Public Policy

David Easton defines public policy as the ‘outputs’ of the political system and public policy as “the authoritative allocation of values for the whole society.” Public policies are the policies adopted and implemented by Government bodies and officials.

Thomas Dye says “public policy is whatever Government chooses to do or not to do”. Policies may take various forms such as legislation, executive orders, or others official acts

Why do we study public policy?

  1. To know why particular decisions are made. Why did so many governments decide to ‘bail out’ the banks, rather than let them fold, after the economic crisis in 2008? Why did many governments ‘privatize’ their industries and introduce private sector ideas to the public sector from the 1980s ? Why did President Obama pursue healthcare reforms in the in 2009?
  2. We study theories of public policy because we recognize that there are many different answers to above questions. These answers are based on different perspectives.
    1. We can focus on individual policymakers, examining how they analyse and understand policy problems. We can consider their beliefs and how receptive they are to particular ideas and approaches to the problem.
    2. We can focus on institutions and the rules that policymakers follow.
    3. We can identify the powerful groups that influence how policies are made.
    4. We can focus on the socio-economic context and consider the pressures that governments face when making policy.

Take for example: Many developed countries had few policies on tobacco in 1950 but now have comprehensive tobacco controls which include high taxes and bans on smoking in public places. Explanation:

  1. There was a long-term process of reinforcement: the institution responsible for policy changed (the Department of Health has replaced the Treasury)
  2. there was a shift in the beliefs of policymakers and their understanding of the problem (earlier treated as economic good >> now ‘health problem’) balance of power between tobacco companies and public health groups shifted because of public opinion in favour of tobacco control rose and  Policy approach or policy analysis
    1. Policy analysis is analysis of policy, used by policymakers to better understand and make decisions. It is based on the thinking that social problems could find their solution through the application of human reason and knowledge.
    2. Harold Laswell – Policy Approach
      1. He was the first to model the policy process in terms of stages
      2. He attempted to establish a multidisciplinary and prescriptive (and normative) policy science and gave a 7 stage policy process – intelligence, promotion, prescription, invocation, application, termination and appraisal.
  1. Policy Process – Agenda Setting; Issue Networks; Advocacy Framework
    1. Foundational to the notion of the policy sciences is the problem orientation, the assumption that public policy is a solution-oriented response to major social problems.
      1. What problems should government pay attention to? Who decides what a problem is and whether it merits government attention and action? When and why do policies change?
    2. agenda setting is “the process by which information is prioritized for action, and attention allocated to some problems rather than others”
    3. So who does get to decide what topics are important enough for the government to address?
      1. The pluralist theoretical tradition in political science suggests that the policy process is mainly a competition among organized groups that account for all interests, each vying to get the government to pay attention to its problems or concerns.
      2. Iron triangle theorists argue that the Congress, the bureaucracy, and special interest groups form an unbreakable triad, offering ideas and policy solutions with narrow benefits at the expense of the public interest.
  • The power of iron triangles to control policy agendas, however, has also come under fire and in the late 1970s and early 1980s, scholars revised the notion of the iron triangle.
  1. Subsystems theory suggests policy process had become decentralized and fragmented, allowing for informal alliances in the policymaking process. It emphasized the role of public and private organizations, including think tanks, research institutes, interest groups, and ordinary citizens.
  2. Subsystems theory is based on the view that policy proposals emerge from multiple access points in the political system.
    1. Hugh Heclo (issue networks) was one of the first to talk about sub-systems. He said if iron triangle is the only source of public policy, how do new policy proposals emerge? How can the iron triangle explain rapid change in public policy? Heclo noticed a tremendous increase in intergovernmental lobbies coupled with a rise in the role of state governments in public policymaking and also involvement of interest groups.
    2. For Heclo, the political system was highly fragmented and much more dynamic than suggested by iron triangle scholars.
    3. Heclo’s research (1978) coined two important terms relevant to agenda-setting scholars: “issue networks” and “technopols.”
    4. Heclo suggested instead of the tight-knit policy groups within government acting as the sole administrators of public policy, there had been a significant increase in informal alliances among interest groups, public and private organizations, and ordinary citizens. These groups tended to coalesce around certain issues to form autonomous policy subunits that exerted considerable influence on the policymaking process. Because of their mutual interest in a particular policy arena, Heclo labeled such groups “issue networks.”
    5. Within issue networks, those with specialized, technical knowledge of the policy at hand tend to wield the most power. Heclo refers such individuals as “technopols” and maintains that the process of policymaking occurs at the level of policy specialists.
    6. The emergence of issue networks run by technopols has splintered the connection between policymakers and citizens. While responsibility for public policy is being pushed away from the federal government and iron triangle politics, the overreliance on technopols pulls the policymaking process further away from ordinary citizens. This highlights one of the drawbacks of Heclo’s subsystems theory for democratic politics.
    7. Yet these frameworks do not necessarily support a pluralist model of the policy process. In these frameworks, elites—the technopols, still exercise a disproportionate share of indirect power.
  3. Hamm criticised Heclo’s sub-system theory and said it was more similar to the iron triangle and that setting controlled by elites – ‘technopols’.
  4. Paul Sabatier and his colleagues maintained that the policy process was indeed a dynamic and ongoing process, with multiple participants from diverse backgrounds.
    1. Similar to Heclo, Sabatier (1988) argued that the iron triangle of politics is highly permeable and often unpredictable. Multiple participants are able to wield power throughout the policy process. This stands in direct contrast to traditional iron triangle scholars as well as Easton’s (1965) stages model, which describes the policy process as a predictable and repeated pattern among a select group of actors.
    2. To explain the sub-system theory Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith (1999), developed the “advocacy coalition framework.”
      1. policy process and policy change are best characterized as a slew of policy subsystems interacting throughout the policy process.
      2. Advocacy coalitions, like issue networks, represent groups with shared beliefs.
      3. These coalitions tend to consist of legislators, interest groups, public agencies, policy researchers, journalists, and indeed many other subnational actors who wield tremendous influence in the policy process.
      4. Subsystems or advocacy coalitions are not static or monolithic creatures. Rather, such groups continually update their beliefs, adapting to changes in the political and socioeconomic environment. This is called “policy-oriented learning.”
    3. So in conclusion we know that policy proposals come from issue-centric subsystems characterized by one or more advocacy coalitions.
  5. Environmental factors in policy making
    1. The policy environment may represent what policymakers take into account when identifying problems and deciding how to address them.
    2. Economy, political system’s size, demographic, institutions, rules and procedures, pressure groups, ideas, ideologies etc
    3. Hofferbert’s Funnel of Causality
      2. least four types of context feed into ‘elite behaviour’ – narrow exit hole out of which pours policy outputs.
        1. that historic-geographic conditions contribute to the socio-economic composition of a region,
          1. climate and nature of local resources influence the population density, nature of employment and levels of prosperity of many regions (oil, fish etc)
        2. socio-economic composition of a region contributes to ‘mass political behavior’ such as voter turnout
        3. mass political behavior determines the fortunes of parties
        4. all three above combine with government institutions influences elite behaviour
      3. policy process, far from being a rational weighing up of alternatives, is driven by powerful socioeconomic forces that set the agenda, structure decision makers choices, constrain implementation and ensure that the interests of the most powerful determine the outputs and outcomes of the political system.
      4. Thomas Dye and Lowi rejected the idea that policy outcomes are solely determined by individual and group action. They said socio-economic factors puts pressure on policy makers.
      5. Systems theory cybernetics model – Further, systems theories portray the process as a cycle rather than a straight line: socio economic variables influence outcomes, but the decisions made and the policy impact feed back to the policy environment.
      6. Criticism of Easton’s systems theory model of policy making
        1. assumes a sole, central decision maker; it does not account for the multi-level and multi-organizational nature of political systems
        2. it assumes that interests are relatively fixed; it does not account for the role of ideas and persuasion, or the ability for policymakers to make different decisions when problems are redefined and new interests are identified
      7. ‘globalisation’ phenomenon is the most recent of the environmental forces which describes the diminished ability of governments to control their own economic and monetary policies. Governments appear to be forced to compete economically, react to widespread shifts and crises in international financial conditions and change to attract business from multi-national corporations (often by reducing corporation taxes and labour regulations).
    4. Marxist account of policymaking
      1. structure of government and public policy is so devoted to protecting the capitalist system of economic production
      2. business or economic interests tend to have a privileged position within the policy process
      3. role of elites in powerful positions in government and the relationships they share with business elites
      4. business provides an incentive for policy makers to cooperate, either by presenting a key source of campaign funding or a source of employment in the future. consequence is that government actors forge close networks with representatives of business, ensuring that while the latter do not rule directly, they dominate access to policymaking at the expense of other interests.
      5. argument with the recognition that it is in the interests of most governments or policymakers to ensure that the capitalist system runs smoothly, since this provides employment for its voters and government income through taxes.


  1. policy succession
    1. much government policy results from the choices made by former policymakers in the past
    2. policymakers inherit a huge government with massive commitments
    3. Most policy decisions are based on legislation which already exists
    4. current policymakers choose to ‘uphold the laws of the land’ before making new ones and the effect of their new policy choices is rather small in comparison to the sum of government activity
    5. policy often represents its own cause – said Wildavsky
      1. output of policy 1 is input for policy 2 as lessons learned in the past form the basis for choices in the future.
      2. Policy succession is ‘the replacement of an existing policy, program or organization by another’
  • Policy succession due to huge governments inherited from past. most of new policies based on legislations in past. size and scope of the state is so large that there are few issues in which it is not already involved in some way.
  1. bounded rationality and incrementalism
  2. existing policy is often ‘its own cause’ (Wildavsky) the implementation of policy often throws up problems that command the time of policymakers.
  3. level of existing commitments are high and there is little scope to increase tax income (through growth or higher taxes) to fund new programmes
  1. Succession is generally more likely than innovation because the conditions for the introduction of policy are already in place: the issue already has legitimacy because it has been addressed by government in the past; primary legislation may not be necessary; the resources for a service delivery institution have already been provided, and policy has an established clientele.
  2. More significant innovations require not only a process to establish public and legislative legitimacy, but also policy termination to reduce costs before committing new resources. Policy termination has immediate financial costs, may produce the perception of policy failure, and may be opposed by interest groups, clients and the organizations that depend on the policy to survive.
  1. Power in public policy
    1. Power may be concentrated (in hands of few elites) or dispersed
    2. Powerful groups often maintain their position by minimizing attention to certain issues. Policy change requires attention from policymakers and other interested participants but such attention is a rare commodity: a policymaker can only consider so many issues, a newspaper can contain only a handful of headlines and the public only small lasting attention to politics.
    3. Power is exercised to make sure that important issues do not arrive at the top of the policy agenda by following ways:
      1. Issues are portrayed as not worthy of high-level or widespread attention.
        1. Can be portrayed as issues that were once important but have now been solved, with only the technical and unimportant issues of implementation to address.
        2. can be described as private issues that the government should not become involved in
      2. issues can be ‘crowded out’ of the policy agenda by other issues that command more attention
  • rules and procedures of government can be manipulated to make sure that proponents of certain issues find it difficult to command policymaker attention.
  1. ideals of comprehensive rationality and policy cycles both suggest that power should be held centrally, perhaps because central policymakers are elected and implementers are not.
  1. Lowi and policy making
    1. This was a significant thesis on analysing the policy process
    2. Lowi gave four types of policies – regulatory, distributive, redistributive, and constituent.
  1. Each policy type represents an ‘arena of power’. Each policy creates a certain expectation among actors and this expectation determines the type of political relationship between the actors. So if one knows the policy type it is possible to predict the nature of political interaction between the actors.
  • Criticism of Lowi’s typology
    1. A persistent criticism of Lowi’s typology of policies is that it is difficult to assign policies to just one category.
    2. increasing tax on cigerettes – regulatory, redistributive ??
    3. Lowi’s model is too simplistic; it ignores the complexity of the policy process, namely that multiple actors will tend to view a particular policy through multiple lenses.
  1. Bachrach and Baratz – non decision making
    1. argue that the ‘dominant group’ manipulates the values of society and the procedures of government to ensure that the grievances of ‘subordinate groups’ are not aired.
    2. Schattschneider’s ‘mobilization of bias’ takes place
  2. Rational model of policymaking also called Synoptic model of policymaking
  1. Rational problem solving was the Enlightenment’s answer to the increasingly complex social problems and interactions created by slowly emerging demands for political emancipation and by the combined effects of industrialisation, urbanization and population growth.
  2. At the centre of the problem solving process would be the intellectual or expert. Roots in Plato’s philosopher’s king.
  3. This model had optimistic view of the man’s intellectual capabilities.
  4. Assumptions made:
    1. power of the ‘centre’ to cause policy change, either as a single-decision maker, a ‘core-executive’ or governing organization.
    2. Organizations can separate values (required by policymakers to identify their aims) from facts (required by organizations to assess the best way to achieve those aims) when researching policy.
  • Organizations and policymakers can produce consistent policy preferences, and rank them, to help maximize societal gain.
  1. Policy is made in a linear and staged manner –
    1. policy aims are identified in terms of the values of the policymaker (agenda setting)
    2. all means to achieve those aims are identified
    3. best means are selected
    4. implementation
    5. evaluation
  2. Decision process is based on non-partisan, scientific analysis that is not contaminated by ethical issues. Decision making is comprehensive – all relevant factors and possibilities have been explored, and all theories regarding how the policy process works have been considered
  3. Harold Laswell tried to build such scientific policy analysis which was based on scientific knowledge.
  4. Criticism:
    1. Simon – bounded rationality
    2. Lindbloom – problem of uncertanity (limited info and complex decision environment) and multiplicity of decision makers(conflicting interests and shared power).
  • policy process is not necessarily linear and it is difficult to separate the policy cycle into discrete stages. Garbage Can is the most significant departure from linear model.
  1. Lindbloom’s theory of incrementalism
    1. Was descriptive
      1. It showed evidence of the policy process that decision makers did not look far and wide for policy solutions
      2. Showed their values limited their search and their decisions reflected decisions taken in the past.
    2. Was normative
      1. Argued that more limited searches for policy solutions were efficient and less dispiriting.
      2. Showed existing policy represented a negotiated settlement between competing interests; therefore radical change would be inappropriate.
    3. Incremental model was critical of rational model
    4. Said, fact/value cannot be so neatly differentiated.
    5. Balance of power within org has to be considered
    6. politics is about trade-off
    7. Policymaking is a costly affair
    8. policymakers are often reactive and react to react to events or solve problems caused by previous polices rather than devote the required time to major new policy initiatives.
    9. It said bounded rational policymakers are much more likely to introduce incremental policy changes – based on learning from past experience and addressing the unintended consequences of previous decisions – than introducing major new policy initiatives.
    10. Lindbloom says analysis is not comprehensive rather organizations analyse the effects of incremental change and ignore many important possible outcomes, alternative policies, theories and values. As a result, we can no longer equate ‘good’ policy with its adherence to the values of policymakers. The test of ‘good’ policy shifts from its ability to satisfy wider policy objectives, to whether or not it commands agreement within the wider political system.
    12. Lindbloom’s partisan mutual adjustment is NOT based on any compromise where all parties “lose some and win some”. Instead it is based on discussion, bargaining and reciprocity (based on Follett’s notion of reciprocity, circular response and integrative solutions).
      1. Lindbloom’s partisan mutual adjustment is inspired by Adam smith’s “invisible hand of market”. So just like actors in market system seek out mutually beneficial exchanges, actors in government seek out areas of agreement. Important thing is that motivating force in both is self interest.
    13. Criticism of Lindbloom’s incrementalism
      2. Incrementalism lacks goal orientation
        1. Kenneth boulding says that “just because we cannot see the whole way before us .. does not mean that we should never invest in a better lamp..”
        2. Incrementalism would lead to blind policy choices
        3. Tullock says – incrementalism disregards long terms outcomes
  • Incrementalism was biased in favour of elites.
  1. Incrementalism represents complacent acceptance of imperfections
  2. Dror says it reflects pro-inertia and anti-innovation.
    1. He said Lindblom’s normative thesis only holds if three conditions are met:
      1. existing policy is broadly satisfactory;
      2. the nature of the policy problem has not changed significantly
      3. there have been no significant advances in the means to solve problems
    2. While these conditions hold during periods of social stability, they are not met: in newly developing states seeking to throw off the inheritance of an occupied past, during periods of crisis, when attitudes change dramatically (such as when governments changed their approach to poverty or race); and when new technology requires change.
  3. Lindbloom’s defence – Incrementalism should not necessarily be equated with continuity and stability. If policymakers are inherently risk averse, they may be less likely to select radical policy choices but more likely to select options which may appear conservative but have a significant cumulative effect.
  1. Bounded rationality
    1. Because of
      1. limited resources, time and cognitive abilities which results in incomplete search for knowledge
      2. the inability of organizations to separate facts from values
  • unclear and conflicting political objectives
  1. a non-linear decision- making process
  1. Simon says organizations ‘satisfice’, or seek solutions which are ‘good enough’, while Lindbloom says policymakers bargain with other actors and take policy decisions by making ‘successive limited comparisons’ and taking incremental policy steps. Lindblom advocates this approach because it reduces the chances of governments making big mistakes that are relatively difficult to reverse, and ensures that they do not use their resources – including political will – unwisely.
  2. How do modern theories conceptualize bounded rationality? Is incrementalism inevitable?
    1. Above was Lindbloom’s descriptive aspect of incrementalism. But his normative argument that incrementalism does and should happen produce by far the most debate.
    2. Debate got tied up with question on pluralism and political inertia.
  • The identification of bounded rationality is a fundamental part of most contemporary theories of public policy
  1. The sheer size of government necessitates breaking policy down into more manageable issues involving a smaller number of interested and knowledgeable participants. Therefore, most public policy is conducted primarily through specialist policy communities which process ‘technical’ issues at a level of government not particularly visible to the public or Parliament, and with minimal ministerial involvement.
  2. Ministers rely on their officials for information and advice. For specialist issues, those officials rely on specialist organizations. Organizations trade information, advice and other resources. These specialists org. also helps in implementation of policy.
  3. Therefore, we are unlikely to witness the types of radical policy shift often associated with a change of government.
  • Policy succession – Most policy decisions are based on legislation which already exists and the bulk of public expenditure is spent on government activities. Policy succession is always more likely than innovation and termination.
  • Path dependence suggests that when a commitment to a policy has been established and resources devoted to it, over time it becomes increasingly costly to choose a different path; the existing path demonstrates ‘increasing returns’.
  1. Multi-level governance – multiplicity of power centres and authority. This theme of power diffusion is extended by studies of implementation. Although legislation is made at the ‘top’, it is influenced heavily by the street level bureaucrats who deliver it.
    1. Since they are subject to an immense range of (often unclear) requirements laid down by regulations at the top, they are powerless to implement them all successfully. Instead, they establish routines and use rules of thumb to satisfy a proportion of central government objectives while preserving a sense of professional autonomy necessary to maintain morale. Therefore, radical policy change at the top may translate into incremental change at the bottom.
  2. links between bounded rationality and non-incremental change
    1. punctuated equilibrium theory shows that political systems produce incremental and radical change
    2. Bounded rational policymakers have limited resources (including time, knowledge and attention) and cannot deal with all policy problems. So they ignore most and promote a few to the top of their agenda. By ‘reframing’ issues, policy actors can draw the attention of policymakers to new ways of looking at (and solving) old problems. When successful, this produces a process of ‘positive feedback’, in which policymakers pay disproportionate attention to the issue.
  • In Kingdon’s 3 streams model it is suggested that Radical change may follow a window of opportunity and policy continuity is because the three streams dont open up at the same time and not necessarily because of bounded rationality.
  1. Kingdon’s multiple streams analysis
    1. This model suggests that radical policy change happens only when a ‘window of opportunity’ opens and three independent streams come together – problems, policies and politics.
    2. In most cases policy does not change radically because
      1. a policy problem does not receive enough attention
      2. an adequate idea or solution is not available
  • policymakers are not receptive to the idea
  1. Yet, in many cases these streams do come together
    1. a new or reframed problem gains attention
    2. solution gains currency within the policy community
  • policymakers have the motive and opportunity to translate the idea into policy
  1. garbage can model of organizational choice
    1. Cohen’s concept of ‘organized anarchy’ is polar opposite of rational decision making.
    2. This model is centered on the concept of “organized anarchies” – organizations that share three general characteristics: problematic references, fluid participation, and unclear technology.
    3. People routinely move in and out of organizations or organizational subunits and thus rarely understand the organization’s purpose or their role within the organization.
    4. Various participants work autonomously to provide independent solutions to similar problems.
    5. In the process, ideas are jumbled together with solutions actually searching for problems, rather than the reverse, as would be suggested by the stages model of public policy or the rational-comprehensive model.
    6. According to the garbage can model, policy entrepreneurs learn by trial and error regarding alternative selection. The end result is that both problems and solutions are “dumped” into the policymaking garbage can.
  2. Punctuated Equilibrium (PE)
    1. Baumgartner and Jones – According to punctuated equilibrium theory, political systems can be characterised as both stable and dynamic. Most policies stay the same for long periods while some change very quickly and dramatically. Or, policy change in a particular area may be incremental for decades, only to be followed by profound change which sets an entirely new direction for policy in the future. The aim of punctuated equilibrium theory is to explain these long periods of policy stability punctuated by short but intense periods of change.
    3. Key concepts of PE are:
      1. Bounded rationalityPolicymakers cannot consider all problems and their solutions at all times. They ignore most and promote few to the top of their agenda.
      2. Framing – Groups compete to influence how a problem is framed (understood, defined, categorized and measured). It may be framed as a problem that has largely been solved and hence minimise decision maker’s attention or framed as a crisis which should generate widespread attention and immediate action.
  • Power and agenda setting– Some groups try to maintain their privileged position by minimizing attention to the policy solutions which benefit them. Others seek to expand attention, to encourage new audiences and participants, to generate debate and new action.
  1. policy monopoly by framing the issue in a particular way. At first this may involve the argument that the policy problem has largely been solved, with only the implementation to be addressed. Then, the issue may be portrayed as dull, to minimise external interest, or as technical, requiring a certain level of expertise, to exclude other actors. Group-government relations take place beyond the public spotlight since the issues are presented as too dull, technical or routine to invite attention, while most political actors do not have the resources to engage in this type of policy making. As a result, policy making tends to be incremental and based on previous agreements between a small number of participants.
  2. Venue shopping To challenge a monopoly in one venue (such as the executive, or one type of government at a particular level), groups may seek an audience in another (such as the legislature, the courts, or another type or level of government).
  3. Policy communities – close relationships between interest groups and public officials. These relationships endure because the participants share a broad agreement about the nature of a policy problem and participants are able to maintain policy monopoly and there is minimal external interest or a limited ability of outsiders to engage. Policies change when there is sufficient external interest to cause the collapse of previously insulated communities. External attention rises and the issues are considered in a broader political environment where power is more evenly spread and new actors can set the agenda. In both cases the key focus is the competition to define a ‘policy image’, or the way in which a policy is understood and discussed.
  1. Why its called Punctuated Equilibrium?
    1. In public policy, equilibrium (or balance) is because of two things:
      1. the creation of institutions (such as policy communities) to support a policy monopoly
      2. the defence of that monopoly by mobilizing against challenges by excluded groups
    2. Punctuated equilibrium occurs if this strategy is unsuccessful and the policy monopoly is destroyed. It follows the successful promotion of a new policy image. The new approach to defining and solving a policy problem legitimises the involvement of previously excluded groups and encourages previously uninvolved actors (often in different venues) to become involved.
  2. a continuum of group-government relationships
    1. concept of policy community sits at one end of the continuum, while the issue network represents its polar opposite
    2. The term ‘policy community’ suggests a close, stable and often consensual relationship between a small number of groups and government
  • ‘issue network’ suggests a wide variety of links between the government and many groups, in which there is less agreement and less stability. Concept of issue networks was given by Hugh Heclo
  1. Link 1(a)(vii) with following
    1. If the attempt to maintain a policy monopoly is unsuccessful, it suggests that the participants cannot insulate the decision-making process from a wider audience and there is effective competition to define the policy’s image.
    2. More groups become involved, there is greater competition for access to government, and there is greater political instability caused by group conflict. In other words, the breakdown of a policy monopoly is linked strongly to a movement away from policy communities (or, in the US literature, iron triangles – ‘executive bureaus, congressional committees and interest groups) towards issue networks.
  2. Mobilization Theories
    1. Downsian Mobilization – regarding enthusiasm
    2. Jones characterized this process of relative stability, followed by rapid change, followed by a new point of stability as an “S-shaped diffusion curve.”
    3. A change in image can produce a change in venue and a change in the institutional structures addressing the issue. Policy entrepreneurs, issue networks, or advocacy coalitions are well aware of this fact and tend to engage in what Baumgartner and Jones described as “venue shopping.” Policy actors will continue to redefine an issue until it reaches a favorable venue, thus ensuring a favorable governmental response. When this occurs, the policy process is subject to rapid change.



  1. Schattschneider Mobilization – negative – see below
  1. Schattschneider in The Semi Sovereign people – and Policymaking
    1. In his book ‘The Semi Sovereign People’ Schattschneider was commenting about the unrealistic expectations we have about the power of people and democracy and how the vehicle for democracy i.e. government, contains undemocratic elements (“the upper class accent”).
    2. He says people matter when they pay attention, become mobilized and participate. The outcome of conflict is determined by the extent to which the audience becomes involved. If we do not mobilize people and get their participation in any conflict, ‘semi-sovereign’ – only able to exercise their power in a few areas.
    3. Schattschneider talks about the iron-triangle group which consists of the Congress, the bureaucracy and special interest groups who form an unbreakable triad, offering ideas and policy solutions with narrow benefits at the expense of the public interest. Schattschneider says the special interest pressure group systems (who are key in policy-making) are not pluralistic; it is largely the preserve of the upper class, educated, business class seeking to minimize attention to their activities. In this context he makes the statement “the flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with a strong upper-class accent.”
    4. He says the imbalance in representation leads to some issues getting into the political agenda while others, equally worthy gets neglected. Schattschneider says that the struggle to get into the political agenda is one of privatisation Vs socialisation of the conflict.
    5. In any political controversy, public is the potential resource for increasing the scope of conflict, which is expected to benefit one of the contending sides. This affects their strategies – the one losing will have an incentive to expand the scope of the conflict by encouraging more public participation; the more advantaged group would prefer to keep the conflict limited and preferably private.
    6. Schattschneider then extends this argument to elected officials within the government, who he says, can only pay attention to a limited number of issues who they promote, while ignoring rest of it. So he says “organization is the mobilization of bias. Some issues are organized into politics while others are organized out”. This mobilization of bias occurs through:
      1. portraying issue has been solved and only technical and implementation issues remain to be addressed
      2. can be described as private issues that the government should not become involved in
  • issues can be ‘crowded out’ of the policy agenda by other issues that command more attention
  1. rules and procedures of government can be manipulated to make sure that proponents of certain issues find it difficult to command policymaker attention
  1. Therefore, Schattschneider highlights the need for government to intervene. He says “Democratic government is the greatest single instrument for the socialization of conflict … big business has to be matched by … big democracy.”



  1. Evidence based policy making
    1. Evidence-informed policymaking is an approach that aims to integrate the best available scientific evidence into the design of public policies.
    2. EBPM was recently popularized by the Blair Government in the United Kingdom which said they wanted to end the ideology based decision making for policy making. For example, a UK Government white paper published in 1999 (“Modernising Government”) noted that Government “must produce policies that really deal with problems, that are forward-looking and shaped by evidence rather than a response to short-term pressures; that tackle causes not symptoms.
    3. evidence-based policymaking as a way to ensure that taxpayer dollars are spent efficiently and effectively.
    4. many states — in response to research confirming that the early years of childhood affect learning, behavior and health for a lifetime — have invested in family support and coaching programs.
    5. Niti Ayog and evidence based policy making
      1. promote evidence based policy making by ensuring that a policy innovation from any state, regardless of the party in power, gets due attention and becomes a template for other states as long as it is backed by rigorous scientific evidence.
      2. actively promote collaborations between policymakers and researchers by funding and rigorously testing policy innovations at the pilot stage, before recommending them for scale.
    6. In 2014, the government of Tamil Nadu entered into a partnership with the Abdul Latif Jameel Poverty Action Lab (J-PAL) to institutionalize the use of evidence in policymaking by rigorously evaluating innovative programmes before they are scaled up

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