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The Process of Formulating Policy Case Study

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Updated: Dec 18th, 2019

Lindblom’s Incrementalism

Incrementalism is the process of formulating policy by aggregating the minute units of the policy to come up with comprehensive policy. Lindblom used the example of a manager who is supposed to formulate policy on inflation (79). The manager would have to aggregate all the values that affect inflation and then come up with policy using these values (Lindblom 79). The manager would then analyze the policy available and take advantage of the available policies to come up with a comprehensive framework (Lindblom 79).

The barrier to significant policy change in Lindblom’s incrementalism theory is the fact that policy makers and analysts limit their scope to what is comprehensible to the users. They aim at simplifying the policy for the users rather than coming up with comprehensive policy that may be difficult to understand.

Lindblom intimates that the policy makers in the western democracies use incremental methods to formulate policy for the purpose of remaining relevant as well as simplifying the process of policy formation. Therefore, policy makers aim at coming up with policies that will not affect the ability of the users to understand.

However, in this paper analysis of policy, Lindblom says that whatever might be seen as a minute change by one person may be seen differently by another (298). In this light, the other barrier to significant policy change is the view of policy users. Change in policy is dependent on the public attitude (Lindblom 85).

Political scientists are of the opinion that the survival of democracy in the United States is dependent on fundamental agreement on sensitive issues (Lindblom 85). Therefore, if the users do not accept a change in policy, there will be no change in policy.

For policy to change significantly there must be a great passage of time. Policy changes are gradual and occur over time. This is because the policy makers use old policies to formulate new policy. Lindblom explains that policy analysts and policy makers compare the existing policy with the old policy to come up with policy that is relevant over a given period (79).

In the process, policy makers end up changing only a fraction of the policy available since most of the policies remain relevant over a long period time. Users of such policies may only notice a small change in the general policy but for the users to realize that a significant amount of change in policy a great deal of time must have passed. Therefore, for significant changes in policy to occur and be noticed by the users, a significant passage of time is necessary.

Kingdon’s Streams Model

According to this theory, the barriers to significant policy change include goal specification and changing goals. Problems and preferences are relatively not well known by the policy makers (Zahariadis 75). Therefore, policy makers find it hard to select an alternative that would yield maximum benefit (Zahariadis 75). The major challenge under the concept of ambiguity is that policy makers do not know what the problem is (Zahariadis 75).

The definition of problem is always shifting and vague (Zahariadis 75). Policy formulation is extremely complicated due to various reasons due to the differences in understanding among individuals. Sometimes these differences may contribute to lack of clear goals thus leading to shift in goals.

Due to these problems, the policy formulated may be vague in terms of language, ambiguous, and contradictory. Policy makers also have the responsibility of filling gaps in policy. These gaps may or may not align with the intentions of the policy maker. If the gaps to be filled do not coincide with the intention of the policy maker then there is likelihood that the goals will not be specific.

According to Zahariadis, for significant policy changes to occur, there must change in time (75). Time is unique and scarce and the primary objective of decision makers and policy is to manage time effectively (Zahariadis 75). It is reasonable to pursue policy-making decisions that may be irrational but can last through time (Zahariadis 75). Therefore, with this in mind the only way that policy can change effectively is through change in time.

As time changes the interests of the people may also change. Therefore, changes in interest may also account for significant changes in policy. Kingdon’s adaptation of the garbage can model has incorporated ideas-versus-interests dilemma (Zahariadis 78). Therefore, changes in interests of the policy users may account for significant changes in policy.

According to Zahariadis, the big political events are usually connected to the small/ narrow sectional development in specific way (78). In this light of events, we can notice that significant policy change is highly dependent on the narrow or small ideas of users in different sectors of an organizational unit.

Baumgartner and Jones’ Punctuated Equilibrium

Punctuated equilibrium as used in policy is a theory that advances the notion that most policies will exhibit little or no changes for an extended period of time. In case the changes in policy occur, it is generally restricted to specific areas in the policy thus creating new policy that is completely different from the first.

The barriers to policy changes in this model are the conservative nature of organizations, the restricted cognitive nature of human, and vested interest. The conservative nature of organizations explains how organizations and states are unwilling to change their policies over a given period of time.

The policy makers remain sticky for a continued period of time until something happens to change their culture. In case of vested interest, the policy may remain stagnated for a while because it serves the interest of several people or groups. Baumgartner and Jones in their article “Punctuated Equilibrium in politics” explained this concept using the idea of policy monopolies (6). Every individual group and entrepreneur has his or her personal interest.

Therefore, a monopoly in politics deals with policy of personal interest since no one likes competition (Baumgartner and Jones 6). Due to these interests, significant policy changes are hard to come by. Another reason for lack of significant changes is due to the limit in human knowledge. Policy will remain in the same stagnant stage until human gains knowledge or recognizes a need for change in policy.

For policy to change there must be humongous shifts in societal views or changes in government. It is logical that without change in societal views the policy may remain the same since they would have no qualms about the existing policy. The policy would be serving its purpose because the knowledge of the society is limited. However once the views of the society changes and they see that the policy is no longer serving its purpose significant changes are bound to occur.

Another factor that may lead to significant changes is the shift in governance. Once the policy makers change policy is bound to change due to the fact that the new policy makers will want to serve their personal interests. If the previous policy does not serve, the interest of the new policy makers there will be a shift in policy thus a significant change to accommodate the interest of the new policy makers.

Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith’s Advocacy Coalition Framework

Advocacy coalition is the process where a group of individuals come up together to support specific policy change.

According to Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith’s the idea of policy change is influenced by political scientists (14). Scholars have clearly demonstrated that the political scientists are not necessarily as neutral as they may be viewed neither are they indifferent to policy changes; instead these political scientists are members of coalitions that may or may not support policy changes.

The degree of their support and the level of coalition determines how the policy changes. Therefore, policy changes are affected by cognitive limits of the political scientists. Significant policy changes may only occur if the political scientists recognize the need to change the policy and act in a collected effort to change the policy. Otherwise, changes in the core of matters of the policy are not susceptible to changes unless there are serious anomalies in the policy.

Major policy changes occur in the core aspects of policy in case of very great anomalies in the policy. Where the policy experiences great anomalies, the political scientists may at as a unit to ensure that the policy is changes to suit its purpose. The levels of agreement among the political scientists needed to institute policy change vary across different governments. Hierarchically superior systems and coalitions may try to change the policy core of subordinate coalitions or levels.

Policy core may change substantially in cases where the fundamental perceptions of the policy makers change. For example, a change in basic priorities of the policy users may institute changes in the general policy core. Sabatier and Jenkins-Smith’s believed that the increase in support for environmental pollution lead to passage of the 1970 policy amendment (14).

Moreover, serious problems in the policy may cause the policy makers to reconsider their stand on certain policies and change them. Deep core policies are hard to change it takes a lot of effort to change the deep core policies. Changes in deep core policies may change due to changes in beliefs of individuals and the political scientists. Like religious beliefs deep core policies are rooted in the systems and changes can only occur if the masses agree that the policy need to be changed.

Therefore, for deep core policy to change there must be change in human nature, change in the priorities of the ultimate values, and a change in the socio-cultural identity of the community. Changes in the secondary aspect of policy may occur significantly if there is a problem in the specific aspect.

The political scientists must view this problem as serious enough in order to support significant policy changes. In addition to this, secondary aspects of policy may change due to administrative decisions. The administrators may collude to change policy n order to serve personal interests.

Works Cited

Baumgartner, Frank and Jones, Bryan. Punctuated Equilibrium in Politics. Colorado: Westview, 1999. Print

Lindblom, Charles. “Analysis of Policy.” Public Administration Review, 19.2 (1958): 298-299. Print.

Lindblom, Charles. “The Science of Muddling Through.”Public Administration Review, 19.2 (1958): 79-88. Print.

Nikolaos, Zahariadis. Ambiguity, Time and Multiple Streams in Theories of Policy Process. Colorado: Westview, 1999. Print

Sabatier, Paul and Hank, Jenkins-Smith’s. Advocacy Coalition Framework: an Assessment. Colorado: Westview, 1999. Print

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