POLC66 - Final Exam Review

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University of Toronto Scarborough
Public Policy
Scott Aquanno

POLC66 – Public Policy Review 1) What is positivism? How is it problematic? Drawing on different policy stages, discuss two ways in which post-positivist critiques enhance our understanding of the policy process (42) or challenge power relations within policy making. Does Forester’s analysis of decision-making provide a solution to the positivist-post-positivist debate? What is Positivism?  The objective, systematic and empirical examination of the effects that ongoing policies have on their agendas (in terms of goals they are meant to achieve)  Positivist Framework: o Concerned with offering valid, reliable and objective interpretations of events/ processes o Production of research that gives the analyst the power to represent the subjects story o Based on straightforward, sentiment free social realism o Technocratic approach focused on subject rationality and strong practicality How is it Problematic?  Positivism is problematic because since public policy goals are usually not completely clear/explicit, it leaves room for subjective interpretation to determine exactly what was achieved  Can be used to disguise certain facts that the government fears will show the policy in a poor light  It is possible for governments to design an evaluation in such a way as to lead to specific conclusions (ie: only in a positive light if they want to keep the policy, or in a negative light if they wish to discard it) Two ways in which post-positivist critiques enhance our understanding of the policy process OR challenge power relations within policy making  According to post positivist framework, there can never be an fully unbias, objective evaluation because each researcher has a background and is speaking from a particular class, gender, race, culture etc  Does Forester‟s analysis of decision making provide a solution to the positivist/ post-positivist debate?  2) Pal identifies three major components of the current policy context. What are these components? What should be added to this framework? In your answer make reference to Jackson, Dural, and Albo. Has the policy context changed with the re-election of Obama? Three Components of the Current Policy Context: 1. Globalization:  The process of international integration arising from a change of world views, products, ideas and other aspects of culture (and in particular, advances in transportation and telecommunications, ie: internet)  Free market capitalism  Globality: the sense that the entire planet is a single social place  International trading systems‟ major goal is to create universal decision making bodies and knock down major barriers between countries through the free trade 2. Political Culture  Culture in general deals with beliefs and knowledge about appropriate conduct. It is an informal institution  Culture is not static, it is always changing. Culture can change politics and vice versa  The language and symbols that facilitate political behavior in a given country in turn tells us something about the values held within that nation  Rise of post-materialism: shift from concerns with economic issues, security and material gain, new focus on lifestyle concerns (belonging, self-esteem, intellectual development)  New emphasis on difference, emphasis on collective identities and cultural identity  Elaboration of human rights documents and institutions (individual rights)  Major impacts = decline in respect, less trust in government, defense of the traditional ways of life, social fragmentation 3. Governance  The act of governing which relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power or verify performance  New ideas about governance and public management stemming from questions about the capacity of the government to do things effectively and efficiently  The new ideas and new concerns = new public management  Major impacts = affects management practice and rhetoric new emphasis on revenue, decentralization, cost cutting competition, performance appraisal results and accountability To be Added to this Framework:  The Expanded Policy Context o Needs to firstly focus on socio-economic structures that determine policy outcomes at the highest level, secondly it needs to consider changes in culture and governance by these shifts and forces  Changing Nature of the State o Welfare nationalist forms, transnational corporations, controls over finance and international monetary system which was configured around the priority of national growth o The role of the states in the post war OECD countries expanded mostly premised on a large degree of national autonomy in matters of macroeconomic policy o This role is changing because of the transition of authority associated with the new multifaceted institutionalism = UP, DOWN and OUT o OUT = states have adjusted to conditioned and restructured, because of the pressures arising from the global economy and have changed their taxation and regulatory structure to offer better business climate for foreign investors o UP = governments intervene to favour “domestic” firms as opposed to foreign ones where national states have considered international treaties which effectively transfers sovereign authority to universal organizations o Free trade is a political compromise, it is not organic. Since governments have given authority to corporations (through treaties), they now have the power to make the governments do what they want by following the treaties o The state does this because the (Canadian) government needs the corporations more than they need us o Jackson: This has resulted in a “new constitutionalism” that sets important limits on the range of policy options available to the government and constraints to pursue economic development projects. The corporations essentially have more power than the state. o DOWN = since national ford-ist blocs have eroded and given way to transnational capital, subnational states have become the sites of regulation of the new global economy. This decentralized authority allows more flexibility and responds to the demands created by greater levels of competition o The state has thus given more power to those below them – provincial and municipal governments o Darel: Subnational states are more often called to play a crucial role in both reproducing transnational liberal practices and in establishing the social foundation for such practices on local scales o Albo: Power emphasizes the defeat of the left. Sees that there are three interrelated shifts in the ruling bloc that are separate from the post war system: 1) reemergence of finance capital 2) new sectors of export-oriented industrial capital and 3) International production networks and multinational capital Has the Policy context changed with the re-election of Obama?  No 3) Describe and outline the policy process. Why are some policy paths taken and others disregarded? In your answer draw on four theoretic models and make reference to Rochefort and Cobb.  The policy process is meant to determine which policies will be best in achieving a certain set of goals  Policy making can be thought of as a process of interrelated stages, moving from inputs to outputs.  The inputs consist of problem definition, formulation, decision making and implementation  The output is the actual policy that is created Policy Process Cycle  Phase One – Agenda Setting and Problem Definition o The recognition of a subject as a problem that requires further action o Issues on the agenda are those that government officials and/or policy makers are paying attention to at any given time o In this phase a problem has been elevated from a „subject of private concern‟ to a public issue  Phase Two – Policy Formulation o This phase involves the elimination of policy options, until one or only a few are left o It involves recognizing limitations, which reveals what is feasible and what, by implication, is not o Identifies technical and political constraints (substantive, procedural)  Phase Three – Decision Making o This is where one of the options is officially approved of for action o The number of relevant policy actors diminishes significantly o The basic decision here is to continue a status quo or alter it  Phase Four – Implementation o Implementation involves translating policy decisions into actions – organizing and delivering outcomes through the chosen instruments o This depends on governmental actors to establish and operate the programs o The number of actors increases again  Phase Five – Evaluation o The evaluation stage is the analysis of how policies have fared in action o Involves cost-benefit analysis and evidence based research at the bureaucratic level o Two basic goals are: learning and the assessment of success/failure to determine continuation Why are some Policy Paths Taken and Others Disregarded?  Problems are constructed in the realm of public and private ideas and are thus debatable. Policy issues come about within society and are created out of the history, attitudes and beliefs constructed by political and social actors  Selecting certain issues instead of others is an act of explanation that promotes a particular vision of reality  Deciding on an issue is really about ranking priorities Rochefort and Cobb  Problem definition involves interpreting social reality  In interpreting social reality, problem definition is a political expression that advances answers to all of these essential questions  A central factor in this process is the social construction of problem population – the popular images of persons or groups affected by the problem will influence a large part, the causality, nature and perceived solvability of the problem  There will be strong pressure for public officials to provide beneficial policy to powerful, positively constructed target populations and to neglect or devise punishment oriented policy to negatively constructed groups  Rochefort and Cobb take four different approaches to problem definition: 1. Problem Causation  The way a problem is defined includes some statement about its origins.  What caused the problem? Is the problem attributable to individual or impersonal causes (institutional/ structural)? 2. Nature of the Problem  There may be more than just causality. These ascribed characteristics increase or decrease the chances of public action, just as they may prefigure key aspects of policy design.  It is sever (severity)? What is the overall scope of people affected (incidence)? Is the issue new (novelty)? How directly does the issue impinge on people interests (proximity)? Is it an emergency or a crisis (crisis)? 3. Characteristics of the Problem Population  Not only are problems given descriptive definition, so too are afflicted groups and individuals.  Is the group worthy or not? Are members of the group familiar or strange? 4. Nature of the Solution  The definitional struggle in public policy-making extends from aspects of the problem and those affected by and interested in it to include descriptive qualities of the solution.  Do means exist to accomplish what needs to be done? And, more importantly, does the solution conform to standard codes of conduct? If not, resources will not be wasted. 4) Describe the 6 major instances of market failure identified by Welfare Economics. Is this approach good for understanding government policy making? In your answer make reference to the ontological and epistemological considerations discussed in class.  Welfare Economics: based on the notion that private individuals should make most decisions and that the market is the most efficient mechanism for allocating scarce resources  One of the dominant models of public policy analysis both in terms of prescription and description  Government policy in a capitalist economy should only occur in instances where the market does not enhance social welfare. These occasions include:  Six Instances of Market Failure: 1. Public Goods  Goods consumed by numerous users without lessening the amount. No profits are generated which means they cannot be divided up for exclusive sale which = then must be provided by the government 2. Natural Monopolies  Creates a lack of competition, which leads to monopoly prices = governments can correct the problem by regulating prices 3. Imperfect Information  Consumers and producers lack the information necessary to make rational decisions which causes decisions to be made that do not serve the interests of society = government action to order information disclosure 4. Externalities  Production costs are not taken care of by the producers but made external to production (pollution) = government action to ensure that producers
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