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The Relevance of the Claim ‘Might versus Right’ in Policy Analysis Case Study


Policy analysis is an essential element of making public policy. A policy constitutes a number of aims and various specified activities that aid in resolution of public problems once they are implemented (Lyhne 2011, p.321).

Alternatively, a policy can be defined as any action that a government considers as right or wrong for its people (Ridde 2009, p.939).

In the process of making public policy, the contribution of policy analysis is critical in case a government makes various decisions in the effort to resolve certain problems that attract social attention without success in the realisation of the specified objectives.

Policy analysis entails determination of the best policy among a range of possible alternatives that would lead to achieving pre-set goals and objectives in the most subtle manner (Dye 2007, p.21). Policy analysis is divided between descriptive and analytical, and prescriptive analysis (Fischer, Miller & Sidney 2006, p.122).

The analytical and descriptive approach attempts to provide an explanation of policies coupled with their developments.

The prescriptive approach seeks to formulate policies coupled with policy proposal for instance to improve conditions of social welfare and or social problems (Dunn 2003, p.12). Although policy analysis is also conducted in the private sector, it is mostly the province of the public sector.

The public sector happens also to suffer from the most external influences and jeopardy of the process of policy making from the subjective action of the mighty and or wealthy key personalities within the government and other interest groups such as media and human right activists.

The purpose of this paper is to discuss how the notions of ‘might’ and the ‘rights’ participates in the process of analysis of the public policy and how they impact the analysis process by considering a case study for implementation and analysis of public policy in the European context.

The paper equates might to people with economic power and people who are economically well endowed. On the other hand, right is equated to people with intellectual and technical knowledge in analysis of public policy.

Failure to mitigate negative interference to analysis of public policy by various jeopardising forces can lead to implementation of the wrong policies, which in turn could lead to the wastage of public finances.

This paper is composed of two main sections. In the first section, description of the use of case studies in research in general is presented first followed by description of the circumstances leading to the development of the policy used as the case study in this research paper.

Effort is then made to discuss issues associated with utilisation of case studies in research with a particular focus on the explanatory case study, which is used in this research paper.

In the second section, the specific case study of stimulating the use of bio-fuels in the European Union is analysed to reveal how ‘might’ versus the ‘right’ can influence analyses of public policies.

Using case studies in research

A case study is deployed as the main methodology of research in this paper. This choice is influenced by the capacity of case studies to be most flexible in comparison to other research designs (Yin 2005, p.34).

Flexibility is essential in ensuring that holistic traits of real life experiences are retained while attempting to investigate empirical events. In their design, case studies assume a specific chosen example as the main principle subject.

They can also be used in “intellectually rigorous manner to achieve experimental isolation of one or more selected social factors within real life context” (Yin 2005, p.67). Case studies are particularly appropriate for research since they are both quantitative and qualitative. However, this research is designed to be qualitative.

Explanatory case study is appropriate in case it is desired that the method deployed to garner data for a research is both quantitative and qualitative. In such a situation, the main use of an explanatory case study is to describe and also explore certain phenomenon, develop and also explain causal relationships and finally develop theory.

Deployment of explanatory cases studies in research calls for the researcher to describe the phenomenon under study accurately and consider alternative explanations that are directly congruent with facts.

For this reason, the next section focuses on the description of the case study of a real experience in the analysis of public policies in the European Union.


There has been looming concerns over the environmental degradation resulting from greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions into the atmosphere.

This concern has attracted the attention of the international community to the extent that various global conventions have been formulated to help decide a way forward to help to reduce the amount of greenhouse gas that is emitted into the atmosphere (Blok, de Jager, & Hendriks 2001, p.5).

Such conventions include the Kyoto protocol to climate change.There has been instances in which some nations have failed to collaborate in the implementation of the agreed upon policies for mitigation of the harm posed to the atmosphere by the green house gases.

Many of these conventions have called upon member states attending the meetings to enact and implement appropriate policies to ensure that further degradation of atmosphere does not take place.

EU has been in forefronts to implement the call of the Kyoto protocol on the environmental change. By 2010, various policies were developed to realise this call. This paper focuses on one of such policies as a case study, which upon its critical analysis will help to analyse the manner in which might versus right impact analysis of public policy.

This policy referred to is the policy “Stimulating the use of bio-fuels in the European Union” (European Parliament and Council 2003, p.2).

The case study: Stimulating the use of bio-fuels in the European Union

Through the policy on ‘Stimulating the use of bio-fuels in the European Union’, the EU proposes to substitute fossils fuels with bio-fuels as one of strategies for reducing the quantities of the greenhouse gas emitted to the atmosphere as proposed by Kyoto protocol on environmental change (Fulton, Howes & Hardy 2004, p.12).

Fuels used in transposition equipment and machinery open the EU to two main problems. In the first place, through subscription to the provisions of the Kyoto protocol on environmental change, EU welcomes the provision for absolute tolerance to green house emissions.

Unfortunately, the trend on the transportation sector in the EU has been on the rise. This case implies that the amount of green house emissions has also been on the rise (Ryan, Convery & Ferreira 2006, p.3185). People are aware of rightfulness of the need to curtail the implication of the greenhouse gas emissions on the ecosystem.

However, those with political powers, who also happen to be well endowed economically, are mostly the persons who are engaged introducing more the transportation equipment and machinery that depend on fossil fuels for their operation.

Another challenge posed to the EU due to the high trend in the number of transposition equipments and machineries is even more reliant on the oil supplies from the Middle East nations that face high instances of insecurity.

In the absence of consideration of the impacts of greenhouse emission on the atmosphere, EU needs to enact a policy that would ensure that a shift from dependence on fossil fuels for operation of its transportation and manufacturing sector shifts towards other economically viable alternatives (Ryan, Convery & Ferreira 2006, p.3185).

Seeking to produce fuels through other alternatives within the EU can also help to boost employment in the EU especially by noting that the EU member states had in 2009 through 2010 straggled to deal with the economic crisis, which resulted in low employment levels.

The above challenges can be proactively resolved through advocating for substitution of fossil fuels with bio-fuels.

On full recognition of the merits of this viable option for reducing green house emissions as required by the Kyoto protocol on environmental change, the EU embarked on legislation on regulation of use of fossil fuels through the development of policies encouraging the use of bio-fuels in transportation and manufacturing sector (Kavalov 2004, p.56).

This attempt is a pragmatic effort towards cutting the amount of greenhouse emissions, but with the current technology in production of bio-fuels, the effort is currently not competitive compared with fossil fuels in commercial terms within Europe (Armstrong et al. 2002, p.13).

This argument created the necessity of analysis of the policy on substitution of fossil fuels with bio-fuels in the EU.

The main question that arises is whether bio-fuels can become competitive once the external benefits to the society (among them being enhancement of security for supply of transportation fuels, reduction in the green house emissions and development of rural areas through the provision of employment opportunities) are put into perspective.

Technical context and the EU policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels in the European Union

The directive of the EU for promotion of bio-fuels usage coupled with other fuels that are renewable in the transportation requires the EU members states to “ensure a minimum proportion of bio-fuels and or renewable fuels are placed on their markets” (Ryan, Convery & Ferreira 2006, p.3187).

The EU member states are allowed to have excise duties levied on bio-fuels reduced. The European green paper titled ‘towards European strategy for energy supply’ also backs this initiative (Ryan, Convery & Ferreira 2006, p.3187). The directive also establishes several products, which fit the definition of bio-fuels.

The first product is the bio-diesel. It is derived from various plant oils including soybeans, palm and rape seeds, and from organic materials, which while modified are deployed in diesel engines (Van Thuijl, Roos, & Beurskens 2003, p.67). Other products are the bio-alcohols. These products include ethanol and methanol.

In the EU, the above two groups of products have received intense concerns since the materials are appropriate for production through agriculture. They are also readily available in large enough quantities to justify commercial viability.

With the current technology, the EU policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels in the European Union stipulates that other alternative are too expensive or utilise large amounts of energy for the production of bio-fuels (Ryan, Convery & Ferreira 2006, p.3187).

With technological improvement in the future they can be viable alternatives since economies of scale may ensure reduction in their production costs (Fulton et al. 2004, p.34). Petroleum networks are standardised. They also connect extensive areas.

These two traits make utilisation of bio-fuels in the transport sector to require heavy investment of public resources before they can attain the diverseness of the current petroleum networks. This makes the cost and the selling price of various bio-fuel alternatives much higher compared to fossil fuels.

Any public policy begins with problems definition followed by proposition of myriad of possible alternatives to resolve the defined problem. The next phase involves the evaluation of the proposed solution in the effort to derive the most appropriate solution to resolve the challenge.

In the context of the EU policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels in the European Union, bio-fuels derived from the plant oils and sugar beets are considered as the best alternative bearing in mind the current technological endowment.

The question that remains is how the forces of might versus the right can influence the selection of this alternative. This is the focus of the next section on the analysis of the case study on the EU policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels in the European Union.


Might versus right in general while analysing public policies

In the process of making public policies, might and rights are essential aspects in the analysis process of the policies.

The two aspects manifest themselves in terms of differences in power possessed by people who influence the implementation process of developed public policies upon their analysis for their capacity to facilitate achievement of certain goals and aims articulated to resolution of problems that affect the greater population within a nation.

Based on the pressures of the Kyoto protocol, EU introduced Carbon (II) Oxide emission trading schemes. The schemes were initiated in 2005 as pilot phase for reducing green house gas emissions.

Despite non-inclusion of the transportation Emissions in the pilot phase, these emissions constitute one of the pressing issues in the EU in that it takes the lion’s share of 19 percent of the total CO2 emissions of the EU (European Environment Agency 2004, p.7).

With these statistics in mind, the EU finds it plausible to develop alternative fuels that have low or even absolute zero greenhouse gas emissions upon their combustion to release energy.

The European commission foresees three possible alternatives to fossils fuels, which are natural gas, bio-fuels and hydrogen (Commission of the European Communities 2001, p.2).

In the analysis of the policy of stimulation of bio-fuels in the European Union, the sustainability of bio-fuels as substitution of fossil fuels in automobile remains a crucial issue.

In the policy, bio-fuels are merely possible alternatives for fuels currently used in the automobiles only in the capacity of transitional fuels as technology advances to help in deriving long-term solutions (Ryan, Convery & Ferreira 2006, p.3185).

Accruing from technical and cost challenge to put in place appropriate infrastructures, natural gas and hydrogen serves only as mediums as opposed to viable solutions in the short run (Ryan, Convery & Ferreira 2006, p.3185).

Policies are analysed from the context of existing knowledge on the impacts of various alternatives when applied to solve particular social problems. Exercising power aids in knowledge creation while knowledge also truncates to the development of power.

This means that power has the ability to produce knowledge (Carsten 2008, p.1137). The magnitude of power that can be applied by an individual, organisation or interest groups to influence analysis of public policies is the measure of the degree of the mightiness or rightness. Right may originate from the might.

Nevertheless, those with power are not always right. This means that power, which manifests itself in terms of political, economic and social influence, may act as a big force of influencing the choice of mechanisms of resolving problems that are of public interest.

The power resource, as a characteristic of might may also originate from intellectual or technical expertise. People perceived as technically or intellectually competent in certain matters are perceived as the right since they give analytical breakdown of various impacts and implications of adopting particular alternatives to comprise a public policy.

This implies that the right can also be the might.

The argument raised above infers that both the right and the might can be collectively get involved in the reconstruction and deconstruction of knowledge or what is considered as the perceived reality in public policy analysis.

In this extent, might is an expression of power, which again is the capacity to produce some preconceived intended effects (Giddens 2009, p.132). In practice, an individual say, A has power over another individual say, B if and only if A can compel B to do something against B’s wishes.

In this line of argument, Bachrach, and Baratz, Giddens (2009) lament, “ power is exercised when A devotes his energies to creating or reinforcing social and political values and institutional practices that limit the scope of the political process to public consideration of only those issues which are entirely innocuous to A” (p.213).

Might is the possession of the ability to persuade other parties to act and do as the first party wants things done.

The relationship between the mighty and right in the analysis of policymaking process may also be scrutinised from the paradigms of rationality in decision-making. In capitalistic regimes, those with power are normally the economically and politically well-endowed societal key figures.

They are also the owners of tools and factors of productions. In such a regime, a decision is appropriate to the extent that it preserves the status quo and enhances the capitalistic gains of these iconic societal figures.

An alternative that best resolves public problems is the one that helps the capitalists to leap optimally from the implementation of the derived policy.

From a Marxist point of view, in the capitalistic nations, an analysis of public policy from the paradigms of the right will lead to the implementation of a policy based on the capacity of the alternative selected to comprise the policy based on cost benefits analysis of the most plausible choice for the resolution of the public problems at hand.

In this context, the right is not the money-obsessed individual unlike the might. In public view, this argument suggests that rationality model for analysis of public policies is the best approach for analysis public policies. Even in the right of this assertion, this approach has its own merits and demerits.

One of the merits of the rational approach in the analysis of public policies is that it portrays high degree of comprehensiveness. For the purposes of heuristics, the rational model prescribes the stages of the decision-making cycle.

These stages include the identification of the problems prompting the necessity to come up with an appropriate decision expressed through a policy, lay out of objectives and goals and description of various alternatives that may yield the preset goals and objectives.

On doing this, examination of the capacity of various alternatives to lead to the realisation of the goals and objectives coupled with the consequences of each of the alternatives once incorporated in the policy statement follows.

This is what is termed as the analysis of public policy. The last phase entangles the implementation of the alternative that is chosen as being most appropriate for resolution of a given problem that is of public interest and hence constituting the desired policy.

In terms of the debate between right and might discussed above, it is inappropriate to presume that policies are developed and analysed in an environment that is only dominated by notions of right without the participation of the powerful (might).

For instance, public policy cannot be made without the contributing of political forces and bureaucrats. Those concerned with the ‘right’ approach are essentially the analysts. Politically mighty people are the policy formulators. Bureaucrats are the implementers. In making policies, these three factors interact and influence one another.

Thus, they exercise power over one another. They also determine the alternative selected as the most appropriate for solving a given social problem.

In this context, the rational model as a preferred approach for analysis of public policies suffers in the sense that contribution of the politically resource hungry individual is inseparable from the process of making public policies.

The rational model is also developed to ensure satisfaction, as opposed to maximisation resource utilisation (Fischer, Miller & Sidney 2006, p.97).

Might versus right in the context of EU policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels

Consistent with the calls of Kyoto protocol, through the policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels, the EU proposed various measures to control the emissions of greenhouse gas to the environment.

The main objective of the policy is to reduce transport emissions, foster rural and regional developments in an EU members states and ensure the security in energy supply is enhanced. Following the paradigms of a rational model, might and the rights may affect the analysis of the policy in many ways.

As one of the ways advocated for by persons having the intellectual and technical power (the right) in influencing reducing GHG emissions, policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels may be analysed using the rational model.

From the perspective of the right, any appropriate policy should comprise five essential elements. The ‘might’ may influence each of the elements in valid ways.

These elements are problems definition, determination of the evaluation criteria, identification of alternative policies, evaluation of alternative policies, and selections of the preferred policy.

Problem definition

From the description of the case study, the EU policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels clearly defines two main problems whose solutions are sought. They include escalated rise in the consumption of fossils fuels in the transportation sector, which implies an increase in emission of green house gases.

This is indirectly congruent with provisions of Kyoto protocol on climatic change convection.

The second problem is that EU is prone to overdependence of oil from Middle East. With the security situation in Middle East remaining volatile, EU anticipated facing fluctuations in oil prices coupled with uncertainties of adequate supplies to meet the escalated consumption.

Before proceeding into the next stage of the development of the policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels in EU, it is necessary that these problems be analysed from the context of their impacts on the EU communities before commitment of public resources is made to resolve them.

It is in this phase that the foul play of might versus the right in the analysis of public policies is encountered. Based on the right’s calculations of the costs of emission of GHG into the atmosphere arising from the increased use of transportation fuels, these problems are substantive at community platforms. Hence, they warrant quick solutions.

Considering the might to be characterised by the owners of the factors of production, the above problems may not be as substantive as the right may argue. This argument makes sense especially if the solution to the problems call for commitment of resources in such magnitudes that no optimal returns on investments can be realised.

On a different perspective, in case the ‘might’ are the communal activists and or political forces (powerful people who have the capability to enforce certain decisions), amid the concerns of the economic might, the problems discussed above could constitute social problems that call for immediate actions.

Determination of the evaluation criteria

The evaluation criteria of public policies is appropriate if it will ensure that the chosen alternative method of achieving the preset objectives and the aims accords equal opportunities to every person to whom the policy is deemed applicable.

In this process, the ideal evaluation criteria involve non-expression of stakes and hence evidencing of individualistic prejudices and gains. Nevertheless, according to Friedmann (2002), political statements on the stands of the appropriate evaluation criteria of policies may not precisely reflect equity principles (p.105).

This means that although it is desirable that in the evaluation of the EU policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels policy everyone benefits equally from the implementation of the policy, it does not imply that everyone one attain will equal benefits.

In the light of the above discussion, the EU policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels policy is designed to resolve several problems, which are described in the case study description section above. In the determination of the evaluation criteria, the shift of the focus of the problems may change due to might and the right influences.

From the dimension of the right, the evaluation criteria is set as the capacity of the adopted strategies to result in reduction of the GHG emissions as it relates to regulation of climatic change coupled with economic efficiency.

Concerning economic efficiency, the decision-making criteria is based on the costs incurred in conversation of bio-fuels sources into a form that can be utilised in the transportations sector. For the economic might, this is an appropriate approach.

Human activists’ power would act to shape the evaluation criteria differently from the above approach of the economic might.

In addition to the economic might consideration of the mechanism of resolving the problems identified in the case study and which prompt the necessity of the development of the policy, the human activists will demand that the evaluation criteria also reflects the social impacts of the policy (Kraft & Furlong 2010, p.56).

The owners of the factors of productions (the might) would want the operational and technical difficulties that would make the venture less profitable addressed while determining the requisite evaluation criteria of the policy.

Identifications of alternative policies

In the analysis of various policy alternatives, the EU appreciates that the problems of reduction of GHG emission may be addressed by choosing between three main substitutes to the fossils fuels.

Drawing from the case study description, these are hydrogen, bio-fuels and natural gas. Each of the alternatives is anticipated to replace application of oil in transportation by 5 percent by 2020 (Ryan, Convery & Ferreira 2006, p.3185).

The selection of the appropriate alternative for implementation is a function of its attractiveness in reduction of costs of production of the fuels that can be applied in the transportations sector.

Deriving from the case study, the EU has established a reliable and extensive network for processing and distribution fossils fuels (Ryan, Convery & Ferreira 2006, p.3186).

In the identification of the alternative, the contribution of the economically endowed persons who are also the owners of these distribution networks is crucial in the extent that the alternative solutions are also likely to be implemented by the same persons.

This strategy will involve the alteration or even complete changeover of the processing plants and the distribution networks. Hence, the most likely option identified is the one that has the highest likelihood for not rendering the already established processing and distribution networks useless.

This case introduces the concerns of cost saving as one of the principles of the analysis of appropriateness of any public policy based of the rational model.

Evaluation of alternative policies

Evaluation of the alternative policies is carried out based on the determined evaluation criteria (Stone 2012, p.56). This implies that the impacts of the ‘might’ versus the ‘right’ in the determination of the evaluation criteria for public policies also impacts the evaluation of the alternative policies.

The technical and intellectual experts for the analysis of public policies select the best alternative policy based on the efficiency of the policy in the realisation of the preset goals and objectives for the policy when implemented (May & Winter 2007, p.455).

This may contradict the political might perspective that a government should spend as much resources as necessary in the ensuring that a policy directive is attained if the policy of social importance.

For instance, from the right’s point of view, cost benefit analysis may be conducted to evaluate the appropriateness of several policy alternatives. From this paradigm, a policy is good only if its benefits outweigh the costs incurred.

Considering the right’s mechanism of evaluation of alternative policies, the might, being the persons having the power to push through for a decision, may serve to erode the right’s approach of evaluation of the alternative policy.

This argument is made clearer by considering the case of EU policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels policy.

While the right (technical experts) finds that utilisation of hydrogen and natural gas as alternative sources of transposition fuels to fossil fuels lead to more costs, the might ones (the formulators of the policy) advocate for the EU member states to encourage production of bio-fuels through subsidies and reduction of taxes levied on organisations that engages in the business.

Selection of the preferred policy

Based on the rational model for analysis of public policies, the selection of preferred policy is the last stage for the analysis of public policies.

It is arrived at upon comprehensive analysis of all information available on the practicability of the policy, potential repercussion of various alternatives and the ability of each of the alternatives to permit the realisation of the desired policy outcomes (Carsten 2008, p.1142).

In this process, the ‘might’ versus the ‘right’ have impacts in the analysis of policies from the paradigms of their capacity to create knowledge and act as sources of power to influence the process of analysis.

Encouraging the EU member states to engage in the production of bio-fuels for use in the transportation sector demands that tax duties are reduced and or exempted. In the EU policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels policy, the selected policy alternative is the deployment of sugarcane to produce bio-fuels.

This decision is arrived at after consideration of the environmental impacts and economic impacts of the policy. In this extent, the Kyoto protocol acts as an immense source of power to influence the selection of the policy alternative in that the selected policy must comply with the cap of zero greenhouse gas emissions.

The contribution of technical experts is also crucial in the selections of the best policy alternative because the selected alternative must meet economic viability concerns for it to deliver any public good. Therefore, a compromise of the might versus right is essential in the selection of the best alternative policy.


Based on the expositions made in the paper, the subject of public policy is clear in the paper especially the area of policy formulation. In the process of formation of policies, analysis is an essential stage since it ensures that the developed policy is consistent with the preset goals and objectives.

While this is essential in development of policies that best meets the concerns of the public and also resolves problems that resorts to social challenges, the paper argues that the policy analysis process is impacted by might and the right.

The relevance of this claim was evaluated by considering a case study of analysis of public policy in the European Union.

In the analysis of the case study on policy on stimulating the use of bio-fuels in EU, mighty ones are discussed as people who have the power to influence decisions. This power may be in the form of political or economic power. The right comprises the people with technical and intellectual knowledge.

The powers possessed by the might majority act to enable the right to conduct and advocate for the implementation of the policy, which delivers the utmost public good or not. The best alternative is the one that has more benefits as compared to the costs associated with the policy.


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