. (2005): Introduction to the Policy Process. ME Sharpe, New York. P. 225
Inputs and Outputs Inputs 1. Voting 2. National opinion 3. Communications 4. Mass Media 5. Interest Groups Decisions 1. Rational Comprehensive 2. Incrementalism & Bounded Rationality 3. Garbage Can 4. Organizational Process & Governmental Politics
General variables and the relations between them not developed for any policy stage
IAD alone encompasses all stages primarily due to attention to levels of action
Interactive policy stage action situations dovetail into collective-choice that, in turn, fits into implementation with constant feedback between levels that again, would affect operational-level rules
ACF focused on initiation, estimation and selection, i.e. policymaking
PI and Hofferbert relate primarily to policy adoption or selection, i.e. policy adoption