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PPA 503 – The Public Policy-Making Process. Lecture 1 – The Study and Practice of Public Policy. Introduction. The study of public policy is firmly grounded in the study of politics, which is as ancient as human civilization itself.

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ppa 503 the public policy making process

PPA 503 – The Public Policy-Making Process

Lecture 1 – The Study and Practice of Public Policy

  • The study of public policy is firmly grounded in the study of politics, which is as ancient as human civilization itself.
  • Most of the ancient philosophers looked at politics in general, theoretical ways.
    • Plato’s Republic – The search for justice. One of Plato’s objectives in the Republic was to show that justice is worthwhile—that just action is a good in itself, and that one ought to engage in just activity even when it doesn’t seem to confer immediate advantage.
    • Aristotle’s Politics - Since we see that every city-state is a sort of community and that every community is established for the sake of some good (for everyone does everything for the sake of what they believe to be good), it is clear that every community aims at some good, and the community which has the most authority of all and includes all the others aims highest, that is, at the good with the most authority. This is what is called the city-state or political community. [I.1.1252a1-7]
  • Modern political theory.
    • Niccolo Machiavelli.
      • If we understand and plan the political actions we take in pursuit of our goals, we are better prepared to seize the political opportunities that arise in the normal course of political life.
    • Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, Weber, Durkheim.
      • Focused on the exercise of power between individuals, families, groups, communities, and the various levels of government.
  • The systematic study of public policy is a 20th century phenomenon.
    • Dates to 1922, when political scientist Charles Merriam sought to connect the theory and practice of politics to understanding the actual activities of government, that is, public policy.
    • Nevertheless, most of the literature on public policy dates back only about 50 years.
  • The study of politics is the attempt to explain the various ways in which power is exercised in the everyday world and how that power is used to allocate resources and benefits to some people and groups, and costs and burdens to other people and groups.
  • The study of public policy is the examination of the creation, by the government, of the rules, laws, goals, and standards that determine what government does or does not do to create resources, benefits, costs, and burdens.
  • In studying public policy, we focus on those decisions made (or implicitly accepted) by government and nongovernmental actors to address a problem that a significant number of people and groups consider to be important and in need of a solution.
A major element of studying and teaching public policy is the reliance of policy studies on a broad range of the social sciences.Introduction
  • Because the field of public policy studies is so new, it has yet to coalesce around a shared set of principles, theories, and priorities (paradigm).
  • For public policy to be useful, we must bridge the gap between what academics know and how practitioners and citizens use what we know to make better policy (or better policy arguments).
policy science as applied science
Policy Science as Applied Science
  • You may question whether policy is “science”, but science is defined as the state of knowing: knowledge rather than ignorance or misunderstanding.
  • The values of empirical science: the number of teeth for men and women.
policy science as applied science12
Policy Science as Applied Science
  • Anecdotal evidence versus scientific evidence: The case of food stamps (discuss).
    • The problem with anecdotes is that they are little tidbits of information that are unsystematically gathered and that reflect the biases of the person relating the story.
  • Question: Is the food stamp program a failure?
policy science as applied science13
Policy Science as Applied Science
  • Scientific evidence (evaluation).
    • Compared to nonrecipients,
      • Participants spend a larger portion of their total expenditures on all food items.
      • Foods used at home by recipients have a greater monetary value per person and more nutrients per dollar.
      • Recipients are more likely to shop for food on a monthly basis, resulting in better planning and lower transportation costs.
      • The availability of twelve essential nutrients in the diet is higher for recipients.
    • One dollar increase in food stamp benefits increases food expenditures between 17 and 47 cents, whereas a dollar increase in income only increases food expenditures 5 to 10 cents.
    • Information is:
      • Peer-reviewed
      • Aggregate information rather than disconnected cases.
      • Runs counter to common wisdom.
policy science as applied science14
Policy Science as Applied Science
  • Do food stamps “work”? Not necessarily.
  • Difference between policy description and policy advocacy.
policy studies as a science
Policy Studies as a Science
  • We can say that the careful study of public policy is “scientific” because it contributes to knowledge by relying on methodological rigor.
    • Policy analysts share a commitment to methodology, but not to any one particular method.
policy studies as a science16
Policy Studies as a Science
  • Harold Lasswell argued that quantitative analysis and the scientific method were important elements of any policy science.
  • But, Lasswell recognized that you must combine quantitative and qualitative information.
policy studies as a science17
Policy Studies as a Science
  • Lasswell’s recommendations for an empirically driven, methodologically rigorous, yet flexible style of policy research has served as the basis for policy studies in late 20th century.
  • But it is also driven by the desire to solve problems.
  • No common paradigm. Dye lists eight theoretical traditions.
  • Most of these theories need testing.
policy studies as a science18
Policy Studies as a Science
  • Theorizing is important, because they make sense of ambiguous evidence, and they develop concepts that apply to more than one case.
science rationality and the policy process
Science, Rationality, and the Policy Process
  • Policy analysis is an important component of policy sciences.
  • But researchers should keep rational analysis in context: within the interplay of evidence, value and belief systems of the participants, the structure of the process, and the distribution of power.
  • Most policy analysis is not value neutral. Problem identification is rarely neutral, for example.
what is public policy
What Is Public Policy?
  • Attributes common to various definitions of public policy.
    • The policy is made in the “public’s” name.
    • Policy is generally made or initiated by government.
    • Policy is interpreted and implemented by public and private actors.
    • Policy is what the government intends to do.
    • Policy is what the government chooses not to do.
what makes public policy public
What Makes Public Policy Public?
  • The dominant ideological foundation of our constitutional system is classical liberalism.
    • John Locke.
    • Power derives from the consent of the governed.
    • Thus, government actions must be in the “public interest”.
    • But people differ dramatically in what is the public interest.
      • Commercial interests versus environmentalists.
what makes public policy public23
What Makes Public Policy Public?
  • Not even the most intense policy advocates are interested in every issue.
  • We delegate the power to make policies in our names to elected officials. However, we retain our interest in the outcome and our right to promote particular policies at any time.
why do we study public policy
Why Do We Study Public Policy?
  • To know more about the process for its own sake.
  • To know more about the process to inform practitioners.
  • To learn how to promote preferred policy options.