POLC66 - Lec 4 - Oct 4, 2012
Identifies three key forces underpinning the changing policy context in the last decade.
1. Globalization -> (a) Changing nature of the state, (b) International Monetary Regimes,
(c) Nature and form of neoliberalism
1. What are the key descriptive and prescriptive models in the policy sciences?
2. What are the implicit ontological and epistemological frameworks that govern policy making?
3. What are the major theories used to describe how the policy process works?
One of the dominant models of public policy analysis both in terms of prescription and
Sets out when and where governments should act and provides an analysis of how and why they
Based on the argument that governments have the responsibility to try to correct market
failures because society will be left with sub-optimal social outcomes if they are left to private
Governments must (1) determine if a market failure is causing a social problem (2) intervene to
correct it and (3) carefully evaluate their own capacity to correct identified failures.
Based on the notion that private individuals should be expected to make most decisions and the
market is the most efficient mechanism for allocated scarce resources.
Government policy in a capitalist economy should only occur in those instances where the
market does not enhance social welfare. There are six major instances of market failure:
1. Public Goods: Goods consumed by numerous users without diminishing the sum, do not
generate profits. They cannot be divided up for exclusive sale and must be provided by the
2. Natural Monopolies: Lack of competition can lead to monopoly prices. Governments can
correct this problem by regulating prices.
3. Imperfect Information: Consumers and producers lack the information necessary to make
rational decisions (side effects of drugs and having that information withheld), decisions may be
made which do not serve the interests of society as a whole. Government action to mandate
4. Externalities: Production costs are not borne by the producers but made external in
production (pollution). Government action to ensure that procedures bear all the costs
stemming from their activities.
5. Tragedy of the Commons: Market failure caused when common resources are exploited without a requirement to maintain the resources for future use (fisheries). Government action
to ration production.
6. Destructive Competition: Aggressive competition between firms causes negative side effects.
This drives down profits and leads to a reduction of safety and working conditions. Government
regulation to prevent over-competition.
What assumptions does welfare economics make? Is it objective? Is it fair? Does it have any core
intrinsic problems? Does it lead to biased policy? How does it position the policy analyst?
- It assumes individual grief.
How do we understand and describe the policy process in general? What theoretic models helps
us to best make sense of the complex systems of interaction and problem solving?
Certain models of thought have been developed in order to make sense of the role of
government and the nature of policy making in general. These paradigms have a method
component as well as a core set of theoretic assumptions and propositions.
-> Any complex understanding of paradigmatic forms of thought must start by analyzing these
two core components.
In order to examine and evaluate different models of inquiry within the policy sciences we look
at their epistemological and ontological orientations before overviewing their basic propositions
(a) Epistemological Orientations (1)
(b) Ontological Orientations (1)
(c) Paradigmatic Programs (2)
1. Positivist Scientific Framework
Concerned with offering valid, reliable and objective interpretations of events/processes.
Production of research that gives the analyst the power to represent the subjects story.
Written under the mantle of straightforward, sentiment-free social realism.
Attempted rigorous studies of important social processes.
Contextualizes policy analysis as a quest to uncover objective knowledge.
Technocratic approach focused on subjective rationality and strong empiricism.
Policy problems are largely technical issues that can be addressed effectively once the right
solution is found through rigorous technical analysis.
2. Post-Positivist Framework
Reject that there can ever be an objective search for knowledge and generalizable findings have
to be located within particular value sets and couched within specific value frames.
Behind research stands the personal biography of the researcher who speaks from a particular
class, gender, racial, cultural and ethnic community perspective and approaches the world with
a set of ideas, a framework (theory, ontology) that specifies a set of questions
Need for a greater focus on social and political analysis Argues for a combination of positivist empirical analysis and post-positivist normative analysis
Technical analysis has to be complemented with a range of other factors
Argued that positivist policy analysis was lacking in its ability to comprehend reality and
promoted, in practice, a top-down system of policy management
Policy goals and means are products of constant conflict and negotiation among policy-makers
guided by their values, interests and shaped by a variety of constraints. By ignoring these
factors, positivists fail to examine the most vital elements that shape policy.
Argues that there should be no set formulas...
Different theories also have different levels of departure
Different methodological starting points will produce different arguments and create different
orientations towards data sets.
- Micro Analysis: Focus on individual level behaviours.
- Institutional Analysis: Focus on meso-level forms of interaction and norms which influence and
bound individual behaviour.
- Structural Analysis: Focus on broad, macro, often abstract, systems of arrangements which
influence and determine behaviour.
Public Choice - Neoclassical Theory
Uses a positivist epistemological framework and individual level ontology
Draws on the values of neoclassical economics in assuming individual level rationality
Starts with a hypothetical deductive proposition. All political actors act rational and subjective
rationality motivates all decisions.
People are governed by three basic attributes: Foresight, intelligence, thrift.
Grounded in utility theory - sees all human motives as stemmi