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Chapter 19. Policy Process and System Performance. ‘ My policy is to have no policy’. Remark made by Abraham Lincoln to his secretary (1861). Theories of decision-making. Rational actor models Incremental models Bureaucratic organisation models Belief system models.

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Chapter 19

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chapter 19

Chapter 19

Policy Process and System Performance

‘ My policy is to have no policy’.

Remark made by Abraham Lincoln to his secretary (1861)

theories of decision making
Theories of decision-making
  • Rational actor models
  • Incremental models
  • Bureaucratic organisation models
  • Belief system models
rational actor models
Rational actor models
  • Emphasise human rationality have generally been constructed on the basis of economic theories that have themselves been derived from utilitarianism.
  • Lies the notion of so-called ‘economic man’, a model of human nature that stresses the self-interested pursuit of material satisfaction, calculated in terms of utility.
  • Clear-cut objectives exist and humans are able to pursue them in a rational and consistent manner.
incremental models
Incremental models (漸進模式)
  • Decisions tend to be made on the basis of inadequate information and low levels of understanding, and this discourages decision-makers from pursuing bold and innovative courses of action.
  • Incrementalism suggest a strategy of avoidance or evasion, policy-makers being inclined to move away from problems, rather than trying to solve them.
bureaucratic organisation models
Bureaucratic organisation models
  • Unlike ‘black box’ models of decision-making which pay no attention to the impact that the structure of the policy-making process has on the resulting decisions, bureaucratic or organisational models try to get inside the black box by highlighting the degree to which process influences product.
  • Rather than corresponding to rational analysis and objective evaluation, decisions are seen to reflect the entrenched culture of the government department or agency that makes them.
This approach dismisses the idea of the state as a monolith united around a single view or a single interest, and suggests that decisions arise from an arena of contest in which the balance of advantage is constantly shifting.
belief system models
Belief system models
  • Models of decision-making that place an emphasis on the role of beliefs and ideology highlight the degree to which behaviour is structured by perception.
  • What people see and understand is what their concepts and values allow them or encourage them to see and understand.
  • This tendency is particularly entrenched because it is largely unconscious.
Although decision-makers may believe that they are being rational, rigorous and strictly impartial, their social and political values may act as a powerful filter, defining for them what is thinkable, what is possible, and what is desirable. Certain information and particular options are therefore not appreciated or even considered, while other pieces of information and other courses of action feature prominently in the calculus of decision-making.
stages in the policy process
Stages in the policy process
  • Policy initiation
    • it sets the political agenda both by defining certain problems as issues and by determining how those issues are to be addressed. Policy can stem ‘from above’ (political leaders, cabinets, government agencies) and it can arise ‘from below’ (through pressure from public opinions, the mass media, interest groups and think tanks)
    • Political parties and interest groups play a key role in agenda setting. Opposition parties do not merely criticise government policy; they also develop alternative policies in an attempt to appear to be viable parties of government.
  • Policy formulation
    • The first stage is the decision about how to decide: a decision about which mechanisms or procedures and which political actors should be involved in the analysis and elaboration of policy.
    • The second stage involves issue definition and forecasting.
    • Finally, there is the analysis and review of the policy options, leading to the selection of a preferred option.
  • Policy implementation
    • New public management: through privatisation, ‘contracting out’, and ‘market testing’; mimic market competition by penalising substandard performance.
  • Policy evaluation:
    • The policy process culminates with the evaluation and review of policy, leading, in theory at least, to decisions being made about the maintenance, succession or termination of the policy in question.
    • This stage completes the policy cycle in the sense that information acquired through evaluation can be fed back into the initiation and formulation stages. This process can throw up new policy proposals and help to refine and improve existing ones.
system performance
System performance
  • Stability and order
    • The maintenance of stability and order is the most basic function of government.
    • Consensus and consent vs. authority
  • Material prosperity
    • Government are usually re-elected in periods of growth and widening prosperity, and defeated during recessions and economic crises.
    • Capitalism (places faith in the market and competition) vs. Socialism (nationalisation and planning)
    • Long-term and sustainable prosperity requires that material incentives operate within a broader framework of fair distribution and effective welfare.
    • A citizen is a member of a political community or state, endowed with a set of rights and a set of obligations. Citizenship is the ‘public’ face of individual existence.
    • Three ‘bundle of rights’: civil rights, political rights and social rights (Marshall, 1950)
  • Democratic rule
    • How decisions are made, rather than what decisions are made
    • Direct democracy vs. limited and indirect democracy

A relationship between the individual and the state in which the two are bound together by reciprocal rights and duties. Citizens differ from subjects and aliens in that they are full members of their political community or state by virtue of their possession of basic rights.


Means self-rule. States, institutions or groups can be said

to be autonomous if they enjoy a substantial degree of

independence, although autonomy in this connection is

sometimes taken to imply a high measure of self-

government, rather than sovereign independence.