Models of Public Policy

The idea of models that provide a discourse of analysis came into use in the 1970s and 1980s. They were thought as modes of organizing problems and giving them a form and coherence. A model essentially involves the notion of constructing a boundary around reality which is held common and while studying public policy, it is important to note how these models clash and shift around and solve problems.


The systems model is associated with David Easton, who defines the political system as that part of the society which is engaged in authoritative allocation of resources. He regards the policy process as a black box and thus this model is also called ‘the Estonian black box model’. The political system for Easton consists of inputs, environments, policy making process, output and feedback.


This approach focuses on the relationship between public policy and government institutions as policy making majorly depends on the interactions of institutions created by the government. One such institution is the state which is a web of government structures and institutions. It performs various functions like adjudicating between conflicting social and economic interests, guarding the interests of all the sections of the society by accommodating and reconciling them. It also includes the legislatures, executive, bureaucracy, etc.


Rationality is considered to be the ‘yardstick’ in policy making and this approach emphasizes that policy making is making a choice among policy alternatives on rational ground. In other words, rational policy making means to ‘choose the best option’. A rational policy is designed to maximize net value achievement. This model is associated with Herbert Simon.


This model is associated with Charles Lindblom who proposed it as an alternative to the rational model of policy making. His incremental approach, majorly focused upon in his ‘science of muddling through’ involves a process of continually building out from the current situation, step by step and in small degrees. This is the branch approach which is the basis of his approach and is in contrast to the root approach of the rational model wherein the policy makers start anew each time, building on the past experiences. Lindblom rejected the root approach because he believed that constraints on time, intelligence, and cost prevent policy makers from identifying all the alternatives and consequences. Rather, he suggested that successive limited comparison is both more relevant and more realistic in a condition of ‘bounded rationality’.


Dror’s model was an alternative to incrementalism for he believed that incrementalism increased the gap between those who had more power and those who had less power which made it difficult for the latter to bring about change. Thus, as an alternative to this, he proposed a model which seeks to accept the need for rationality, management techniques for enhancing rationality of decision making at low levels, policy science approach for dealing with complex problems and the need to take account of values and irrational elements in decision making.

These models as discussed above, emphasize public policy as an important area of politics and public management and can be understood in terms of policy analysis and through political public policy. Therefore, policy making is a mixture of all these models combined to form a crucial aspect of the political system.

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