Policy Process

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PLS 304 – Introduction to Public Policy Analysis Mark T. Imperial Topic: The Policy Process Some basic terms and concepts − Separation of powers: federal constitution grants each branch of government specific but overlapping legal authority − Federalism: sharing of authority between a national and subnational level of government − Policy actors: many different players in the policymaking process − Policy: purposive course of action that an individual or group consistently follows in dealing with a problem. Various elements of a policy include: − Intentions: purposes of government action − Goals: stated ends to be achieved − Plans or proposals: means for achieving goals − Programs: authorized means for pursuing goals − Decisions or choices: specific actions that are taken to set goals, develop plans, and implement and evaluate programs − Effects: the effects that programs have on society, whether intended or unintended − Public policy is a course of government action or inaction in response to public problems. It is associated with formally approved policy goals and means, as well as the regulations and practices of agencies that implement programs. It is not made in a vacuum but rather is influenced by − Social and economic conditions − Prevailing political values − Public mood at any given time − Structure of government − National and local cultural norms − Policy outputs: the formal actions that government takes to pursue its goals − Policy outcomes: the effects such actions have on society − Economic rationality or rational actor model: Assumes that human beings are guided only by the prospect of individual profit or other forms of utility. Political scientists from the public choice perspective often adopt this assumption although many use a loser definition of this utility maximization function. People chose the course of action that yields the maximum net gain.

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PLS 304 – Lecture Notes

Public Policy Process

Stages of the Policy Process Initiation/Agenda Setting − Policy cycle starts when government pays serious attention to an issue − Why does government pay attention to some issues and not others? − There are always more problems than there is time or political will to address − New information does not in and of itself place an issue on the agenda. Often some sort of political propellant that attracts political sponsors and public/media attention − Focus at this stage of the process is on problem definition − Two types of agendas − Institutional, governmental, or official agenda: Those that government acts on. − Institutional agenda are those problems that legislators or public officials feel obliged to take appropriate measures − Congress, the President, or Courts can initiate official agendas at the federal level − Policy makers respond to popular demand (pluralist model) or it is set by those at the top of political/economic hierarchies (elitist model) − The governmental agenda can also be a graveyard for public problems – relatively few issues survive this stage of the process − Systemic or noninstitutional agenda: Those on which action is often delayed. − Systemic agenda are the set of issues that the political communities see as meriting attention by the public. − These issues don’t always get acted upon. This involves moving an issue to the governmental agenda – the set of items up for active and serious consideration by decisionmakers − Pluralist vs. Elitist models − Pluralist model argues that policy makers determine the institutional agenda in response to widespread popular demand. More concerned with how policy concerns reach the agenda − Issues must have the following characteristics to be elevated on institutional agendas − Specificity − Social significance − Temporal relevance – short vs. long-term relevance − Simplicity – easily understood − Categorical precedence – matters that are routine are more likely to take precedence than issues that are unique − Elitist model argues that those...
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