Synopsis of ‘An Introduction to the Policy Process: Theories, Concepts, and Models of Public Policy Making’ by T. Birkland
Public policy and administration play crucial role in the modern political life. In fact, representatives of different social levels are involved into politics. Ordinary citizens’ true understanding of the current political processes is extremely important. Otherwise, certain contradictory political strategies cause numerous questions and disappointment among the population of the country. To illustrate, the U.S. government encourages tobacco farming instead of preventing its citizens from smoking. Then, the authorities give the citizens tax breaks for purchasing houses, while renters might have received similar tax breakers. Finally, the federal governments do not deal with police and education, redirecting this function to local and state governments. Trying to find the answers to these everyday challenges, ordinary people become involved into politics.
Politics can be referred to as a process of societies’ self-organization and self-regulation. Political targets are located in the public sphere, where the community solves current challenges facing the society. Public sphere is opposite to the private one. In fact, differentiating public and private issues is one of the major features of politics and making policy decisions.
The roots of modern political concepts lie in the philosophical ideas of ancient and medieval thinkers. For instance, Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle discussed the issues of individuals’ conduct in a political context. They developed ideas about the ways of solving the challenges human societies face to decrease the rate of destructive political conflicts. In the 15th century, Niccolo Machiavelli wrote his famous postulates in The Prince, which laid the basis for the modern political theory. Giving practical political advice, he highlighted that people should understand and arrange political actions. As a result, they would be better prepared to use current political opportunities. The thinker strongly recommended comparing the postulates to the real political activities. The Enlightenment philosophers gave birth to modern methods of scientific research in the sphere of politics. Thomas Hobbes, John Locke, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau developed the ideas about the essence of social and political interactions, introducing the ideas of ‘the social contract.’ Later, American philosophers found the inspiration in the postulates of Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de Montesquieu. Alexander Hamilton and James Madison developed their ideas in The Federalist. European philosophers, Karl Marx and Max Weber, tackled the concepts of the ways to design the societies and overcome their politically weakness. Modern theorists, John Dewey and John Rawls, dealt with the issues of knowledge and learning in social existence and fundamental challenges of fairness. Later, a postmodern thinker, Michel Foucault, discussed dramatic transformations in the social contract theory. He described the best ways for the people uncontrollably being run by authorities.
Many researchers focus on the unfair aspects of politics. They argue that political decisions pursue personal and group interests. The great majority of political decisions do not benefit society, taking money from big business and serving its interests. This phenomenon generated wide usage of the word combinations ‘to play politics’ for describing dishonest actions of policy makers.
Governments are the only institutions that make policies even if the suggested decisions are obtained outside these governments. These decisions may be dictated by various public and private figures that have different understanding of challenges, their solutions, and their own motivating forces. Nevertheless, only the government makes the choice of policies, deciding which things must be done or be ignored. The government employs its provided policies in their statements. These policies find their reflection in the Constitution, statutes, regulations, court decisions, and government officials’ conduct. Arguments shape public policy. They deal with denoting the type of challenges, their potential solutions, their approximate costs, and effectiveness.
The constitutional system of the U.S. is based on the ideological foundation of classical liberalism. The roots of this doctrine lie in the ideas developed in Second Treatise of Civil Government by Locke. Classical liberalism can be referred to as a doctrine that focuses on individual liberty, ownership, and purchasing private property as a tool to boost the nation’s well-being and happiness.
Public interest research groups (PIRGs) promote public interests of the states they represent. In the U.S., citizens delegate their policy-making rights to the government. This phenomenon is explained by the belief that specialists must govern the current challenges of the society.
Evidence, imagery, and symbolism are widely used in policy disputes. Many historical decisions were made when emotions defeated the rationality in policymaking. To illustrate, Jim Crow Laws against people of African American origin were adopted basing on the ideas about their inferiority to white people.
Policy process can be referred to as the system that introduces policy ideas into current policies having beneficial effect. Being provided by the governments, public policies deal with different issues, such as race and ethnicity, gender and labor force participation, demographics, etc. Then, the government provides policies in tree major demographic fields, such as work, retirement, and pensions. Providing race public policies, the government takes into account that the United States is a country with predominantly white population. People belonging to this category are the successors of Europeans. African American inhabitants take the second place. The population of Hispanic origin comes then. Providing public policies in the field of gender and labor force participation, the government realizes local peculiarities. In fact, the number of women has moderately exceeded the number of men during the last several decades. This phenomenon is explained by the long life probability for females. Equal participation of the representatives of both genders characterizes the job market activities. The rate of working females fluctuates. To illustrate, the number of women leaving their house duties for their work was enhanced during the World War II. After the war, the number of traditional families where women stayed at home increased. In the 1970s, experts observe a new wave of working females. Under these circumstances, the family income rose. Nowadays, many women run different governmental structures at the national level, as Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton.
Many factors influence policy makers and other participants of the political process. Public opinion is one of them. Politicians evaluate polling data as a tool for measuring public opinion. Arranging polls, researchers find the most important problem (MIP), rendering the current challenges politicians and the news media deal with. The polls display the national mood, showing the citizens’ feelings about the government’s policies.
The government’s policies and economics are interrelated. The key measure of economic activity is gross domestic product (GDP). The ideas of Keynesian economics are widely implemented when the government spends more and manages budget deficit to encourage the economy in the recession period. Nevertheless, this concept is subject to severe criticism because it leads to the increase of the national debt. In fact, economic well-being contributes to the current support of politicians by the citizens. Citizens participate in political process by their votes, citizen initiatives, and referenda. The National Opinion Research Center gathers public opinion data before elections.
Synopsis of ‘Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making’ by D. Stone
A model of political society can be referred to as a stereotype of the simplest variant of community that possesses the basic units of politics. The word ‘politics’ is derived from the Greek root, denoting a city-state. In fact, this definition is very appropriate. It means the entity combining opposing features. It is compact enough to be represented by uncomplicated forms of arrangement and big enough to comprise the components of politics. A market model of politics is the most fitting one. The dissimilarity between the political and market community stereotypes will elucidate the manners the market type perverts politics.
A market can be referred to as a social system where people strive for their own well-being by trading. This commerce is mutually useful. The members of the trading process compete with each other to obtain needed resources at the lowest price. Being the cheapest resource, raw materials are transformed into expensive things that can be sold at the high cost. According to the market model, the key goal of the person’s activity is boosting their own welfare and comprising the happiness of their close people. To achieve this aim, people become smarter, more inventive, and energetic.
Politics and policies are provided in the community. It adopts both collective will and collective efforts. The key category of the community is membership that suggests the right to take part in the society deeds. Residences and citizenship provide different rights and possibilities.
A political community can be referred to as a group of individuals obeying the similar political regulations. In a cultural community, individuals are united by common culture, including language, history, and customs.
Public interest can denote personal interests, aims, intentions and policies beneficial to the major part of the individuals. Common problems can be referred to as circumstances causing a conflict between self-interests and public interests. Influence, cooperation, and loyalty are valuable components of the polis.
Synopsis of ‘Who Is in Charge Here? Legislators, Bureaucrats and Policy Making Process’ by V. Schnose
The bureaucracy’s influence on the political processes is subject to numerous discussions among the researchers. Viktoryia Schnose draws attention to the drawbacks of the common belief that political parties are the key tools of translating citizens’ will into the state’s policies. She focuses on the crucial role of bureaucracy that is an important link between preferences, parties, and outcomes. Exploring meritocratic and partisan recruitment, the researcher claims that the ways of selecting bureaucrats govern the policy making process. The bureaucracy modifies the degree of parties’ influence on the provided policy
There are two key theories regarding the bureaucracy’s effect on the political life. They are the partisan and meritocratic theories. According to the partisan model, members of parties can choose civil servants who share their political preferences. The key idea is that it is extremely harmful to deal with the same civil agents who worked for the rival party. The access to the secret information empowers bureaucrats. Their neutral status may be replaced because of different reasons. The result of such a transformation would be detrimental for the policy and the state. Under the circumstances, parties enjoy wide powers to hire and dismiss civil agents. This partisan model is implemented in Great Britain and Sweden. In fact, parties widely use an opportunity to select ideologically devoted civil servants when their members are not restricted in their choice of bureaucratic personnel. The left-right government structure dramatically influences the policy making process. The representatives of the right wing select freedom in market regulations. According to the meritocratic approach, professionalism plays the crucial role in the competitive selection of the bureaucrats. This model is implemented in Italy. Under the circumstances, the same civil servants may work for the representatives of opposing political preferences. They demonstrate neutral competence. The representatives of the left wing choose the government running the economy. Their political activities would boost welfare spending. Therefore, the left governments would produce more benefits than the right ones.
Schnose made her research using cross-national datasets. The aim of her study is to verify that meritocratic model of bureaucracy would be more beneficial to states’ budgets and policy stability than the partisan model. Schnose gathered budgetary, political, and economic data for 20 European states during the interval from 1900 to 2009. Schnose studied the policy stability, exploring the datasets of the majority world countries (152 states) during the interval from 1999 to 2006. She implemented four different dependent variables, such as social protection, health, education, and defense. The results were surprising. Neither partisan, nor meritocratic models demonstrated dramatic influence on the ideological adjustment forecast by partisan advocates. According to the research, the budget data appeared to be relatively stable under both models of bureaucracy, demonstrating the fluctuation less than 1%. The researcher chose the bureaucracy professionalization index as a key independent variable of interest. She selected the ideological structure of cabinet during each year to be the second key independent variable. Evaluating the results of the study, Schnose took into account levels of democracy, types of cabinet, models of executive-legislative relations, and the strength of bicameralism. Meritocratic model of hiring civil servants proved better results than the partisan one. The greatest changes were seen in the defense category. The smallest outcomes occurred in the health care field.
To sum up, according to Schnose’s study, neither partisan, nor meritocratic models make significant influence on the political outcomes. Nevertheless, the bureaucratic professionalism makes certain beneficial effect on the policy stability, social protection, health, education, and defense.