Synopsis of ‘Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making’ by D. Stone

The world of politics is founded on official rules establishing obligations and responsibilities. The rules are the norms of behavior. They can be formal and informal. The formal norms are laws. Legislative and administrative bodies have the right to introduce rules that are called statutory laws and regulations respectively. The rules formulated by courts are common laws. State or federal constitutional laws exist as well (Stone, 2012, p.288).

 Evaluating the state of affairs in the political world, experts are to explore informal rules too. They comprise traditions and customs, ethic norms, and internal bylaws of different institutions. Legitimacy is the source of rules. In fact, legitimacy is a quite doubtful phenomenon, which depends on the economics. Nevertheless, legitimacy is extremely important for making individuals obey the introduced norms of behavior (Stone, 2012, p.290).

Establishing new norms, policy makers should find optimal balance between precision and flexibility of the initiated rules. On the one hand, precise rules guarantee total and immediate support of predictable behavior. Restricting the officials’ conduct, rules contribute to maintaining the order. On the other hand, precise rules inhibit finding new approaches to challenges (Stone, 2012, p.292).

There are five core values of the rules that cannot be attained. The first value is proper balance between discretionary power and restraining rules. The second virtue is exactness. The third one is flexibility. The fourth value is neutrality. Finally, the last one is enforcement (Stone, 2012, p.294).

Formulation of rules is the first stage of the policymaking process. In fact, rules are changing during their lifespan. The universal norms satisfying every individual in every situation do not exist. Moreover, even the Constitution cannot be written once and for all. Rules obtain their values during the stages of their implementation, challenging, and alteration.

Incentives, penalties, rules, and persuasion are the effective tools, changing individuals’ conduct. 

Persuasion is an effective psychological mechanism that effects people’s minds and changes their perception of the surrounding world. This tool comprises the rational ideal, propaganda, and indoctrination.

The rational ideal suggests logical conduct of individuals. They set aims, follow the guidance about the techniques to reach them, study options, and select the proper way. The provision of the necessary information settles inevitable conflicts. According to the rational ideal model, persuasion substitutes force implementation. This form characterizes the democratic society (Stone, 2012, p.306).


Persuasion can exist in the form of propaganda and indoctrination. These forms characterize the totalitarian political model. Despite the rational ideal model, propaganda and indoctrination patterns are scheming and rigid, impairing people’s ability to understand the real state of affairs.

The rational ideal model suggests pure facts, lacking an emotional background. There are no labels. On the contrary, propaganda and indoctrination influence  individuals’ feelings. This model is an effective tool that helps the ruling group control other members of the society. School, business, mass media, and bureaucracy are the elements of the manipulative mechanism (Stone, 2012, p.310).

Citizens enjoy rights. Rights can be positive and normative. The state guarantees positive rights that originate from the power of the authorities. Positive rights include procedural and substantive rights. The right to work and the right to free speech illustrate these categories correspondingly. These rights have the written form. Governments, constitutions, and courts defend positive rights. Normative rights are social rights. They do not require the power of the state enforcement. Normative rights originate from morality, ethics, and religion.

Tort law implements the model of normative rights. Rights are initiated through a formal statement, a grievance and enforcement processes. The grievance process suggests solving the conflict between the parties by a judge. The government settles the enforcement process.

In a polis, rights exist in two variants. They are the rationality and polis models. According to the rationality model, individuals enjoy the rights supported by official statements. Constitutions and courts guarantee these rights. According to the polis pattern, morality, mass media, and the society are the sources of individuals’ rights.

Constitutional engineering and restricting authority characterize the decision-making process. Constitutional engineering is the technique of transforming both individuals and institutions, making political decisions and supervising them. There are three types of constitutional engineering. The first one implies transformation of the structure of the institution dealing with the decision-making. The second one is connected with the changes in the dimensions of the structure. The third one deals with federalism in politics (Stone, 2012, p.315). 

Synopsis of ‘An Introduction to the Policy Process: Theories, Concepts, and Models of Public Policy Making’ by T. Birkland

A theory can be regarded as a system of ideas that explains the issues arising in the world. The theory of the policy process comprises several branches, such as “energy policy, environmental policy, social welfare policy, morality policy, and the like” (Birkland, 2011, p.294). The theories are explored in a scientific way, being developed deductively or inductively. Finally, these theories are tested. The deductive way presupposes formulation of a hypotheses and collection of facts. The information can be obtained by direct observation or in indirect ways. The next stage is examination of the hypotheses by numerous statistical or logical methods. The inductive way suggests creating patterns by means of observation. Similar types are identified in the world, building the hypotheses to be confirmed. The obtained ideas are developed to build a theory. In fact, a good theory determines several various hypotheses to be tested. Hypothesis should be formulated in the ‘null form’, suggesting ideas to be found false. 

Anecdotes and evidence can be used. Anecdotes are stories describing an issue or a fiasco of a policy. They are told to give grounds for initiating or finishing programs. These stories are simple to study. They have clear conclusions and distinctive normative and moral concepts. Anecdotes are used to explain certain viewpoint clearly and motivate individuals to believe. Nevertheless, anecdotes are inappropriate to a serious analysis because they do not provide a deep insight into the problem. Evidence from the scientific study can be referred to as conclusions obtained by means of scientific examination of the problem of the policy’ consequences. Scientific evidence is used to prove the initiating or closing programs, implementing scientifically proved facts. In fact, scientific evidence is much more reliable than anecdotes when explaining the essence of the problem. The negative side of scientific evidence is controversial ideas and unpopularity. Also, in the political field, science does not play the significant role.

A political model can be referred to as an abstract representation of political life. Choosing a prudent decision, policy-makers implement both scientific and irrational techniques, “because the practice of politics is as much art as it is science“(Birkland, 2011, p.294).

Political theories are effective mechanisms for understanding political processes. There are several key models of the policy process. John Kington regards the policy process as a window of an opportunity. He claims that “issues gain agenda status, and alternative solutions are selected, when elements of three streams come together” (Birkland, 2011, p.294). 

Paul Sabatier does not agree that the stream metaphor is a successful definition of the policy process. This description does not explore the policy process outside the window of an opportunity. Sabatier suggests the advocacy coalition framework to tackle policy processes. This model is founded on the supposition that interest groups are united in policy communities, in the policy domain. According to this model, two variables influence policy processes. They are stable system parameters and dynamic events.

Nowadays, an institutional rational choice approach is popular. It is founded on the principles of the rational choice theory. This approach suggests that individuals are utility-maximizing. They can do their activities both alone and representing organizations. Individuals set goals and evaluate all the benefits and negative consequences of issues. Under the circumstances, the best policy is to rule by implementing rules. Institutions have to   control whether people follow these rules. Rules can be regarded in a macro system and in a micro system. In fact, norms can be of constitutional level, like the First Amendment to the Constitution, and very specific, like fishing licenses.

Literature Review of “Discretionary power in public administration: A comparative study between traditional public administration and new public management” by Murat

Being involved into an administrative process, managers are expected to make smart decisions according to the law. Different methods and techniques can be implemented.

Traditional public administration managers realize the key political targets. They follow rules, performing their activities. However, the philosophical concept of the new public management suggests interchanges between the private and public sectors. The traditional management approach implies numerous restrictions on making decisions. As a result, such an approach does not contribute to the development of the decision-making process, slowing it and making it less effective. Traditional managers do not take into account external factors, planning corporate events. On the contrary, the new public management philosophy strives for short term and impressive results, ignoring strict rules and procedures.

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Formality and content are the key ideas of discretion. The formal aspect deals with official procedures. The content aspect concerns the essence and interpretation of decisions. The authorities are expected to adapt to rapidly changing environment, minding outside factors in the policy-making process. These factors can be political, legal, social, professional, and ethical. In fact, the challenge is to strike  balance between the two controversial approaches (Murat, 2010, p.2).

Bureaucracy is structured with regard to the traditional principle. According to it, personal ideas cannot influence the administrative process. All the administrative activities are strictly limited by adopted rules. Their decisions cannot be transformed or appealed. The clerks of the old type are rather narrow-minded in their actions. Their behaviour is predicted and cannot be improved. Strict discipline, rationality, and control are the distinctive features of the traditional public administration. Social interaction is forbidden. This structure of public administration reminds a steel cage, where actors are obliged to follow the well-developed rational instructions. Individuals have to obey, ignoring their inner feelings. All the relationships between individuals take place in a normative way. The number of transactions is minimized. The issues that do not belong to the regarded challenges are rejected and ignored. The key goal of management is to control actions of representatives of bureaucracy. The norms of instructions are developed in the slightest details. The authorities widely use traditional management to control organizations of various types. Nevertheless, this administrating model has turned out to be rather ineffective.

Nowadays, transformation processes take place. The bureaucracy of the new type is expected to be sensitive both to political legislation and to rapid market changes. The relationships between the new public administrative ideology and the innovative public management are of prime importance. The state is expected to be sensitive to the constantly changing market. Therefore, administrative management directed to the effective results is initiated. At present, the key goals of both public and private sectors are effective activities that are economically supported. The new generation of administrative managers uphold intellectual values, widely implementing innovative techniques. Effective methods of the private sector have been followed by the public one. In addition, the sharp boundaries between the public, private, or volunteer sectors are blurring, becoming unimportant. The new administrative pattern is closely connected with economics. Competitiveness and efficiency are the key features of this paradigm.

The major challenge of meeting the authorities is to create a wise approach to administrative values, keeping balance between the state and the market. The policy-makers are to “adopt professional approach to the management values and policies and citizens who are being treated like customers” (Murat, 2010, p.13). The key goal is to reduce large bureaucracy and legislative norms, facilitating controlling mechanisms. 

These days, new political and administrative relationships dictate their rules. New complex administrative structures that meet the challenges of the modern community are appearing.


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