(Online Course) Pub Ad for IAS Mains: Chapter: 10 Public Policy – Models for Policy Analysis (Paper -1)

Paper – 1
Chapter: 10 (Public Policy)

Models for Policy Analysis

A model is simplified representation of some aspect of the real world. It may
be an actual representation – an airport model. The models used in studying the
public policy are conceptual models. Models serve many purposes:

  1. This simplifies and clarifies one’s thinking about public policy and

  2. They identify important aspects of policy problems.

  3. They help one to communicate with others by focussing on the essential
    features of political life.

  4. They direct one’s efforts to a better understanding of public policy by
    suggesting what is important and what is not.

  5. They suggest explanations for public policy and predict its consequences.
    There are various models to help understand public policy.

The major ones are:

  1. Institutional model

  2. Process model

  3. Group model

  4. Elite model

  5. Rational model

  6. Incremental model

  7. Game theory model

  8. System model

  9. Optimal model

  10. Market exchange model

Thrust of Public Policies Analysis

  • Process of Policy-making
    o Elite Mass Group Model
    o Systems Model
    o Institutionalist Model

  • Output and Effects of Public Policy
    o Incremental Model
    o Rational Model

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The Elite Theory of Model

The classic enunciation of the elite theory is to be found in Gaetano Mosca’s
The Ruling Class: Among the constant facts and tendencies that are to be found
in all political organisms, one is so obvious that it is apparent to the most
casual eye. In all societies – horn societies that are very meagrely developed
and have barely attained the dawnings of civilization, down to the most advanced
and powerful societies – two classes of people appeared – a class that rules and
a class that is ruled. The first class, always the less numerous, performs al
political functions, monopolises power and enjoys the advantages that power
brings, whereas the second, the more numerous class, is directed and controlled
by the first, in a manner that is now more or less legal, now more or less
arbitrary and violent, and supplies the first in appearance, at least, with
material means of subsistence and with the instrumentalities that are essential
to the vitality of the political organism.

The elite theory of policy making is most closely related to public servants.
They are perceived by this theory as a ruling elite rather than public servants.
This theory contends that most people are apathetic and do not possess the
requisite information to equip them for policy making. “They are thus passive,
and the small ruling elite makers the policies which reflect the rulers’ values.
The emphasis of the policies is on status quo. C. Wright Mills’ The Power Elite
provides the classic enunciation of the elite theory.

The Group Model

A.F. Bentley’s The Process of Government (1908) propounds the group theory. This
theory argues that a society is divided into a number of organised groups and
lobbies. The thrust of the group model is towards the legislature rather than
the bureaucracy though the bureaucracy ‘too’ is buffeted by pressure groups.

Researches show that many regulating agencies in public administration have been
captured by the groups that are meant to regulate: In other words, the
‘regulated’ in practice, emerges as the regulator! According to this theory,
public policies really benefit the groups, which are most directly affected by
these policies. This particularly happens in the absence of countervailing
organised groups. An example is the public policy on drugs in India: many think
that the pharmaceutical industry controls the drug bureaucracy whose ostensible
task is to police the former.

The Systems Theory of Policy-Making

This theory draws heavily on David Easton’s The Political System.

The concept of system implies an identifiable set of institutions and activities
in society that function to transform demands into authoritative decisions
requiring the support of the whole society. This concept also implies that
elements of the system are interrelated, that the system can respond to forces
in its environment, and that it will do so in order to preserve itself. Inputs
are received into the political system in the form of both demands and support.
Demands occur when individuals or groups in response to real or perceived
environmental conditions, act to affect public policy. Snpport is rendered when
individuals or groups accept the outcome of the elections. obey the laws, pay
their taxes and generally conform to policy decisions. Any system absorbs a
variety of demands into output public policy; it must conceive settlements and
enforce them upon the parties concerned. It is recognised that output public
policies may have a modified effect in the environment and the demands arising
from it, and may also have an effect of the political system. The system
preserves itself by:

  1. producing reasonable satisfying outputs,

  2. Relying upon deeply rooted attachments to the system itself and

  3. Using or threatening to use force.

The Incremental Theory of Policy Making

The word ‘increment’ means ‘a small increase in quantity’, ‘to add a small to’,
often at regular intervals. The fundamental concept of incrementalism is
contained in `organisational drift’, ‘satisficing’, `bounded rationality’, and
`limited cognition’. The incremental theory contends that only limited policy
alternatives are provided to policy makers and each of these alternatives
represent only a very small change in the status quo. The incremental theory
puts the bureaucracy in a conservative mould, ever tied to the past and slow to
change. ‘Sunk costs’ also rule out radically new course of action.

Incremental theory is conservative. It does not question the validity of past
policies which were formulated in a piecemeal way under parochial
considerations. It is historical and a theoretical also: the increment list
theory assumes – wrongly – that the present limits of knowledge and prediction
would ever continue. But it is politically expedient. As it is difficult to have
agreed upon societal policies, there is easy agreement on increment list theory:
existing policies thus get continued.


Incrementalism has been increasingly used in public administration since the
sixties when Charles L. Lindblom popularised it in 1959 in his paper The Science
of Muddling Through’, published in Public Administration Review (Vol. 19, spring
I9597 What incrementalism means is the gradual and modest increase in specific
governmental allocations, that is_ budget. Since the seventies, a reverse g
trend in public administration in most-Countries is in evidence which goes by
the name of ‘cutback management’. This has induced some like George H.
Frederickson to coin the antonym ‘decrementaIism’. Decrementalism signifies
gradually decreasing financial allocations.

According to Lindblom’s theory, public administration is not governed by
principles nor is administration separated from politics in a unified
administrative system. Nor does Lindblom think that an administrator is the
optimal rationaliser of efficiency and effectiveness. The truth is that public
administration is the art of the possible _in the modern _pluralistic world of
competitive interest groups. An administrator muddles, not manages. Negotiation
and strategy are his operational-tools as he aims to devise an ‘agreeable’
compromise-. Ibis confused manner of incremental decision-making produces social
harmony, unity, stability and equilibrium in a fluid environment of
ever-changing interest-groups.

The incremental model has its advantages, but its limitations are no less
obvious. First and foremost, this approach is inherently conservative, even
status­quoist. It makes it very difficult for the government to direct the
society it wants, for its penetrative strategy is diffused, multi-dimensional
and mutually contradictory. Incrementalism tends to be reinforcing: every
interest group builds up support in the corresponding governmental department,
which lobbies for the former’s continuance. This leads to involvement of more
and more agencies, rendering difficult the problems of co-ordination. Secondly,
as incrementalism believes in adoption of small steps in changing a policy, it
may end up in unintended and unforeseen consequences. American scholars site the
case of the American Bay of Pigs invasion of Cuba in 1961 as the culmination of
incremental approach. This approach is notoriously weak in organisational memory
the original motivating considerations get overlooked. Thirdly, where the
challenge is to re-direct and re-construct the entire society, the incremental
model of decision-making is not to the preferred and adopted.

The rationalist theory of policy making

In a sense, the rationalist theory is the opposite of the incrementalist theory.
The rationalist theory seeks to find out all the value preferences extant in a
society, assign each value a weightage, find out all the alternatives as well as
all the consequences of each alternative and in the end make the final selection
in terms of’ the costs and benefits of social values. The rationalist model is
reflected in Operations Research, Programme Evaluation and Review Technique
(PERT). Critical Path Method (CPM) and Zero-based budget.

A rational policy is one which maximises social gain. This is another way of
saying that no policy should be adopted if its costs exceed its benefits.
Secondly, the policy-maker should choose that policy that produces the greatest
benefits. A public policy is rational when the difference in its benefits and
disadvantages is greater than that in any other policy. A rational policy would
thus involve:

  1. Knowing all value preferences of society.

  2. Knowing all the policy alternatives available.

  3. Knowing all the consequences of each policy alternative

  4. Evaluating the ratio of benefits to costs for each policy alternative

  5. Selecting the most efficient policy alternative, that is, the one that brings
    the greatest benefits and the least disadvantages.

Rational policy making is possible only by ‘Economic Man’. In contrast, public
administration has ‘Administrative Man’ who ‘satisfices’, does not ‘maximise.
Moreover, in the world in which we live what prevails is ‘bounded rationality’
even though the information revolution made possible by computers makes
available more and more information.

Other barriers also confront rational policy making:

  1. When policy-makers make policies, their basic instinct is self-preservation
    and organisational survival.

  2. Search behaviour for alternatives stands foreclosed by policies and
    decisions. This is ‘sunk cost’.

  3. Information collection itself faces limits. Not only is there the problem of
    cost, the time involved in collecting information sets a limit as well.

  4. The segmental nature of policy-making in government organisations stands in
    the way of co-ordination of decision-making. As a result, contradictory policies
    are seen to be in operation in government.

  5. The techniques of cost-benefit analysis cannot apply where diverse political,
    social, economic and cultural values are at stake.

  6. Even otherwise, it is very difficult to assess accurately the benefits and
    costs of each policy alternative. Simply because the predictive ability of the
    social and behavioural sciences as well as of the physical and biological
    sciences is not all that advanced

The Game Theory of Policy-Making

The game theory is an abstract and deductive theory or model of policy­making.
It is a form of rationalism applied in competitive situations where the outcome
depends on what two or more participants do. A conflict situation is called a
game. The game theory is the study of rational decisions in situations in which
two or more participants have choices to make and the outcome depends on the
choices each of them makes. The theory is put into application in policy-making
situations where there is no independently best choice which one can make and
where, moreover, the best outcome depends on what others do. In the conflict
situation all participants try to maximise their gain and minimise their losses.

The game theory is applicable to competitive problems, that is, conflict
sitnations. It can be applied to decisions about war and peace, international
diplomacy, bargaining or coalition in parliament or the United Nations. The idea
underlying the game is that policy-makers are involved in choices which are
independent. Each player in the conflict situation must adjust his conduct to
reflect not only his own desires and expectations but also his assessment about
what other will do.

The games considered are games of strategy, not games of chance. The game
strategy of a participant includes all possible options for contingencies
arising from a strategy of other participants. Strategies are evaluated in terms
of payoffs. Numerical values are assigned to the outcomes of particular moves.
The motivation underlying the game theory was to provide information on
strategies that should be adopted. Employment of an optimal strategy is called
‘rational’ behaviour in game theory.

Prisoners Dilemma

Prisoners’ dilemma is a special type of game in game theory. It entails rational
selection of’ strategies which. though, may be less profitable than non-rational
selection. It makes certain assumptions.

The game theory is usually set around two prisoners, kept in separate cells,
unable to communicate with each other. The prosecution needs a confession in
order to secure conviction. The prosecutor promise each prisoner the following:
if one prisoner confesses but his partner does not, he will get a very light
sentence; if both confess, both will get a moderate sentence; if he does not
confess but his partner does he will get heavy sentence; if neither confesses,
the light sentence for the minor charge will be imposed.

This is non-zero sum game. The game can be represented thus:

Prisoner A

No             Confe
Confes           ssion
er             No                 (1, 1)             (1/2,
B              Confes                                  7)

Confes            (7, 1/2)          (3, 3)

The prisoner’s dilemma is a game in which both participants must take a risk and
be prepared for a minor loss to avoid disastrous consequences to both. This is
an example of a game to study participants’ responses in conflict situations.
The game theory’s chief value lies in encouraging thoughtful examination of
options prior to action, which is obviously useful to policy-makers. At the same
time, a rigid and simplistic faith in it could be counterproductive.

Even distinguished experts present completing scenarios. The club of Rome’s
famous The Limits to Growth (1972) predicted.

‘The basic behaviours mode of the world system is exponential growth of
population and capital, followed by collapse’. The book argued that the earth’s
interlocking resources – the global system of nature in which we all live – can
not support present rates of economic and population growth much beyond the year
Sir Charles Cunningham has rightly warned: ‘Policy is rather like the elephant –
you recognise it when you see to but cannot easily define it.’

Peter Self defines public policy as ‘changing directives as to how tasks should
be interpreted and performed.

Strategic Planning Paradigm of Public Policy Making and Implementation – By
Alfred Chandler.

Strategic planning is done by top line officers through the upper levels of
middle management. It is not done by planners and strategic plan does not
substitute members for important intangibles such as human emotions but it does
uses computer and quantification to include these variables.

Strategic planning is an attempt to reconcile the incremenlalist and rationalist
approach to the problem of public policy formulation. It places line decision
makers in an active rather than in a passive position about the future of the
organization. To do this it requires that strategic planning be highly
participative and tolerant of controversy.

Public policy in practice is a process including a complex array of actors and
interactions inside and around it. It is a dynamic process and as such it is
also flexible. An integrated model of public policy was proposed by Jenkins with
seven stages:

  1. Initiation

  2. Information

  3. Consideration

  4. Decision

  5. Implementation

  6. Evaluation

  7. Termination

Advantage of Jenkins Model

  1. It suggests that public policy is a rational and implicit process.

  2. Policy processes are mostly continuous process of evolution in which the
    starting point may be in the past.

  3. Policy initiation may start anywhere in the political system. Stages does
    not mean that a particular policy necessarily formulate at a unified predictable

  4. Stages may overlap and feedback loops may be between them.

  5. The most accepted model of policy process is the Tour stage model:
    1. Agenda setting
    2. formulation
    3. Implementation
    4. Evaluation


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