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About this book

The second edition of this popular textbook combines coverage of public policies in different countries with the conceptual and methodological frameworks for analysing them. This new edition pays particular attention to the international contexts of ideas, interests and institutions in which decision makers operate. In addition, it considers the bilateral, multilateral and transnational aspects of policy-making in today’s interconnected world. This is a core text for introductory modules on undergraduate and postgraduate public policy, public management and public administration programmes. In addition, it will be useful for those courses that take a comparative approach to specific policy areas such as welfare, health and education. With a focus on enabling students to draw their own comparisons, it is the ideal choice for lecturers across the world.

Table of Contents

1. Why Compare Public Policies?

Abstract
This chapter has three aims. First, it provides a more detailed justification for why researchers and policy-makers should be prepared to engage in comparing policies across nations. Second, it provides a brief history of comparative public policy. Third, it explains what comparative public policy is and what it is not: how comparative public policy can be defined, what is being compared, and how comparative public policy can be conducted in an increasingly interconnected world. Given that much public policy analysis adopts a national focus, and seems to assume this is sufficient, why should researchers and policy-makers be interested in investigating other nations’ policy-making systems? As this book explains, policies, the stakeholders involved in designing and delivering them, and policy outputs and outcomes, vary significantly across nations. This might be anticipated in the fields of culture or language, which could reasonably be expected to be governed in multifarious ways in different nations. Similarly, we might expect policy difference between nations which are able to extract significant funds from their populations through taxation when compared with poorer countries. Yet, even amongst relatively similar countries with apparently identical aims, we find radically divergent policy approaches.
Anneliese Dodds

2. How Governments Act: Policy Instruments and Their Use

Abstract
Public policies currently have a significant impact on virtually everyone in both developed and developing societies, even if that impact is sometimes indirect. Everyone who has been born with the help of any kind of medical staff, received medical care at any time, gone to school, legally travelled or migrated into or out of a country, been employed, paid income or sales tax, or even just been required to leave a pub or bar at a certain time in the evening, has already had his or her life shaped by public policies. Furthermore, citizens are affected by public policy inaction as well as action. A child with asthma, for example, could be just as significantly affected by a government decision not to regulate car emissions
Anneliese Dodds

3. Doing Comparative Public Policy

Abstract
Comparative public policy research has enormous promise for improving our understanding – not only of policy-making and implementation in other countries, but also of domestic public policy. However, as with many research strategies, comparative public policy research requires scholars to give careful consideration to a number of difficult choices, and to face up to a range of challenges which threaten the validity and reliability of findings. How this can be done is the focus of this chapter. Some authors have suggested that comparative research is methodologically identical to other forms of research (Smelser, 1976). This is trivially the case if one assumes that all research is comparative. This text, however, argues that comparative public policy research canbe distinguished from other forms of research, not necessarily because of its content (the study of policy processes, outputs and outcomes), but because of the characteristics of the comparative approach itself. This is evident, first, from the particular choicesthat comparativists need to make when designing any research project. This chapter considers how different cases are selected for investigation, and how conclusions are drawn from such research. In so doing, it examines different approaches to comparative research and how they relate to each other. The comparative research strategies examined here include the ‘method of agreement’ (or ‘most different systems analysis’), the ‘method of difference’ (or ‘most similar systems analysis’), combinatorial analysis, and case studies using process tracing.
Anneliese Dodds

4. Interests and Public Policy

Abstract
Ambrose Bierce (1911) famously suggested that ‘politics’ referred to the ‘strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles’. As this chapter indicates, many authors agree with him, arguing that both politics and policy-making can be assimilated with the pursuit of interest. This is particularly the case for rational choice theorists, Marxists and Elitists, radical feminists, cleavage theorists, theorists of interest groups and of corporatism, and power resource theorists. However, these approaches differ substantially over how interests can be defined, and which group and/or individual interests are perceived as being likely to shape policy. In addition to these approaches, other perspectives on policy-making stress the fact that policies themselves can shape interests, and also that the pursuit of interests can be affected by the institutional and ideational context. A common problem for all of these approaches is the vagueness of the concept of interest itself, considered in detail in the next section.
Anneliese Dodds

5. Ideas and Public Policy

Abstract
This chapter follows the structure of the previous one by first describing how ‘ideas’ might be defined, then detailing ideas-based approaches to the comparative analysis of public policy. Some of the ideas-based perspectives described here (such as policy design, policy learning and policy-oriented research) fall within the mainstream of academic and political approaches to policy analysis. Others, particularly postmodernism, are highly controversial. Yet others, such as interpretivism, began at the fringes of policy analysis but have become increasingly influential.
Anneliese Dodds

6. Institutions and Public Policies

Abstract
The study of institutions has dominated analyses of public policy, not least since the realm of public policy is generally ‘saturated with rules, conventions and norms’ (Palier and Surel, 2005: 10). Nonetheless, it is arguable that institutional analysis has become, if anything, even more important since the 1980s. This can be linked both to progress in state-building and democratization, and to the limits of non-institutionalist forms of analysis. First, as the role of states grew through the twentieth century, so did the penetration of institutions into the economy and society. As March and Olsen (1984: 734) put it, ‘social, political, and economic institutions have become larger, considerably more complex and resourceful, and prima facie more important to collective life’. In addition, whilst during the first half of the twentieth century many studies focused on the prospects for democratization in different nations, from the 1960s onwards the plethora of democratic structures evident within what is now a large number of democratic countries invites more detailed institutional analysis than simply considering shifts from nondemocracy to democracy.
Anneliese Dodds

7. International Influences on Public Policy

Abstract
As Rose (2005: 4) argues, many contemporary ‘problems of national government are intermestic, combining both international and domestic influences’. This chapter considers in detail three types of international influences: the transfer of policies across borders; relatedly, the activities of international governing institutions; and indirect influences on policy-making from globalization, defined here as comprising the intensification of global flows of capital and of trade, and the related increasing transnationalization of business, as well as the growth of global flows of people and of information.
Anneliese Dodds

8. Economic Policy

Abstract
Economic policy is often separated from broader discussions of public policy, due to disciplinary barriers between economists and policy analysts. Yet, in all developed nations, ‘economics is married, if only at common law, to politics’ (Dahl and Lindblom, 1976: xlv). This is, first, because of the continuing influence of states on economic activity, both within and beyond domestic borders. The extent to which competitive markets can arise, consolidate and grow in the absence of (predominantly state) authority has preoccupied political economists for decades (see Hayek, 1988; and Polanyi, 2001 [1944], for contrasting views). Regardless of this, it remains indisputable that, even in those nations traditionally viewed as following a ‘laissez-faire’ approach to economic policy, governments and their bureaucracies play an essential role in funding, controlling, organizing and informing economic activity. As this chapter will show, this remains the case despite the influence of globalization.
Anneliese Dodds

9. Welfare Policy

Abstract
The term ‘welfare’ has been understood in a variety of different ways. Social security and pensions have often been seen as core areas of welfare provision (Esping-Andersen, 1990). However, ‘welfare policy’ can also be defined as covering allactivities in which governments engage to promote the wellbeing of their populations, covering health, housing, nutrition and education, as well as income maintenance (Wilensky, 1975: 1). This chapter concentrates on income maintenance policies such as transfers, but also refers to other areas of welfare policy (including housing and family policy) where relevant. Health and education policy are considered in subsequent chapters.
Anneliese Dodds

10. Health Policy

Abstract
It is difficult to define ‘health policy’ precisely, not least because of continuing debate over the definition of ‘health’ itself. The WHO’s 1948 definition of health as ‘a state of complete physical, mental, and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity’ would lead to a number of policy areas being brought under the umbrella of health policy (including, e.g. policies on housing, employment, and poverty reduction). Furthermore, ‘health’ services have been used in some circumstances to harm individuals, as with enforced sterilization programmes (which in some nations, such as Peru, have continued until relatively recent times: BBC, 2002a), as well as sometimes functioning effectively as an arm of criminal justice policy (as in England following the Mental Health Act 2007, where those with untreatable mental disorders can be detained when viewed as posing a potential risk to the community (Cairney, 2009)).
Anneliese Dodds

11. Education Policy

Abstract
It is difficult to circumscribe the realm of education policy because opinions differ over the extent to which certain matters shouldbe taught or learned, and howthey should be taught or learned. Education policies themselves ‘project definitions of what counts as education’ (Ball, 1990: 3), with the religious, work-related, nationalistic and ideological content of education varying across countries. Despite these differences, in most countries it is possible to discern five broad educational forms corresponding (albeit roughly) to different stages of a learner’s life. First, in many developed nations, child and nursery care includes an educational element – what is described as pre-school education. This can be provided by the state or by voluntary and private providers, including groups of parents (playgroups) or individuals (childminders) (Hudson and Lidström, 2002b: 43). The provision of primaryand secondary educationis generally more uniform in different nations, being provided either publicly or privately, or through a mixture of modes of provision (although ‘home schooling’, whereby parents educate their own children, is also permitted in some nations). Tertiary educationincludes the provision of further and higher education, which is generally delivered either by public or private colleges and by universities.
Anneliese Dodds

12. Environmental Policy

Abstract
Unlike the other areas examined in this book, the environment is a relatively new policy area. Its genesis is generally dated to the late 1960s and early 1970s, the period of ‘environmental awakening’ in the USA which included the publication of Rachel Carson’s book Silent Spring, the Love Canal chemical waste pollution crisis, and the first Earth Day (Ervin et al., 2003: 3). Since that period, environmental regulation, and environmental policy more generally, has ‘grown from being generally a marginal type of state intervention into an activity which increasingly makes an important impact on people’s everyday lives and on the operations of enterprises’ (Daugbjerg, 1998: 285).
Anneliese Dodds

13. Conclusion

Abstract
This chapter provides a brief summary of the text, setting out how scholars of comparative economic, welfare, health, education and environmental policy have understood both domestic and international influences on policy-making, and the different tools that have been adopted by policy-makers. After this summary, the chapter sets out some key questions for students to consider as they develop their skills in undertaking comparative public policy research. There are many different ways to approach the comparative examination of public policies. This book separated influential approaches into those which stress the role of domestic interests, ideas and institutions, respectively.
Anneliese Dodds
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