Policy Failure And Policy Change

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Policy Failure and Policy Change When does the failure of a policy lead decision makers to alter or replace it? How does policy failure influence the form and content of subsequent policy? Three streams of research address these questions. What might be termed the “accountability” approach starts from the premise that decision makers have as their primary goal maintaining their political influence, for example, by retaining office. Policy failure exposes decision makers to public criticism and demands more effective action; failing to act on such demands may weaken decision makers’ influence. This gives them strong incentives to alter policy in ways that will be more effective in the future. One strand of work in this tradition examines how…show more content…
Checkel (1997) also devotes significant attention to how Soviet political institutions shaped Gorbachev’s access to new policy ideas and his ability to implement them. Mendelson (1993) draws similar conclusions about the role of failure, in particular the failure of the war in Afghanistan, in promoting wide-ranging policy change. Britain and Sweden in the 20th century demonstrates that decision makers in each country responded to negative national experiences when developing new policies (Heclo,…show more content…
But this work on ideas and policy leaves two questions unanswered. First, why does failure sometimes not cause changes in policy? In some cases, policy after failure drifts in the sense that it lacks coherent intellectual links between policy tools and desired outcomes. This drift can take the form of continuing to implement failed policies or altering the selection and settings of policy tools in cosmetic or contradictory ways that do not address the sources of failure. For example, every informed observer has concluded that the U.S. health care system fails to achieve important objectives, but significant policy change in this area has proven impossible to achieve despite the fact that countless serious reform proposals have circulated for years. Second, assuming that failure leads decision makers to abandon current policy, which alternative policies will they find most attractive? Many of the empirical studies of policy failure cited earlier do not explain why decision makers are persuaded to adopt one rival policy rather than another after experiencing failure and often assume for example, or select cases in which only a single rival policy is considered seriously (Legro, 2000). A third strand of work that addresses the links between policy failure and change grows

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