Policy-making

Policies

Policies - the outputs of political systems. They are statements of what a gov. intends to do and not do. Can be in different forms: laws, rules, regulations. They link outcomes, policy instruments and problems. 

Public policies - more specifically refer to a series of actions carried out to solve societal problems (Newton and van Deth, 2010). Serve as the main outputs of a political system. 

Policy instruments - techniques of governance intended to achieve political outcomes which will further help to reach the goals of public policy. 

 

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Agenda-setting

Agenda-setting - the identification of a societal problem and its placement on the political agenda. 

Different ways the agenda can be set:

  • Systemic agenda - all societical problems seen by public officials and political actors as demanding public attention.
  • Action agenda - problems that are up for serious/ active consideration by decision-makers.

The policy agenda can be set by different actors:

  • Public officials (executive, parliament)
  • Bureaucracy (Niskanen, 1971, argued that bureaucrats can impose their preferred polices upon a passive legislature)
  • Mass media (priming + framing)
  • Interest groups (compete against each other to have an influence over the policy agenda)
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Stages of the policy cycle

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Implementation and evaluation

Implementation - the conversion of new laws into practice. There is often a gap between the passing of new legislation and its actual implementation. Quality of implementation depends on:

  • Policy type - can make it more difficult to implement
  • Resources available for implementation
  • Federal or unitary state - vertical implementation involves bodies of national gov interacting with different sub-national govs and can make it more difficult

Evaluation - the study of a policy to measure its efficiency and effectiveness. Must determine whether a policy has achieved its intended goals. Often carried out by experts who have knowledge of the issue. Provides a feedback loop which will identify new problems and set in motion the policy-making process again.    

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Policy formulation and adoption

Policy formulation - the defining, discussion, acceptance or rejection of certain courses of action for dealing with policy problems. Concerned with the development of alternatives of action. 

Policy adoption - the formal acceptance of a policy. Determined by a number of factors:

  • The expected costs/ benefits of each policy under consideration
  • Decision-makers preferences, party affiliations, their constituents' interests
  • Formal rules of the game: state organisation, federal or unitary, idea of 'veto players' e.g. in French system, 'divided gov' (one of the legisltive chambers is held by a party that doesn't hold the presidency) can impede policy adoption - there are few incentives for cooperation 
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Framing

The role of cognitive and normative frames:

  • Cognitive frames - schemas through which actors view and interpret the world
  • Normative frames - values and attitudes that shape actors' views

Normative and cognitive frames can both enable and constrain policy-making.

How a question is framed can affect a person's response e.g. Rasinski (1989):

If asked about spending on 'welfare', only 20% of Americans said too little was being spent.

If asked about 'assistance to the poor', 65% said too little was being spent. 

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Policy convergence, diffusion and transfer

Policy convergence - an increase in the similarity between one or more charactersitics of a certian policy across a number of political jurisdictions (supranational institutions, states, regions). Relates closley to the sociological idea of isomorphism - process of homogenization that forces one jurisdiction to resemble others that have similar environmental conditions. 

Policy diffusion - the analysis of the spread of interdependent policy choices made across and within political systems. Mainly affects the stage of agenda-setting, less policy formulation. Many factors affect whether a policy is adopted: values, party affiliation, constituents' interests, as well as whether the country from which the policy originates is culturally similar. 

Policy transfer - the analysis of the processes by which the policies, administrative arrangements, and institutions of one political system can influence another political system. 

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