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Chapter 1

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Political Science
POLS 3250
Tim Mau

Public Policy: Challenges and Prospects Chapter 1: Policy Analysis- Concepts and Practice Public policies are an essential element in modern democracies in that they provide both guidance for government officials and accountability links to citizens. When government actors are guided by policy, they presumable are taking a course of action that has been thought through in terms of the nature of the problem they are addressing and the circumstances they face. The importance of policy to democratic governance has experiences a resurgence in recent years. What is Public Policy? o A course of action or inaction chosen by public authorities to address a given problem or interrelated set of problems o A policy maker is someone who develops these guides o A policy taker is someone who operates within that framework, applying it to a new situation o Policies are largely instrumental: they are not ends in themselves, but are instruments or tools to tack issues of concern to the political community o It is important to find and use tools that are best suited to a task, but also ones that are consistent with a morally acceptable range of government behaviour o Almost everything in policy is affected by values, despite attempts to come up with solutions that focus on technical terms o The challenge is to develop techniques and processes of tackling pubic problems that encourage exchanges and ultimately consensus building among citizens, politicians and experts o The most important value in public policy is the public interest- it is the duty of public servants to make decisions in the public interest o Policies rarely tackle single problems but rather deal with entangled problems that may have contradictory solutions o Policy design those becomes a process of balancing different solutions that address specific aspects of various clusters of problems Rational Model: all of these definitions are grounded in a rationale model of what it means to make decisions and respond to problems: policy or strategy is formulates consciously, preferably analytically, and made explicit and then implemented formally Emergent Strategies: consistent patterns of behavior that emerge of form rather than being planned. In this perspective, policy is what governments actually do, not that whey say or intend What do the guides and frameworks of policy consist of? o Policies are created by public authorities, but not every public servant has the power to create policy o Since policy is a guide, it has a normative of coercive dimension: if the policy says you must do X, the you must (should) do X o In a democracy, policy is made by elected officials with the help of advisors from higher levels of administration o Nonelected officials are often required to fine tune and re-articulate the Minister's proposed policies o The judiciary can also get involved by rendering judgements as to whether legislation is constitutional or not Every policy has 3 key elements: o The definition of the problem: the central element of a policy statement  If there is no perceived problem, one would not expect a public policy to solve it  Problems thus have to be recognized and defined  The process of problem definition can be either exhaustive or casual  Also looks at causes of the problem  Since problems usually come in clusters, definitions must typically operate across a range of dimensions o The goals that are to be achieved  General vs. Specific: ex. Health care goals generally seek to improve the health of Canadian citizens  Most policy goals are not extremely clear o The instruments or means whereby the problem is addressed  Public policy statements must have some indication of the nature of the policy instruments whereby the problem is to be addressed and the goals achieved  Concerned with implementation methods  As policies change, the instruments sometimes stay the same  Instrument choice can also be constrained by perceptions of legitimacy and legal restrictions , as well as practical restraints such as the amount of money needed for implementation Policy Consistency o We expect policies to have an internal consistency among the three elements noted above o We also expect a policy to be vertically consistent in the sense that the programs and activities that are undertaken in its name are logically related to it o Policy statements are normally fairly abstract and general and must be actualized through a process that elaborates programs and activities to give the policy effect What is Public Policy Analysis? Defined as the disciplined application of intellect to public problems, a process of multidisciplinary inquiry designed to create, critically access and communicate different information that is useful in understanding and improving policy. o More than just causal observation o Process of breaking something down into various elements o How well is the problem defined? What are its characteristics? What goals are being pursued? Are the instruments adequate and likely to yield results? o Policy analysts have to be careful to remove any biases when looking at policies o Gender based analysis: seeks to access the differential impact of policies, programs and legislation on men and women o Policy analysis is also complicated by cultural biases One can analyze policy in several legitimate ways: o Normative analysis: measures some aspect of policy against an ethical standard ie. The bible, the charter etc.  It is important to be aware of the criteria of justice and trust in society as they may make the best policies o Legal analysis: looks at public policy through the prism of law- constitutionally, consistency with statutes, the practice of legal conventions  Also stresses the importance of human rights  Contains questions about legality and jurisdiction o Logical analysis: deals with questions of consistency and coherence  Is the policy internally consistent? Vertically consistent? o Emp
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