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Students' Outlines of

Nivola & Rosenbloom (eds), Classic Readings in American Politics, 3/e.

Section X: Policy Process

Compiled by Jeremy Lewis, last revised 3 April 2015.
Policy Process Introduction (2 versions, 2001 & 2002)
43: Kingdon, "Agenda Setting" 
44: Lindblom, "Science of Muddling Through"
45: Banfield, "Influence & Public Interest" (two, 2001 & 2002)
46: Lowi, Distribution, Regulation, Redistribution: Functions ..."
The Policy Process
Melissa Braun, 2002

    * Policies are the main products of the polical system. 

    * Public policies are governmental action addressing economic, political, and social concerns. 

    * Policies often conflict with one another. 

    * There are policies on things ranging from environment and defense to civil rights and family. 

    * Critics believe policy making would be more profitable if it "emulated the private sector models". 

    * Critics believe that policy making should incorporate : 
            a. clear, realistic, specific objectives are established. 
            b. all possible means for reachin the stated objectives are presented. 
            c. the best course of action is selected based on examination of possible results and costs. 

    * This approach is called the rational- comprehensive model. 

The Policy Process
Marion Steinfels

*       public policy 
*       is a governmental course of action addressing matters of economic, political or social concern.
*       main product or output of the political system

*       American public policy making
*       messy because of separation of powers, electoral terms of office, and federalism
*       policies tend to be the outcome of political compromise, piecemeal adjustments, temporary coalitions, and partial solutions
*       often they conflict w/ one another
*       may be internally incoherent as well

*       Rational-Comprehensive model 
*       Critics and reformers, wanting to emulate private sector models favor
*       Sequential steps for policymaking
*       Clear, realistic objectives are established
*       All possible means or techniques for achieving the objectives are presented
*       An optimal course of action is selected

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#43: John W. Kingdon – Agenda Setting
By Todd Adams, Fall 2008

Why do some subjects rise on governmental agendas while others are neglected? Kingdon answers:

1. The subject is recognized as an important problem
2. The subject is emphasized in the politics of the day (National mood, elections)
3. The subject is put forward by a visible cluster of policy advocates who attract significant media attention
Kingdon recognizes two major predecision processes- Agenda Setting and Alternative Specification.

Agenda Setting- Three Explanations – Problems, Politics, and Visible Participants

1. Problems
      Problems come to occupy the attention of government officials by means of 
      the ways the officials learn about conditions and the ways in which the 
      conditions become defined as problems.
      Three ways in which government official are made aware of conditions which 
      may lead to problems-
Indicators (assess magnitude or discern changes in conditions)
Focusing events (something which draws attention to conditions)
Feedback both through formal (internal monitoring and evaluation) and informal (external complaints) methods
      Conditions do not rise to prominent places on policy agendas until they become defined as problems at which time action should be taken to change conditions. Conditions are transformed into problems in three ways-
Violation of important values
Comparison with other countries or other relevant units
Classification into one category rather than another
Problems not only rise, but also fade on government agendas for various reasons-
• Government may address the problem or fail to address it
• Conditions which highlight a problem may change
• People may become accustomed to a condition or relabel a problem
• Other items emerge and push the highly placed items aside
• Inevitable cycles in attention
Problem recognition is critical to agenda setting, and some problems defined as pressing may set agendas by themselves. Once a problem is defined as pressing, whole classes of approaches are favored over others and some alternatives are highlighted while others fall from view.
2. Politics
Political stream composed of- 
Swings of national mood- Perceptions of the national mood affect governmental agendas. Serves as both impetus and constraint.
Election turnover- Changes of administration have powerful effect on agenda setting.
• Organized political interests- Governmental officials try to judge the degree of consensus of organized political interests, but balance of forces do not always determine outcomes. Consensus building occurs through a bargaining process- participants sense movement, move in to protect their own interests, and their entry can sharply change agendas.
3. Visible Participants
     Visible cluster of participants who receive considerable press and public 
      attention. These are the participants who have most influence to affect the 
• President and high-level appointees (most powerful agenda setter)
• prominent members of Congress (party leaders, key committee chairs)
• the media
• election-related participants (campaigners, political parties)
Alternative Specification- How is the list of potential alternatives for public policy choices narrowed to the ones that receive serious consideration? Specialists & the Policy Stream.
1. Hidden Participants: Specialists 
Alternatives, proposals, and solutions are generated in communities of 
specialists from different disciplines and backgrounds. They share specialization and acquaintance in a particular policy area. These specialists usually do no attract press or public attention.
• academics
• researchers
• consultants
• career bureaucrats
• congressional staffers
• interest group analysts
2. The Policy Stream
Policy alternatives are generated and narrowed down in the policy stream. Specialists share and sometimes combine ideas to generate proposals. Then they impose criteria on the proposals such as technical feasibility, congruence with the values of the community, and the anticipation of future constraints (budgetary, public acceptance, political receptivity) to eliminate those that are judged infeasible.
A softening-up process is important to allow these policies to come to fruition. In the process of policy development, recombination (the coupling of already-familiar elements) is more important than mutation (the appearance of wholly new forms).
Coupling & Windows- Pairing of policy solutions for problems or political change during Windows with intention of policy solution being placed on the Decision Agenda. 
 Decision Agendas- A list of subjects that is moving into position for authoritative decision such as a legislative enactment or presidential choice. The probability of  an item rising on the decision agenda is dramatically increased if the three  elements- problem recognition, policy proposal, and political receptivity- are  linked in a single package. Partial couplings of the elements are less likely to rise  on decision agendas.
 Policy Windows- A policy window is an opportunity for policy advocates to push  for their solutions or bring attention to their special problem. They have solutions  waiting for the right opportunity to attach them to policy and achieve their  pet  agenda.
 Windows open by events in the political stream or when new problems appear.
• Political window- turnover of elected officials, swing of national mood, vigorous lobbying
• Problem window- a new problem captures attention of governmental officials 
Policy windows can be either predictable (legislation comes for renewal, change of administration after an election) or unpredictable (crisis, unexpected turnover of elected official). Policy windows are scarce and of short duration. When one opens, it presents an opportunity for the linkage of problems, proposals, and politics, to move a policy towards the decision agenda. Advocates of pet proposals look for these opportunities to take advantage of the situations in the political stream.
Policy Entrepreneurs- People who are willing to invest their resources in return for future policies that they favor. They may have any number of motives for their actions. These entrepreneurs are found at every level of policy-making.
• As to problems, entrepreneurs highlight indicators, push on focusing events, and prompt certain kinds of feedback.
• As to proposals, entrepreneurs are central to the softening-up process. They formulate and pass along ideas in many ways and over long periods of time.
• As to coupling, entrepreneurs appear when windows open. They have their pet proposals or their concerns about problems ready to push them at the right moments.
In the pursuit of their own goals, policy entrepreneurs perform the function for the system of coupling solutions to problems, problems to political forces, and political forces to proposals. The joining of the separate streams depends heavily on the appearance of the right entrepreneur at the right time. An item’s chances for moving up on an agenda are enhanced considerably by the presence of a skilled entrepreneur, and dampened considerably if no entrepreneur takes on the cause, pushes it, and makes the critical couplings when policy windows open. 

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Nivola 44: Charles E. Lindblom, “The Science of ‘Muddling Through” 
By Blair Casebere, 2015 (another is below)
Two methods of policy making. (Together = the Rational Comprehensive Model)
Given a subject, such as inflation, to formulate a policy for. 
Looks for a theory that will generalize the most information, such as the theory of prices which generalizes economies, and goes with it, disregarding how that theory may ignore other objectives, such as full-employment. 
Compare the relatively few alternative policy theories that occurred when looking for a guideline to begin with, relying on past experience.
Use incremental policy steps to predict the consequences of similar policy steps in the future 
It would not, as in the 1st method of policy making, approximate a more mechanical process of choosing the means that best fit goals that were previously clarified and ranked.
Because practitioners of the 2nd approach expect to achieve their goals only partially, they would expect to repeat an endless sequence of what was described above.
By Root or by Branch
Public agencies are in effect usually instructed to not practice the 1st method, but instead the 2nd method, where they can mold the policies they’re formulating with the changing conditions and aspirations and as accuracy of prediction improves. 
Operations research, statistical decision theory, and system analysis remain the appropriate techniques of relatively small-scale problem-solving where the total number of variables to be is small and value problems restricted.
Lindblom proposes the method of successive limited comparisons over the rational comprehensive model (RCM).
1.) Clarification of values or objectives distinct from and usually prerequisite to empirical analysis of alternative policies.
2.) Policy-formulation is therefore approached through means-end analysis: First the ends are isolated, then the means to achieve them are sought. 
3.) The test of a “good” policy is that it can be shown to be the most appropriate means to desired ends.
4.) Analysis is comprehensive; every important relevant factor is taken into account. 
5.) Theory is often heavily relied on
The difficulty with the RCM is that on many critical values or objectives, citizens disagree, congressmen disagree, and public administrators disagree.
Successive Limited Comparisons method
1b. Selection of value goals and empirical analysis of the needed action are not distinct from one another but are closely intertwined. 
2b. Since means and ends are not distinct, means-end analysis is often inappropriate or limited.
3b. The test of a “good’ policy is typically that various analysts find themselves directly agreeing on a policy (without their agreeing that it is the most appropriate means to an agreed objective).
4b. Analysis is drastically limited:
i. Important possible outcomes are neglected.
ii. Important alternative potential policies are neglected. 
iii. Important affected values are neglected.
5b. A succession of comparison greatly reduces or eliminates reliance on theory. 
Concerns with limited comparisons
In concerns to the Successive Limited Comparisons (SLC) method, there is a question of whether intensity of feeling should be considered as well as the number of persons preferring the alternative. It’s hard to break from the majority decision.
One needs to determine the values of conflicting values, and ranking them isn’t enough.
Social objectives do not always have the same relative values.
Attempts to rank or order values in general and abstract terms so that they do not shift from decision to decision end up by ignoring the relative marginal preferences. 
There are two aspects that can be distinguished from the SLC method.
1.) Evaluation and empirical analysis are intertwined.
2.) The administrator focuses his attention on marginal or incremental values.
Relations Between Means and Ends (2B)
Decision making is an ordinary formalized as a means-ends relationship: means are conceived to be evaluated and chosen in the light of ends finally selected independently of and prior to the choice of means.
The Test of “Good” Policy (3B).
In the root method, a decision is “correct,” “good,” or “rational” if it can be shown to attain some specific objective.
To show the policy is mistaken one must argue that another policy is more preferred.
There is no standard of “correctness for agreement on objectives failing.
The test is agreement on policy itself, which remains possible even when agreement on values is not. 
In an important sense it is not irrational for an administrator to defend a policy as good without being able to specify what it is good for.
Non-Comprehensive Analysis (4B).
In the method of SLCs, simplification is systematically achieved in two principal ways.
1.) Through limitation of policy comparisons to those policies that differ in relatively small degree from policies presently in effect.
2.) By the practice of ignoring important possible consequences of possible policies, as well as the values attached to the neglected consequences. 
Relevance and Realism
Democracies change their policies almost entirely through incremental adjustments.
The two major political parties agree on fundamentals; they offer alternative policies to the voters only on relatively small points of difference.
Achieving a Degree of Comprehensiveness 
Every important interest or value has its watchdog, and these watch dogs can protect the interest in their jurisdiction in two quite different ways:
1.) By redressing damages done by other agencies
2.) By anticipating and heading off injury before it occurs. 
The incremental pattern of policy-making fits with the multiple pressure pattern which makes it easier for one group to a.) anticipate the kind of moves another might make, and b.) to make correction for injury already accomplished. 
In the root method, the inevitable exclusion of factors is accidental, unsystematic, and not defensible by any argument so far developed, while in the branch method the exclusions are deliberate, systematic, and defensible.
Succession of Comparisons (5B)
In the branch method, the comparisons, together with the policy choice, proceed in a chronical series.
If a wise policy maker proceeds through a succession of incremental changes, he avoids serious lasting mistakes.
1.) Past sequences of policy steps have given him knowledge about the probable consequences of further similar steps.
2.) He need not attempt big jump toward his goals that would require predictions beyond his or anyone else’s knowledge.
3.) He is in effect able to test his previous predictions as he moves on to each further step.
4.) He often can remedy a past error fairly quickly.
The assumption of root analysis is that theory is the most systematic and economical way to bring relevant knowledge to bear on specific problem.
Theorist and Practitioners
Theory is sometimes of extremely limited helpfulness in policy-making for at least two rather different reasons.
1.) It is greedy for facts.
2.) It is typically insufficient precise for application to a policy process that moves through small changes. 
Successive Comparisons as a System
Successive Limited Comparisons is imperfections without a built-in safeguard for all relevant values, and also may lead the decision-maker to overlook excellent policies for no other reason than that they are not suggested by the chain of successive policy steps leading up to the present.
For complex method in which the root method is inapplicable, agencies will want among their own personal two types of diversification: administrators whose thinking is organized be reference to policy chains other than those familiar to most members of the organization and administrators whose professional or personal values or interests create diversity of view, so that even within a single agency, decision-making can be fragmented and parts of the agency can serve as watchdogs for other parts.
44: Charles E. Lindblom, "Science of Muddling Through"
Marion Steinfels

The two methods for making policy decisions.

A.      "Successive limited comparisons"

1.      public administrators tend to implement
2.      policy change is incremental
3.      characteristics
a.      selection of value goals and empirical analysis of the needed action are not distinct from one another but are closely intertwined
b.      since means and ends are not distinct, means-end analysis are often inappropriate or limited
c.      the test of a "good" policy is typically that various analysts find themselves directly agreeing on a policy
d.      succession of comparison greatly reduces or eliminates reliance on theory
B.      Rational-Comprehensive approach
1.      all plausible policy alternatives are thoroughly analyzed before any choices are made
2.      characteristics
a.      clarification of values or objectives distinct from and usually prerequisite to empirical analysis of alternative policies 
b.      policy-formulation is therefore approached through means-end analysis: first, the ends are isolated, then the means to achieve them are sought
c.      the test of a "good" policy is that it can be shown to be the appropriate means to desired ends 
d.      analysis is comprehensive; every important relevant factor is taken into account 
e.      theory is often heavily relied upon

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45: Edward C. Banfield, "Influence & Public Interest"
Amy West, 2002

-Corruption within political endeavors including policy making, campaigning and elections, the economy, and businesses result in the publics best interest being compromised and ignored.

-All too often politicians are out to win elections and not properly fulfill their duties as a public servant.  This results in creating an environment for "fools and drunkards." (Nivola, 559)
-Banfield is basing his study and observations on Chicago, Illinois.
-Says the biggest problem with Chicago's political system is that there is no central direction; no one is looking out for the community as a whole.
-Special interest groups work solely for their own advantage and largely dictate policy on public affairs.
-Banfield says a central public authority, that will unbiasedly survey the city, needs to exist.  This survey would result in actions being taken that will benefit the city as a whole.
-Because of Chicago's metropolitan existence, problems occur between planning and organization.  Organization is desperately needed but there is no one in the position to plan it, including the Mayor. (Banfield suggests this is because of the lack of support from the governor)
-He says that big businesses have too much of an influence on political leaders carrying out plans of actions.  The advantages of being a community business leader gives citizens the power to delay and sometimes even stop policies from being put into action.
-In recent years, Chicagoans have begun to put more power in the hands of the executive branch.  However, the system in Chicago is that people want consistent and viable legislation but they also want bargaining power with their representatives.  With so many special interest groups and businesses, this is a impossible to achieve.
-It seems that political leaders should just find solutions to civic problems but this is not an easy task.  No two opinions are alike.
-The problem lies within "central decisions" and "social choices."
Central decisions are actions for the betterment of the whole and social choices are for the betterment of a particular segment/segments.
-The solution is to take into consideration what will benefit the most people. (special interest groups included)
-A great amount of time and effort is put into making these decisions.
-There will always be influence in politics by those who have outside power. (business leaders, influential non politicians)
-Advantages of social choice: deals with all the elements (both factual and value), real influence is a result (who the decision is going to directly effect and how).
-Advantages of central decision: public values are addressed, essentially the majority of the community will benefit.
-If no decisions are made or not much is done to solve problems, this is because it is the publics interest not to demand action/solutions.


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45: Edward C. Banfield, "Influence & Public Interest"
Marion Steinfels

Analysis based on six case studies of policy making in Chicago.

Nature of Political System V. Requirements of Planning
                A. Tensions
                                1.      Decentralization - no one is in a position to survey the city and to 
                                formulate and carry out public policy
                                2.   Tension between the two is ineradicable
Policy making decisions/choices

1.      "Central decision"
a.      in some sense purposeful or deliberate
b.      made by someone who, in making the selection, is trying to realize
some intention of the group
c.      selection of an action, or a course of action, for the group,
represents a "solution" to the "problem"
2.      "Social choice"
a.      the accidental by-product of the actions of two or more actors
b.      "interested parties," who have no common intention and make their
selections competitively, without regard to each other
c.      each actor seeks to attain his own ends
d.      situation produced by all actions together - constitutes an outcome
for the group, but it is an outcome which no one has planned as a "solution"
to the "problem, " rather a "resultant"
e.      single, ultimate criterion...the distribution of influence
1.      may be viewed as an outcome of a continuing "game" which has been going on, under rules that a majority of the players have been free to change at any time
2.      also reflects the intensity with which the competing values are held
3.      the character of the influence exercised may afford additional grounds for considering the distribution of influence to be an appropriate criterion
a.      limitations of great importance
1.      takes into account only such ends as actors of influence see fit to assert
2.      may exist an outcome which represents the "greatest total benefit" of the parties to the choice process but which is not likely to be found if each party seeks only his own advantage
3. Mixed decision-choice process
a.      central decisionmaker may regulate the selection process so that "public values" are achieved of, or, negatively, not disregarded
b.      central decisionmaker may coordinate the activities of the interested parties in order to help them find positions optimal in terms of their ends
c.      central decisionmaker merely records the relative influence exercised by the competing interested parties

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Nivola 46, Theodore Lowi, “Distribution, Regulation, Redistribution: Functions of Government”
By Blair Casebere, 2015 (another is below)
In the long run, all governmental policies may be considered redistributive, or regulatory.
Distributive policies
Current Ex: Land and resource policies; Pork barrel programs. 
Are made by short-sighted politics with no regard to limited resources. 
Characterized by the ease with which they can be disaggregated and dispensed unit by small unit. 
These policies are virtually not policies at all but are highly individualized decisions that only can be called a policy by accumulation.
Those deprived by these policies usually cannot be identified as a class.
Regulatory policies
Are specific & highly individualized in their impact. However, can’t be infinitely disaggregated by individuals.
(Works like our judiciary system): Implication is case-by-case or firm-by-firm, but once made, sets a general rule, interrelating within the broader standards of law, for all firms.
Their impact is clearly one of directly raising costs and/or reducing or expanding the alternatives of private individuals. 
 Ex: “Provide kosher is you advertise kosher!”
Clearly states who will be indulged and who will be deprived by these policy. 
Redistributive policies
Involve broad categories of private individuals, and hence, individual decisions as interrelated.
However, the impact approaches social classes. 
Reality of what something is doesn’t change the fact of the aims it was meant to do. 
The aim is not equal treatment, but equal possession. 
Rather than by its outcome, the nature of a redistributive policy is defined by what the policy can be, or what it threatens.  
Arenas of Power
Once the general tendency of these areas of policy is drawn up, a number of hypotheses are accumulated, quickly resembling the three “general” theories of political process. 
Distributive arena
Distributive issues individualize conflict and provide the basis for highly stable coalitions that are virtually irrelevant to the larger policy outcomes.
the structure of distributive policies is parallel to the traditional structure of tariff politics.
The arena is “pluralist” only in the sense that a large number of small, intensely organized interests are operating.
The single person and the single firm are the major activists.
The typical form of relationship in the distributive arena is a coalition of uncommon interest composed of members who have absolutely nothing in common.
Has greatest bearing on the relations among participants and, therefore, the “power structure.”
This structure usually, but not always, leads to Congress.
Regulatory arena
Composed of a multiplicity of groups organized around tangential relations or “shared attitudes.”
Basis/form of relationship: Congress and the “balance of power” play the classic role attributed to them by pluralists.
Certain elements of distributive politics remain for 2 reasons
1 There is always an effort by a political leader to disaggregate policies in order to avoid conflict. 
2 Until 1962, the basic tariff law and schedules were still contained in the Smoot-Hawley Act.
Tariffs became a regulatory policy in 1962.
Redistributive area
Issues of redistribution cut closer than any other to class lines.
Has very few case-studies published. Generally depicted by the case of the “welfare state” battle of the 1930s.
The Congressional battles was quiet because the real struggle was taking place between the Hopkins-Perkins bureaucracies and the Treasury.
The principle of the Smoot-Hawley Act was set in an interplay involving to executives and business and labor leaders.
Pluralists v. Elitist
Pluralist: argue there is always a vast array of organized interest for any item on the policy agenda. 
(but the relations among the interests and between organized interests and government vary.)
Bauer, Pool, and Dexter would say, they have preserved their unanimity through overlapping memberships.  They gain identity to the extent that they can define the issues in redistributive terms.
(Mill’s) Power elite/Peak associations: the political structure of the redistributive arena seems to be highly stabilized, virtually institutionalized.
Peak associations have reality. Their resources and access are bound to affect power relations.
There is a type of stable and continual conflict that can only be understood in class terms.
The foundation upon which the power-elite rested was so conceptually weak that its critics were led err on the opposite direction.

46: Theodore J. Lowi, Distribution, Regulation, Redistribution: Functions ..."
Marion Steinfels

Does politics make policy or does policy drive politics?
I.      Three generic categories of public policy
A.      Distributive

1.      certain kinds of government decisions can be made without regard to
limited resources
2.      includes most contemporary public land and resource policies; rivers
and harbors (pork barrel) programs, defense procurement and research and
development programs 
3.      characterized by the ease with which they can be disaggregated and
dispensed unit by small unit
4.      primary political unit - individual firm, corporation
5.      relation among units - log-rolling, mutual noninterference, uncommon
6.      power structure - non-conflictual elite with support groups 
7.      stability of structure - stable
8.      primary decisional locus - congressional committee and/or agency
9.      implementation - agency centralized to primary functional unit
B.      Regulatory
1.      specific and individual in their impact too
2.      not capable in the almost infinite amount of disaggregation typical of distributive policies
3.      impact, one of directly raising costs and/or reducing or expanding the alternatives of private individuals
4.      primary political unit - group
5.      relation among units - "the coalition" shared subject-matter interest, bargaining
6.      power structure - pluralistic, multi-centered, "theory of balance"
7.      stability of structure - stable 
8.      primary decisional locus - congress, in classic role
9.      implementation - agency decentralized from center by "delegation," mixed control
C.      Redistributive
1.      relations among broad categories of private individuals are involved, individual decisions must be interrelated (similar to regulatory)
2.      categories of impact much broader, approaching social classes
3.      not determined by the outcome of a battle 
4.      primary political unit - association
5.      relation among units - the "peak association" class, ideology
6.      power structure - conflictual elite, elite and counterelite
7.      primary decisional locus - executive and peak associations
8.      stability of structure - stable
9.      implementation - agency centralized toward top, elaborate standards

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