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Chapter 1: Policy Analysis: Concepts and Practice
Public policies provide guidance for government officials and accountability links to
Policies become visible and measurable to the public, they become key tests of the
governments records at election time
What is Public Policy?
The very nature of intelligent and accountable governance in a democracy demands
more than mere decisions requires decision making guided by a framework
Public policy: course of action or inaction chosen by public authorities to address a
given problem or interrelates set of problems
Framework: policies are guides to a range of related actions in a given field
Policy-maker: someone who develops these guides
Policy-taker: someone who operates within that policy framework
When a policy is changed the actions that take pace within its framework are
reconfigures to yield different results
o Howlett and Ramesh: said public policy is at its simplest, a choice made by
government to undertake some course of action (EX. Issue of recognizing
same sex marriage)
o Rochefort and Cobb: note that decision making in crisis situations is
synonymous with an emergency mentality that enables “quick responses but
also tended to produce temporary Band-Aid solutions” to major public
Public policy is seen as a means of dealing with problems and sometimes
opportunities; policies are largely “instrumental” (tools to tackle issues of concern
to the political community
o In public policy making using the “right tool” means both using the tool that
is best suited and the tool that is consistent with a morally acceptable range
of government behaviour
Policy development: process of shaping policy initiatives, from problem recognition
to implementation and evaluation
The most important overarching value in public policy is the public interest
The fundamental value of public service is loyalty to the public interest or the public
o Taxation: at most basic level it is about generating revenue for the
o Taxes are also used as instruments that encourage or discourage
certain kinds of behaviour (EX. Lower business taxes = encourages
investment, higher sin taxes on alcohol and cigarettes = might discourage
drinking and smoking)
Rational model: a systematic approach to problem-solving that lays out the
problem, reviews options, and makes recommendations based on the intersection
between goals and factual circumstances
Policy is what governments actually do, not what they intend or say
Emergent strategies: consistent patterns of behaviour that emerge or form rather
than being planned
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Policy Statement: defines the problem, sets the goals that are to be achieved and
indicates the instruments or means whereby the problem is to be addressed and the
goals achieved
Problem definition: considered the central element of a policy statement it
indicates what the problem and the issue is and some of the casual factors behind it
Key Elements of a Policy:
Problems must be recognized and defined the recognition of a problem is just a
sense of something wrong, defining a problem gives it a meaning
The process of problem definition can either be exhaustive or casual
Problems usually come in clusters and so problem definitions typically operate
across a range of dimensions
Problems can sometimes appear in an external form of a substantially changed
context or situation, more like new realities or opportunities to which we have to
All problem definitions indicate what the problem or issue is and bundle that with
some indication of the factors that led to it in the first place
Policy definitions are bound to policy goals (2 branches)
o General goals: policy goals that enjoy a consensus or that express the
broadest objectives of the policy initiative as a whole (EX. Health care policy)
o Policy-specific goals: goals related to the broader ones but more directly
connected to the programs that give the policy effect (EX. Having a health
care policy that is aimed at improving services for at-risk youth for things
such as reduced pregnancy /substance abuse)
Policy instruments: means by which the problem is to be addressed and the goals
Instrument choice can be significantly constrained by perceptions of legitimacy
Legitimacy is elastic and will change with circumstances and it is culturally
contingent (such as opening safe injection sites for heroin addicts)
Instrument choice can be limited by legal restrictions (such as limits on spending
programs due to high deficit levels, limits to taxation and regulatory policies in
global environment )
Policy space: the wider field within which a given, single policy operates in relation
to others that tackle different elements of the problem
Policies are expected to have an
o Internal consistency: consistency among the 3 elements of problem
definition, goals and instruments
o Vertically consistent: consistency between the broad policy framework
and the specific programs that implement that framework
o Horizontal consistency: consistency across policy fields, not just within
them; an expectation that what governments do in one field will not
contradict what they do in another
What Is Public Policy Analysis?
Policy analysis: defined as the disciplines application of intellect to public problems
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It is systematic proceeds logically through a series of clearly defined stages to
come to a conclusion
Core principles in the use of expert knowledge in the policy process:
Accountability, plurality, integrity, openness, participation, effectiveness, coherence,
proportionality, subsidiary
Policy analysis should be disciplined and systematic there needs to be both good
and bad analysis
Has an element of interpretation and perspective, a form of practical reason, relies
on good deal of judgment, experience, exploration
Unintentional bias needs to be removed: gender-based analysis was used, a process
that assesses the differential impact of public policies, programs, and legislation on
women and men in terms of their social and economic circumstances
Gender mainstreaming: a strategy to ensure that a gender perspective is reflected in
all types of organizational activities
Policies are also complicated by cultural biases
Policy analysis, is itself a specific form of inquiry
One may reason about policy in several legitimate ways: ( these are the types of
o Normative: analyzes policy in reference to basic values and ethical
o Legal: analyzes policy in terms of jurisdiction and consistency with
legislation or the charter
o Logical: analyzes policy in terms of internal, vertical, and horizontal
consistency ad whether it “makes sense”
o Empirical: analyzes policy in relation to impacts and effects, costs and
Object of Analysis
Process: the various determinants of a policy, the actors and institutions that shaped
Content: problem definition, goals, instruments
Outcomes: legislation, regulations, actual impact of effect
This breakdown and definition of policy analysis deliberately excludes some “other
ways of knowing” – the system of rationalism
BOX 1.1
The Rational Decisionmaking Model ( used in making rational decisions, in
application to policy analysis here)
o Choose Objectives: know what one wishes to do/accomplish; have a
statement of the problem as well as the goals
o Consider alternatives: identify the means by which the goals/objectives
may be attained
o Outline Impacts: every decision has a cost/benefit, positive/negative
impacts they must be measures
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