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«p a r t iii P RO D U C I N G P U B L I C POLICY Moran / The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy 10-Moran-chap10 Page Proof page 204 7.11.2005 4:04pm ...»

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Moran / The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy 10-Moran-chap10 Page Proof page 203 7.11.2005 4:04pm

p a r t iii



Moran / The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy 10-Moran-chap10 Page Proof page 204 7.11.2005 4:04pm

Moran / The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy 10-Moran-chap10 Page Proof page 205 7.11.2005 4:04pm chapter 10



edward c. page

1. Policy Diversity and Hierarchy

¨ Where do policies come from? Take the 1889 Invaliditats- und Alterssicherungsgesetz, one of the key pieces of Bismarck’s social legislation. We might say that it ‘originated’ in the Ministry of Social AVairs. We might seek its origins in its antecedents such as in earlier voluntary schemes of insurance, in the reforms set in train earlier by the 1883 Krankenversicherungsgesetz, in Bismarck’s state-building strategy, the Kaiser’s notion of a ‘social emperorship,’ or even in a longer tradition of social responsibility among German monarchs found in Frederick the Great among others.

The measure can be explained as part of a wider strategy of heading oV workingclass discontent and thus viewed as a product of capitalism in general, as the consequences of a particular transition from a pre-industrial to an industrial society (Moore 1967), or as a response to emerging socialism. We may even agree with Dawson (1912, 1) that it is ‘impossible to assign the origins of the German insurance legislation deWnitely to any one set of conditions or even to a precise period.’ None of these answers is clearly right or wrong (for a discussion of the novelty of Bismarck’s social legislation see Tampke 1981; for a comparative discussion see Heidenheimer, Heclo, and Adams 1990). They appear to be answers to slightly diVerent questions.

Insofar as they arise from conscious reXection and deliberation, policies may reXect a variety of intentions and ideas: some vague, some speciWc, some conXicting, some unarticulated. They can, as we will see, even be the unintended or undeliberated consequences of professional practices or bureaucratic routines.

Such intentions, practices, and ideas can in turn be shaped by a vast array of diVerent environmental circumstances, ranging from an immediate speciWc cue or impetus to Moran / The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy 10-Moran-chap10 Page Proof page 206 7.11.2005 4:04pm

206 edward c. page

a more general spirit of the time or even a belief in a self-evident universal truth. How can we talk about the origins of something as diverse as policy?

The core simpliWcation used in the study of the origins of policy is the analogy of the business meeting. Policies Wrst come into being through being put on an agenda—a notional list of topics that people involved in policy making are interested in, and which they seek to address through developing, or exploring the possibility of developing, policies. Kingdon’s (1995) approach to understanding the development of agendas, and approaches associated with it (Cobb and Elder 1978; Cohen, March, and Olsen 1972; Baumgartner and Jones 1993) have served to shape thinking about the early origins of policy. Such authors are well aware of the limitations of the agenda analogy for describing the origins of policy because of the possibility of inWnite regress: for any idea, proposal, or practice there is an idea, proposal, or practice that helped give rise to it. The value of the notion of agendas is that it provides a framework that allows one to outline the proximate causes that lead to attention being devoted to an issue: how an issue comes to emerge from relative obscurity to becoming something that is being discussed as a serious contender for legislation or some other policy measure.

However, there are two limitations to using the agenda literature to help understand the origins of policy. First, because the analyses on which the leading studies are based are concerned with legislative policy making, they cannot be expected to throw light on policies that have been developed, or better that emerge, without having been the subject of deliberation or without the formal approval of legislative and executive authorities. Second, and perhaps most importantly, the dominant theoretical models have been developed primarily to apply to the United States, and this makes their direct application as generalized descriptions of policy development problematic. The model Kingdon (1995) proposes is highly pluralistic with a plurality of diVerent ‘important people’ in the legislative branch (Congressmen and -women, congressional staVers) and outside (interest groups, consultants, and parties) all with roles to play in placing items on the political agenda. What makes this highly distinctive, from a European perspective, is not the range of people involved, but the fact that the system lacks the hierarchy found in

systems of fused legislative and executive branches with party government. As Kingdon (1995, 76) points out:

A complex combination of factors is generally responsible for the movement of a given item into agenda prominence. For a number of reasons a combination of sources is virtually always responsible. One reason is the general fragmentation of the system. The founders deliberately designed a constitutional system to be fragmented, incapable of being dominated by any one actor. They succeeded. Thus a combination of people is required to bring an idea to policy fruition.

However, the same degree of fragmentation found in the US system does not always prevail in executive-dominated systems with party government (whether in coalitions or majorities) where it is possible for one group—those around the Prime Minister—if not to dominate the entire system then to have a disproportionate eVect Moran / The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy 10-Moran-chap10 Page Proof page 207 7.11.2005 4:04pm

the origins of policy 207

on what issues get consideration. In addition, the core executive also has a powerful inXuence on, if not control of, the process by which alternatives are discussed. We will examine the implications of this more fully below, but if the agenda model has largely been developed as a US model we might expect it to be somewhat less useful as a framework for oVering an account of how policies develop elsewhere.

Consequently the discussion below is hardly pointing out issues that Kingdon and other US theorists dealing with agendas do not appreciate; rather it is highlighting points, some of which are discussed as possibilities in the US system, as having much greater importance outside the USA for telling the story of how policies come into existence.

What is the signiWcance of executive dominance in a party system for the agenda model? Executive dominance does not mean that interest groups are powerless, that governments do not come to rely on the advice and suggestions of such groups, or that individual Members of Parliament never develop signiWcant policy initiatives or propose private members’ legislation in much the same way as the US agenda literature suggests (see Richardson and Jordan 1979). Rather it means that for the most part those seeking to inXuence policies, and above all agendas, have to convince one audience above all which has disproportionate inXuence on the policy process: the political members of the core executive. In some polities the system of policy development has a degree of hierarchy within it that, while not absent in the USA, is entirely routine in most European countries. As Rose (1980,

305) put it in a slightly diVerent context, in European countries there is both government and subgovernment, in the United States there is subgovernment without government (see also Heclo 1978; Truman 1971). Once executive-dominated governments are committed to agendas, they have the constitutional and political capacity to stick with them. They can commit to courses of action. Indeed, once commitments have been made in such systems it can be hard to stop the momentum they generate.

The greater potential for hierarchical structuring of the policy process in systems outside the USA means that governments are more easily able to make general commitments that shape a range of policies—from the commitment to a meta-agenda of broad approaches they seek to develop (albeit that they may face severe political opposition such as in the case of ‘Agenda 2010’ in Germany or ‘Agenda 2006’ in France) to the micro-detail of how clauses within legislation are structured and those delivering the policies are instructed to go about their work (as, for example, with the ability of UK ministers to instruct immigration oYcials to interpret regulations in a particular way). Thus in such systems it is important to examine the origins of policy in venues somewhat removed from legislative policy making, the focus of US accounts of agendas. This chapter sets out four levels of abstraction and discusses how policies can emerge at each level, and each level has distinctive characteristics.

Moran / The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy 10-Moran-chap10 Page Proof page 208 7.11.2005 4:04pm

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2. Clarifying the DiVerences in Policy Origins

One of the basic problems involved in setting out the origins of policy is that we do not know precisely what a policy is. The term ‘policy’ can refer to a constructed unity imposed on diverse and disparate measures—we may look at the totality of measures on, say, education and talk of the ‘education policy’ of a particular country. A book on ‘education policy’ is further unlikely to exclude the institutions that shape and deliver it. Or the term ‘policy’ may refer to a particular law or measure—perhaps even a government circular or some other ‘soft law’ instrument. Even if we insist on deWning policy narrowly, as a particular law or other instrument, it is likely that several distinct measures, not even necessarily related, will be bundled together such that the description of it as a policy is dubious—‘omnibus’ bills in the USA or ‘portmanteau’ bills in the UK combine diverse measures in one law.

As suggested in the introduction to this chapter, policies can be described at a variety of degrees of speciWcity—any one of Bismarck’s social policy laws might be seen itself as a collection of speciWc measures, as a policy in its own right, or as part of a body of measures and laws that is much larger. To help remove this level of ambiguity about what constitutes a policy it is worth considering what we mean by ‘policy’ (though we must avoid elaborate discussion of the many meanings of the term—for a useful discussion see Hogwood and Gunn 1984, 13 V.). Policies can be considered as intentions or actions or more likely a mixture of the two. It is possible for a policy to be simply an intention. The proposals of a party unlikely to gain oYce or participate in a coalition are ‘policies’ even though they have no chance of being put into action. Moreover, it is possible for a policy to be simply an action or a collection of actions. Where, for example, immigration oYcials do not look closely at dubious applications for entry into a country we might describe immigration policy as ‘lax.’ We can, on this basis, specify four levels of abstraction at which policies can be viewed.

Intentions and actions can each be divided into two distinct groupings of things, each of which can be described as ‘policy.’ Intentions can be relatively broad. A range of terms can be used to describe intentions. Policy intentions might take the form of principles— general views about how public aVairs should be arranged or conducted. Candidates for principles might include privatization, deregulation, consumer choice, care in the community, services ‘free at the point of delivery,’ or ‘best available technology.’ Such principles need not necessarily be easily deWned or even coherent, but should be a set of ideas that are capable of application in some form or another to diverse policy topics.

Something as broad as an ideology—a body of ideas that incorporate discrete principles—might also be interpreted as an even broader statement of intentions. Notoriously diYcult to deWne in precise terms, we know that ideologies such as socialism are capable of generating an array of diVerent principles—public ownership, the role of party in government, workers’ rights, and so on. We can include, albeit at a somewhat diVerent

level of aggregation, other ideas that contain bundles of diVerent principles as ideologies:

Thatcherism, Reaganomics, New Public Management, and ‘the Third Way.’ Moran / The Oxford Handbook of Public Policy 10-Moran-chap10 Page Proof page 209 7.11.2005 4:04pm

the origins of policy 209

The intentions might not be quite so broad—they may refer less to an overarching set of principles or even ideology and more to goals related to the speciWc issue or problem that a policy seeks to address. Let us call these rather speciWc intentions ‘policy lines’ since they refer to strategies (or lines) to take in regulating or dealing with particular topics. Typically laws contain several lines. Taking the UK’s Adoption and Children Act 2002 as an example, one policy sought to increase the number of potential adoptive parents, another line on ‘intercountry adoption’ addressed the problems posed by lax adoption laws in other countries. Yet another line was to develop registers of adoption agencies, and there were several other distinct lines in this broad law.

When we move to actions, there are also two levels at which we may conceptualize

policies. Measures are the speciWc instruments that give eVect to distinct policy lines:

the legal requirements to be met by people entering the country with children not their own is one measure, inserting a new clause in the law prohibiting homosexuality as a barrier to adoption is another. Measures have attracted some attention in the literature as the tools of government (Hood 1983). They are not invariably laws.

‘Tools’ include Wnancial incentives, forms of exhortation or recommendation, or the direct deployment of public personnel—nodality, authority, treasure, and organization in Hood’s (1983) NATO scheme.

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