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Public Policy Issues and Politics Introducing Policy Language Issues Defining the problem When are issues public problems? Alternatives Value conflicts Power Structures Symbolism and symbolic politics Theories and Approaches Theories describe, explain and, in some cases, predict.

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Public policy l.jpg

Public Policy

Issues and Politics


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Introducing Policy Language

  • Issues

    • Defining the problem

    • When are issues public problems?

  • Alternatives

  • Value conflicts

  • Power Structures

  • Symbolism and symbolic politics


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Theories and Approaches

  • Theories describe, explain and, in some cases, predict.

  • Grand Theories and middle-range theories.

  • Policy praxis


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Examples from the reading

  • Rational Choice Theory

  • Incrementalism/Bounded rationality (root/branch)

  • Stages model

  • Subgovernment (policy monopoly)

  • Advocacy Coalition

  • Punctuated Equalibrium


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Policy Change

  • The United States Constitutional System is conservative (favors the status quo). How does policy change occur in a system that makes it much easier to block change than foster change?

  • The attacks of September 11, 2001


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What are policy processes?

  • The “Policy Cycle” or policy stages model are often explicitly or implicitly employed by political scientists in the study of public policy.

    • Issue identification

    • Agenda setting – how do issues reach public and policy agendas?

    • Alternative specification – designing and evaluating policy alternatives (policy proposals)

    • Enactment – adoption of policies by authoritative bodies or officials.

    • Policy implementation – putting the policy in place.

    • Policy evaluation – assessing impacts and suggesting changes.

    • See Birkland, Chapter 9


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Pre-decisional stages

  • The “Policy Cycle” or policy stages model are often explicitly or implicitly employed by political scientists in the study of public policy.

  • Issue identification.

  • Agenda setting – how do issues reach public and policy agendas?

  • Alternative specification – designing and evaluating policy alternatives (policy proposals)



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Key language -JK

  • Process Streams

  • Coupling

  • Open window

  • Policy Entrepreneur

  • Policy Communities


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Thomas Birkland“Focusing Event, Mobilization, and Agenda Setting”


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Other language that may be helpful in addressing this case

  • Technical Feasibility

  • Value acceptability

  • Best Practice(s)

  • Venue shopping

  • Expansion and containment of conflict –

    • E.E. Schattschneider


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The policy cycle and real problems:“policy praxis”

  • Des Moines Town Meeting Addresses Methamphetamine Abuse Epidemic in Iowa


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From issues to policies: the road is rarely straight

  • www.drugabuse.gov/NIDA_Notes/ NNVol13N6/Iowa.html


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The Study and Practice of Public Policy (Birkland)

  • The approach can be “scientific” and “rigorous(3).”

  • “The study of policy is firmly grounded in the study of politics (3).”

  • The nature of evidence (12).

  • How important is evidence (18).


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What is Public Policy?

  • Thomas Birkland’s discussion pp. 20-21.

  • Discussion of definitions


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What is in the News?

  • Applying language to real issues.



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Case Study Exercise

  • Welcome to the Waterville Community MeetingSara Weir, City Manager, Waterville, Pa.

  • As community members and policy analysts the city welcomes your suggestion for addressing the pressing problem of drug abuse and Waterville.

  • What are your recommendations to the city council?


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