International Journal of Political Science (IJPS)Volume 4, Issue 1, January 2018, PP 08-17ISSN 2454-9452http://dx.doi.org/10.20431/2454-9452.0401002www.arcjournals.orgInternational Journal of Political Science (IJPS) Page|8An Overview of Approaches to the Study of Public PolicyProf. Adam A. AnyebeDepartment of Public Administration, Faculty of Administration, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria

INTRODUCTIONWe usually view policy as designating behaviour of some actor or set of actors, such as an official, orgovernment agency, or legislator, in area of activity such as public enterprise or poverty reduction.Public policy also may be seen as whatever a government chooses to do or not to do. Such definitionmay be sufficient for ordinary discourse, but definitely inadequate for a systematic analysis of publicpolicy, hence a more precise definition is needed to structure our thinking and to facilitate effectivecommunication with one another (Anderson, 1997). Nonetheless, there is still common referencepoint by all users of various disciplines. It is used mainly in reference to what government does inorder to meet the needs of the citizenry.Public policy may refer to what government intends to do to achieve certain goals. This definitionmakes public policy look like a mere decision. That is to say that mere declaration of intentions,wishes, principles, or expression of desires cannot be called public policy. Public policy should meanactual resource allocation presented by projects and programmes designed to respond to perceivedpublic problems and challenges requiring government action for their solution. That is, it shouldmean hard patterns of resource allocation presented by projects and programmes designed to respondto perceived public demands. This conception of public policy can be identified with a politicalscientist, James E. Anderson who defines policy as a relatively stable, purposive course of actionfollowed by an actor or set of actors in dealing with a problem or a matter of concern (Anderson,1997). This statement focuses on what is actually done instead of what is only proposed or intended,and it differentiates a policy from mere decision, which is essentially a choice among competingalternatives. Public policy, therefore, is that policy developed and implemented by governmentagency and officials, though non-state actors and factors may influence its process.The scope and content of public policies will obviously vary from country to country, depending onthe system of government and ideology in force in that country. In most developing countries whereso much is expected of government and where government actions transcend virtually all aspects ofAbstract: Political and social scientists have developed many theories, models and approaches for analysingpolicy-making. The theoretical approaches include elite theory, group theory, political systems theory andinstitutionalism, policy output analysis, incremental theory and rational-choice theory which are primarilyconcerned with public policy-making as a process. This paper therefore, attempts to examine each theory,pointing out its strengths and limitations. The study relied heavily on secondary sources for data collection.The paper reveals that one cannot authoritatively see which of these theoretical approaches is the best or themost satisfactory as each approach focuses on different aspects of policy-making, and this seems more usefulfor understanding some situations or events than others. It is, therefore, wise not to be bound toodogmatically to one approach. A good rule for the policy maker is to be eclectic and flexible, and to drawfrom theories that seem most useful for the satisfactory and fair-minded description and explanation ofpolicies. The objective explanation of political behaviour rather than the validation of one’s preferredtheoretical approach should be the goal of political inquiry. Each of the theories discussed, if drawn uponskilfully and selectively, can contribute to a better understanding of policy-making.Keywords: Public Policy, Group Theory, Elite Theory, Incremental Theory, Rational-Choice Theory,Systems Theory*Corresponding Author: Prof. Adam A. Anyebe, Department of Public Administration, Faculty ofAdministration, Ahmadu Bello University, ZariaAn Overview of Approaches to the Study of Public PolicyInternational Journal of Political Science (IJPS) Page|9life of the citizens, the range of public policies is usually very broad and almost unlimited. This studytherefore, attempted to overview approaches to the study of public policy, highlighting the strengthsand limitations of each approach.
METHOD OF DATA COLLECTIONThe data used in the study were collected from government publications such as the Constitution ofthe Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 as amended, journals, internet materials and other relevantgovernment publications.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONPolitical and social scientists have developed many theories, models and approaches for analysingpolicy-making. Indeed public administrators have often displayed more facilities and verve fortheorising about public-policy making than for actually studying policy and policy making process.Nonetheless, theories are needed to guide the study of public policy, to facilitate communication, andto suggest possible explanation for policy action. They are useful to the extent that they direct ourattention to important political phenomenon, help clarify and organise our thinking, and suggestexplanations for political activities such as public policies. Strengths and limitations are pointed out asthe discussion proceeds. The theoretical approaches include elite theory, group theory, politicalsystems theory and institutionalism, policy output analysis, incremental theory and rational-choicetheory which are primarily concerned with public policy-making as a process. Each of these theoriesis briefly discussed.3.1.Elite TheoryThis model posits that, contrary to the belief that pluralism has in-built mechanism for ensuring equityin the share of power and influence in society, in reality public policy is by and large the mirror imageof the ruling elite‟s interest. Vilfredo Pareto in his book „Mind and Society argues that persons ofability actively seek to confirm and aggrandise their social position. The elite group is divided intogoverning and non-governing ones. These few that possess unique qualities such as skills, materialwealth, cunning and intelligence have the rights to supreme leadership, while the bulk of thepopulation (masses) is destined to be ruled. Thus social classes are formed (Obi et al, 2008).In his own work entitled „The Ruling Class‟ Gaetano Mosca, an Italian sociologist, posited that in thehistory of man, only one type of government had existed which was Oligarchy. He argued that:In all societies, right from societies that are very meagrely developedand have barely attained the dawn of civilization down to the mostadvanced and powerful societies- two classes of people appear, aclass that rules and a class that is ruled. The first class, always theless numerous, performs all political functions, monopolises powerand enjoys the advantages that power brings, whereas the second, themore numerous class is directed and controlled by the first, in amanner that is now more or less legal, now more or less arbitrary andviolent and supplies the first, in appearance at least, with theinstrumentalities that are essential to the vitality of politicalorganism. (Mosca, 1939).Mosca was also of the belief that apart from the fact that the minority is usually composed of superiorindividuals, the fact of their being few helps them to be more organised. He also wrote that the largerthe political community, the smaller will be the proportion of the minority and the more difficult itwill be for the majority to organise for reaction against the minority.Mosca went further to say that in the circulation of elites, once the ruling class loses its aptitude tocommand and exercise political control, and those outside the ruling class, develop its aptitude,they will overthrow the old class and take over. He also believes so much in role of the middle class ina political system. He labels them the „sub-elite‟. He thus argues that the stability of any politicalorganism depends on the level of morality, intelligence and activity that this second stratum hasattained. He believes the policies of ruling class are made in the interests of the class, but couched in amoral and legal garb. He believes more in moral cohesion than physical force.An Overview of Approaches to the Study of Public PolicyInternational Journal of Political Science (IJPS) Page|10Mosca went further to describe the virtues of the ruling class as a representative of the elite in thefollowing words:In addition to the great advantage accruing to them from the fact ofbeing organised, ruling minorities are usually so committed that theindividuals who make them up are distinguished from the mass of thegoverned by qualities that give them a certain material, intellectual oreven moral superiority; or else they are the heirs of individuals whopossessed such qualities. In other words, members of a rulingminority regularly have some attribute, real or apparent, which ishighly esteemed and very influential in the society in which they live(Mosca,1939: 53).Approached from perspectives of elite theory, public policy can be regarded as reflecting the valuesand preferences of a governing elite. The essential argument of elite theory is that public policy is notdetermined by the demands and actions of the people or the masses but rather by ruling elite whosepreferences are carried into effect by political officials and agencies. In other words, according to thistheory, the elite simply believe that they alone have the ability to determine the policies to promotethe welfare of the masses and implement them. Thus policies flow downward from the elite to themasses. The policies made by the elites reflect elite values and prefer status quo to radical changes.Professors Thomas Dye and Harmon Zeigler provide a summary of elite theory: Society is divided into the few who have power and the many who do not have. Onlysmall number persons allocate values for society; the masses do not decide public policy The few who govern are not typical of the masses who are governed. Elite are drawndisproportionately from upper socio-economic strata of society. The movement of non-elites to elite positions must be slow and continuous to maintainstability and avoid revolution. Only non-elites who have accepted the basic eliteconsensus can be admitted to governing circles. Elites share a consensus on the basic values of the social system and the preservations ofthe system. Public policy does not reflect demands of the masses but rather the prevailing values of theelite. Changes in public policy will be incremental rather than revolutionary. Incrementalchanges permit responses to events that threaten a social system with a minimum ofalteration or dislocation of the system. Active elites are subject to relatively little direct influence from apathetic masses. Elitesinfluence masses more than the masses influence elites (Dye and Zeigler, 1990)The above assumptions presuppose that if the government is committed to serving the interest of themasses it must do something about curtailing the excesses of the elite. This could be done by adoptinga participatory approach to policy making, involving all key stakeholders, thereby subduing the unduemanipulation of the elite. Once this feat is achieved the structure of the society would move awayfrom the hour-glass shape to a more horizontal or flatter shape. However, for this objective to beachieved the formation of the government itself has to first be devoid of elite manipulation in terms ofelections and appointment to political positions.The essence of this model is that public policy is determined by the ruling elite and carried into effectby public bureaucrats and agencies. Dye (1981) summarises the implication of this theory asindicating that public policy reflects elite values, serves elite ends, and is a product of the elite. Thecorollary of this assumption is that the general citizenry or the masses are apathetic and ill-informedand do not determine or influence policy through their demands or actions.So stated, elite theory is a provocative theory of policy formation because policy here, is the productof elites, reflecting their values and serving their ends , one of which may be a desire to provide insome way for the welfare of the masses. One other limitation of this model is that it assumes a highlystructured and stratified society. In structurally diffused societies, elite formation and therefore, elitevalues and elite identity is relatively undeveloped. For example, in Nigeria, it is easy to find membersAn Overview of Approaches to the Study of Public PolicyInternational Journal of Political Science (IJPS) Page|11of an elite group sharing opposing values and identifying more strongly with say, the aspirations ofthe masses of their ethnic areas or religious groupings than with the aspirations of their fellow elites.Thus, ethnic and religious values rather than elite interest in that case, may influence elite preferenceswhen certain policy issues are under consideration.According to Nicholas Henry, this model may be the most germane to Public administrators. The elitemodel has found more adherents among sociologists than among political scientists. Domhoff (1990)has long argued, however, that there is an American upper class based on the ownership and controlof large corporations which is infact a governing class.3.2.Group TheoryAccording to the group theory of politics, public policy is the product of the group struggle. Whatmay be called public policy is the equilibrium reached in this group struggle at any given moment,and it represents a balance which the contending factions or groups constantly strive to win in theirfavour. Many public polices do reflect the activities of groups (Anderson, 1997). This means that thistheory attempts to analyse how each of the various groups in a society tries to influence public policyto its advantage at the policy formulation level.In other words, the central practice of this model is that interaction among groups is a criticalingredient in politics. Public policy is thus a temporary point of compromise reached in the course ofcompetition between mosaics of numerous interest groups with cross-cutting membership. The abilityof the group that is favoured at one point to sustain its gain depends on its power to counteract thepowers of other groups that would make efforts to tilt decisions to their favour. It is this type ofcompetition between groups that determine pattern of allocation of societal resources (Enemuo, 1999:24). The locus of power in the society changes from time to time, depending upon the group thatsucceeds in exerting its own supremacy over the others. Accordingly, the power to determine policydirection changes with the changes in the fortunes of each or a combination of these groups. It is inappreciating the fluidity of power base in society that Latham contends that what we regard as publicpolicy is in reality a temporary equilibrium reached in the course of the inter-group struggle (Latham,1965). As soon as the equilibrium point is altered in the favour of new groups another policy willemerge or the old policy will be modified. Politics in essence entails a dynamic equilibrium created bythe struggle between different groups. In Latham‟s opinion the legislature acts only as a referee to theinter-group struggle and it ratifies the victories of the successful coalitions, as well as record the termsof the surrender, compromises, and conquest in the form of statutes or Bills (Latham, 1965).Since the power to dominate policy decision is dependent on group solidarity and power, thedynamics of the policy process is expected to be more vibrant and fierce in plural societies than inhomogenous ones. In such societies the ability of a group to tilt the policy to its favour depends on anumber of factors, prominent among which are: Wealth Organisational skill Leadership quality Bargaining skill Access to decision-makers or in Nigerian parlance “connection A modicum of luckWealth is essential because political mobilisation is resource absorbing. All over the world, even inthe most democratic societies, politics involves a lot of expenditure; as such only the wealthy canafford to mobilise the electorate and those in authority to tilt decisions in their favour. Wealth alonewithout organisational skills will render a group ineffective. It is the ability to conceive of ideas andget people to subscribe to such ideas that can get a group or person to succeed in tilting policydecision in its favour. In contemporary period, organisational skill requires the tack of bringing allstakeholders on board in the process of policy decision. For example, the group that attempts tomobilise the public in order to push its ideas would have to be tactful in main-streaming variousinterest groups such as the women, youth, professional groups and, in some cases, traditional rulers.Central to organisation ability in mobilising the public is leadership. Without a concrete rallying focalAn Overview of Approaches to the Study of Public PolicyInternational Journal of Political Science (IJPS) Page|12point a wealthy group, with a sprinkling of persons with diffuse organisational skills, will failwoefully in pushing its agenda in the policy process. But, when there is a strong leadership, especiallya charismatic on the group can succeed in pushing its agenda through with relative ease. One of thevirtues of good leadership is the ability to bargain successfully even in a turbulent environment. Agroup would thus succeed in pushing its agenda through the parliament when it has strong bargainingskill. The power of lobby is often complemented by the degree of visibility of the lobbyist. Personsthat are well known and respected in society could easily influence decision makers to support theirideas in parliament. In the Nigerian parlance it is said that those with proper “connection” with thosein the corridor of power could easily get their request granted by the legislators. The connection couldbe political, economic or socio-cultural in the form of ex-school mates, same ethnic group or religiousaffiliation.Dahl observes that the good thing about pluralism is that no single group has monopoly over all theseresources (Anderson, 1997). The equilibrium point will thus continue to shift position as differentgroups manipulate these resources to get public policies to their favour, either singly or in concertwith other groups that share common interest with them. Coalition building, compromises, trading offavour and conflicts among groups are the key tactics used in the struggle. In this situation themajority or more dominant group will have its way but the minority or less dominant group for themoment will have their say. The struggle will continue without rancor. This is the virtue ofdemocracy, as conceived in the Western world and subscribed to by Dahl. In reality however,especially in Africa and specifically in Nigeria, some groups could hold on to power perpetually andblock all conceivable possibility of weaker groups from taking the full advantage offered bydemocracy. Those in privileged positions either because of their professional background such as themilitary or business class, or through hereditary entitlement to leadership (traditional rulers) tend todominate the policy-making process. By doing they succeed in ring-fencing themselves within theenclave of power and prevent other groups from gaining access to it.The group theory has been crticised on the following grounds: First, the group theorists did not really define in clear terms what they mean by the two key conceptsin the analysis; group and interests. Thus, while Bentley sees groups as a relation between men, aprocess of adding man to man, Truman defines it as any collection of individuals who have somecharacteristic in common. None of these definitions clearly tells us what a group that is really relevantto politics and decision making is. Second, the theory was so concerned with the role of groups that it leaves out the individuals andsociety in their analysis. While not disputing the fact that politics is a struggle between and amonggroups, one can also not forget that the role of particular individuals is a very important variable. Thisis particularly important in third world countries, where one-man dictatorship has proved that anindividual could indeed hold a whole country to ransom and dictate what happens mostly afterdecimating all competing groups. Also, the role of the society in this competition for power iscompletely left out which is a defect.3.3.Systems TheoryThe systems theory in political science owes its origin to David Easton who is reputed to be thescholar that attempted to analyse politics from the perspective of systems in his famous work politicalsystem‟ which appeared in 1953. His work which was regarded as the foundation of the behaviouristrevolution in political science outlined eight major characteristics. He described the characteristics asthe intellectual foundation stone of behaviourism which are regularities, verification, techniques,quantification, values, systemisation, pure science, and integration.According to Varma, Easton was able to distill these characteristics from a range of behaviouralliterature and while they are not unique to systems theory, they do form the basis for the naturallinkage between systems thinking and behaviourism (Obi et al, 2008).In other words, a political system may be that system of interactions in any society through whichauthoritative allocations are made and implemented in the form of policies and decisions. Publicpolicy may also be seen as a political system‟s response to demands arising from its environment. Thepolitical system, as Easton defines it, comprises those identifiable and interrelated institutions andactivities (what we usually think of as government institutions and political processes) in a societyAn Overview of Approaches to the Study of Public PolicyInternational Journal of Political Science (IJPS) Page|13that make authoritative allocations of values (decisions) that are binding on society (Anderson, 1997).This environment consists of all phenomena-the social system, the economic system, the biologicalsetting – that are external to the boundaries of the political system. Thus, at least analytically one canseparate the political system from all the other components of a society (Easton, 1965).If the open system model is applied in public policy analysis the issues to reflect on include the natureof the components of the system which constitute the sub-systems, and the outside components thatimpinge on the system directly, which is referred to supra-system (Dlakwa, 2004). Inputs into thepolitical system from the environment consist of demands and supports. Demands are usually theclaims for action that individuals and groups make to satisfy their interest and values. Support isrendered when groups and individuals abide by election results, pay taxes, obey laws, and otherwiseaccept decisions and actions taken by the political system in response to demands. The amount ofsupport for a political system indicates the extent to which it is regarded as legitimate, or asauthoritative and binding on its citizens.On the other hand, outputs of the political system include laws, rules, judicial decisions, and the like.Regarded as the authoritative allocations of values, they constitute public policy. The concept offeedback indicates that public policies (or outputs) made at a given time may subsequently alter theenvironment and the demands arising therefrom, as well as the character of the political system itself.Policy outputs may produce new demands, which lead to further outputs, and so on in a never-endingflow of public policy.On the whole, this model applies systems theory to the policy-making process. In simple words,according to this model, the political system receives inputs from its environment and converts theminto outputs. The inputs are in the form of demands from groups or individuals for specific policyoutcomes. The policy outcomes take the form of determination of societal values and allocation ofresources. A feedback loop exists by which the outputs alter the future inputs. This model thus relieson concepts of information theory.In other words, systems theory conceives public policy as the response of the political system todemands from its environment. The political system consists of those institutions that makeauthoritative allocation of values binding on the society as a whole. The environment of the politicalsystem consists of those institutions found in the economic, social, cultural and international systemswhich shape political process and whose activities are influenced by the political system. Usingsystems approach, it is assumed that a state of mutual causation exists between public policy andenvironmental variables (Abdulsalami, 1987).The usefulness of the systems theory in studying public policy is limited by its highly general andabstract nature. It does not, moreover, say much about the procedures and processes by whichdecisions are made and policy is developed within the „black box‟ called the political system. Indeed,systems theory results are sometimes characterised as input-output studies. Nonetheless, this approachcan be helpful in organising inquiry into policy formation, it also alerts us to some important facets ofthe political process, such as these: how do inputs from the environment affect the content of publicpolicy and the operation of the political system? How in turn does public policy affect theenvironment and the subsequent demands for policy actions? How well is the political system able toconvert demands into public policy and preserve itself over time (Anderson, 1997).3.4.Institutional TheoryOne of the oldest concerns of political science and public administration is the study of governmentinstitutions since political life generally revolves around them. These institutions include legislatures,executives and judiciary; and public policy is authoritatively formulated and executed by them.Traditionally, the institutional approach concentrates on describing the more formal and legal aspectsof government institutions: their formal structure, legal powers, procedural rules, and functions.Formal relationships with other institutions might also be considered, such as legislative-executiverelations. Usually, little was done to explain how institutions operated as opposed to how they weresupposed to operated, to analyse public policies produced by the institutions and to discover therelationships between institutional structure and public policies.Subsequently, social scientists turned their attention in teaching and research to the political processeswithin government or political institutions, concentrating on the behaviour of participants in theprocess and on political realities rather than formalism. In the study of legislators, attention shiftedAn Overview of Approaches to the Study of Public PolicyInternational Journal of Political Science (IJPS) Page|14from simply describing the legislature as an institution to analysing and explaining its operation overtime, from its static to its dynamic aspects. Thus, in the academic curriculum the course on thelegislature usually came to be about the legislative process.Institutionalism, with its emphasis on the formal or structural aspects of institutions can nonethelessbe usefully employed in policy analysis. An institution is, in part, a set of regularised patterns ofhuman behaviour that persist over time and perform some significant social function. It is theirdiffering patterns of behaviour that usually distinguish courts from legislatures, from administrativeagencies, and so on. These regularised patter ns of behaviour, which are usually called rules orstructures, can affect decision-making and the content of public policy. Rules and structuralarrangements are usually not neutral in their effects; rather, they tend to favour some interest insociety over others and some policy results over others.Using this approach in Nigeria at the national level, the primary institutions that would be the focus ofpolicy analysis are invariably the legislative body, the executive and the courts. In developingcountries like Nigeria where we are still at a relatively low level of constitutional development, theseinstitutions especially the first two, may take varying forms, depending on the regime in power.During the Second Republic when a democratically elected regime was in power the institutions werethe National Assembly, the Federal Executive Council and the Federal Courts. However, duringmilitary regimes, Supreme Military Council or Armed Forces Ruling Council was the legislativebody, and the Council of Ministers was the executive. By this approach, it is taken for granted that thepolitics of Nigeria revolves around these institutions and therefore, an understanding of public policyin Nigeria requires a study of the constitution, operation and relationships among these institutions.In sum, institutional structures, arrangements, and procedures often have importantconsequences for the adoption and content of public policies. They provide part of the context forpolicy-making, which must be considered along with the more dynamic aspects of politics, such aspolitical parties, groups, and public opinion in policy study. By itself, however, institutional theorycan provide only partial explanations of policy.This model studies the official structures and functions of government departments and institutions inan attempt to learn how public policy takes shape. It focuses on the organisation chart of government.However, this model has shown little concern about the connections between a department and thepublic policy emanating from it. While the systems approach is dynamic and process-oriented,institutionalist approach is more static and formalistic. As the behaviouralist movement took holdwithin political science during the 1950s and 1960s institutional studies of the policy process weregradually replaced by the empirical model. Based on the behaviouralist principles the empiricalresearch makes an attempt to know how government institutions actually function. The empiricalresearch makes use of experimental and quasi-experimental procedures to identify policy effects asprecisely as possible. However, as Thomas Dye points out, the institutional approach can yieldbenefits to those concerned with how public policy takes shape (Naidu, 2006).It is more useful toview these models as complementary rather than competitive tools for the study of public policymaking as a process.3.5.Incremental TheoryIncremental decisions involve limited changes or additions to existing policies, such as a smallpercentage increase in ministry of education‟s budget or a modest tightening of eligibilityrequirements for federal scholarship. According to this approach, the policy-makers examine a limitednumber of policy alternatives and implement change in a series of small steps. It may be noted thateach of the alternatives available to the policy-maker represents only a small change in the status quo.This approach recognises the less than ideal circumstances under which administrators must makepolicies. There are very real limits of time, brains money etc. on administrator’s ability to understandcomplex problems and make different policies about them. Because of these limitations, the policymakers, though they try to be rational, accept the past policies that satisfy them as legitimate andsuffice to deal with the issue.Charles Lindblom is associated with this model. He contends that incrementalism is the typicalpolicy-making in pluralist societies such as the United States and even Nigeria. Decisions and policiesare the product of give and take and mutual consent among numerous participants in the policyAn Overview of Approaches to the Study of Public PolicyInternational Journal of Political Science (IJPS) Page|15process. Incrementalism is politically expedient because it is easier to reach agreement when thematters in dispute among various groups are only limited modifications of existing programmes ratherthan policy issues of great magnitude or of an all-or-nothing character. Because policy makers operateunder conditions of uncertainty about the future consequences of their actions, incremental decisionstend to reduce the risks and cost of uncertainty. Incrementalism is also realistic because it recorgnisesthat policy makers lack the time, intelligence, and other resources needed to engage in comprehensiveanalysis of all alternative solutions to existing problems. Moreover, people are essentially pragmaticseeking not always a single best way to deal with a problem but, more modestly, something thatwould work. In a nut-shell, incrementalism utilises limited analysis to yield limited, practical,acceptable decisions.According to Simon (1957) who accepts Linblom‟s theory, rather than being comprehensive in ourdecision-making, says we often engage in a „successive limited comparison‟ of issues and facts at ourdisposal. Similarly, rather than insisting on getting the most optimal results we often end up insatisficing. Simon‟s satisficing theory, which is part of the genre of incremental, is based on what heterms „bounded rationality‟. In essence, man is limited by his incapacity to handle satisfactorilymultiple tasks concurrently. According to him:Our world is a world of limited, serial information processors dealingwith complexity that for all practical purposes is infinite incomparison with their information powers. It is a world peopled bycreatures of bounded rationality. Because we cannot simultaneouslyattend to everything that is potentially relevant, we must haveprocesses that determine the focus of attention (Simon, 1957).Several criticisms have greeted incrementalism. One is that it is too conservative, to focused on thecurrent order; hence, it is a barrier to innovation, which is often necessary for effective policies.Another is that in crisis situations, incrementalism provides no guidelines for handling the tasks ofdecisions. Third, geared as it is to past actions and existing programmes and to limited changes inthem, incrementalism may discourage the search for or use of other readily available alternatives(Anderson, 1997). Fourth, incrementalism does not eliminate the need for theory in policy-making,are some of the more enthusiastic advocates contend. Unless changes in policy are to be made simplyat random or arbitrarily, some theory is needed to guide the action and to indicate the likely effect ofproposed changes (Hayes, 1992:2). Non-withstanding reservations of these sorts, incrementalism hasbecome a form of conventional wisdom. Statements to the effect that policy-making in Nigeria isincremental are common.3.6.Rational- Choice TheoryThe rational-choice theory, which is sometimes called social-choice, public-choice, or formal theory,originated with economists and involves applying the principles of micro-economic theory to theanalysis and explanation of political behaviour (or nonmarket decision-making). It has now gainedquite a few adherents among political scientists (Anderson, 1997).Perhaps, the earliest use of rational-choice theory to study the political process is Anthony Downs‟sEconomic Theory of Democracy. In this influential book, Downs assumes that voters and politicalparties act as rational decision-makers who seek to maximise attainment of their preferences. Partiesformulate whatever policies will win them most votes and voters, and seek to maximise the portion oftheir preferences that could be realised through government action. In attempting to win elections,political parties move toward the centre of the ideological spectrum to appeal to the greatest numberof voters and maximise their voting support. Thus, rather than providing „meaningful alternatives‟,parties will become as much alike as possible, thereby providing an „echo rather than a choice‟(Downs, 1957).This approach is based on economic principles such as the cost-benefit analysis. According to Henry:One tries to learn all the value preferences extant in a society, assigneach value a relative weight, discover all the policy alternativesavailable, know all the consequences of each alternative, calculatehow the selection of any one policy will affect the remainingalternatives in terms of opportunity costs, and ultimately select thepolicy alternative that is the most efficient in terms of costs andbenefits of social values (Henry, 2004:314).An Overview of Approaches to the Study of Public PolicyInternational Journal of Political Science (IJPS) Page|16The rationalist model is conceptually quite simple. Policy-makers using it are expected to take thefollowing steps: Identify all the value preferences currently existing in a society. Assign each value a relative weight, Discover all the alternative policies available to accomplish these values, Know all the costs and consequences of each alternative policy, Select the best alternative which is also the most efficient in terms of the costs and benefits of socialvaluesThe rationalist model deals with construction of public policies that ensure better public policies. Itthus aims at improving public policy-making process. It is the opposite of incrementalism. YehezkelDror is a good representative of the rationalist model. How much of each value is equal to how muchof each other value (Lindblom, 1980). For the above steps to be taken, the rational-choice theoryaccording to Ikelegbe (1996) assumes the following:That perfect information can be obtained for example, to objectivelyassess policy alternatives; that there is commonality of values andpreferences particularly in the setting of goals and objectives, that therational actor thinks of the greatest good of the greatest number as aguide to decision-making, that objectives and alternatives can bequantified and compared on a single monetary measure; that theconditions and parameters for the decision are static within thedecision-making period. There is no doubt that these assumptions aresimply not realisable in the real world situations, hence making theimplementation of the model clearly impossible.The rationalist model is appealing in its simplicity. But, there are problems that lie with itsimplementation. For instance, it lacks explicit concern for the political environment in which publicpolicy must be carried out. Furthermore, according to Braybrooke and Lindblom (1964), the rationalpolicy-making process, ideally, is based on knowledge of all of society‟s value preferences, and theirrelative weight, all of the alternatives, all of the potential consequences (costs and benefits) of eachpolicy alternative. The final selection must be that alternative that maximises the weighted valuepreference. The obvious limitation of this approach is its demand for knowledge (facts andinformation) not within the reach of mere mortals. The prospects of the successful application of thismodel in developing countries like Nigeria is very dim indeed given the paucity of data (in coverageand quality) needed for policy-making. Some scholars have argued that the average developingcountry has neither the technology, the resources nor the time to effectively employ this model inpolicy-making (Braybrooke and Lindblom, 1964)Another serious objection to this model is its bias toward efficiency to the exclusion of other valuessuch as equity and responsiveness. No doubt, rationalist model has its limitations but, it can be usefulto policy-makers and administrators as a tool of policy output analysis.Rational-choice studies of political behaviour are usually characterised by rigid and narrowassumptions, mathematical equations, abstractions, and remoteness from reality. Even William C.Mitchell, an early enlistee in the rational-choice movement, remarks that it appears in textbooks,rational-choice theory hardly involves government, politicians, bureaucrats, and interest groups. Littleof the exposition…has anything to do with the fiscal or regulatory lives of the community or state(Mitchell, 1982: 99). A more positive view holds that in its pure form it is one, but only one, useful,partial explanation of politics (Weschler,1982:294).Rational-choice theory both alerts us to the importance of self-interest as a motivating force in politicsand policy-making, and provides a better understanding of decision-making processes. Many contend,however, that politics is not as devoid of altruism and concern for the public interest as the rationalchoice theorists assume. The adoption of good public policy, for example, is frequently a goal ofmembers of the National Assembly. Public-interest groups, such as environmentalists, are motivatedby more than immediate self-interest.An Overview of Approaches to the Study of Public PolicyInternational Journal of Political Science (IJPS) Page|17
CONCLUSION AND RECOMMENDATIONSOne cannot authoritatively say which of these theoretical approaches is the best or the mostsatisfactory as each approach focuses on different aspects of policy-making, and this seems moreuseful for understanding some situations or events than others. It seems wise not to be bound toodogmatically to one approach. A good rule for the policy maker is to be eclectic and flexible, and todraw from theories that seem most useful for the satisfactory and fair-minded description andexplanation of policies. The objective explanation of political behaviour rather than the validation ofone‟s preferred theoretical approach should be the goal of political inquiry. Each of the theoriesdiscussed, if drawn upon skilfully and selectively, can contribute to a better understanding of policymaking.REFERENCES[1] Abdulsami, I. (1987). The Concept and Process of Public Policy. A paper presented at the nationalworkshop for chief nursing officers, in Zaria, Wednesday 3rd June, 1987.[2] Anderson, J.E.(1997). Public Policy-Making: An Introduction 3rd ed. Boston: Houghton Miffilin Company.[3] Braybrooke, D. &Lindblom, E. (1964).A Strategy of Decisions. Free Press of Glencoe, New York.[4] Dlakwa, H.D. (2014). Concepts and Models in Public Policy Formulation and Analysis. Kaduna:PylamakServicies Ltd Nigeria.[5] Downs, A. (1957). An Economic Theory of Democracy. New York: Harper and Row.[6] Dye, T.R & Zeigler, L.H. (1990).The Irony of Democracy. 8thedition. Monterey, Califf: Books/Cole[7] Hayes, M.T. (1992). Incrementalism and Public Policy. New York: Longman.[8] Henry, N. (2004). Public Administration and Public Affairs. 9thed. New Delhi: Prentice Hall. [9][9] Latham,E. (1965). The Group Basis of Politics, New York: Octagon Books[10] Mitchell, W.C. (1982). Textbook Public Choice: A Review Essay. Public Choice, XXVIII.[11] Mosca, G. (1939). The Ruling Class, (Translated by Hannah D. Kahn), New York: McGrow-Hill BookCompany.[12] Obi, E.A, Nwachukwu, C.L. and Obiora, A.C. (2008).Public Policy Analysis and Decision Making.Onitsha: Bookpoint Educational Ltd.[13] Simon, H.A. (1957). Administrative Behaviour: A Study of Decision-Making Processes in AdministrativeOrganisation. 2nded. New York: The Macmillian Company.[14] Weischler, L.F. (1982). Methodological Individualism in Politics. Public Administration Review, XL III,May/June.Citation: Prof. Adam A. Anyebe. ” An Overview of Approaches to the Study of Public Policy.” InternationalJournal of Political Science (IJPS), vol 4, no.1, 2017, pp.08-17. doi:http://dx.doi.org/10.20431/2454-9452.0401002.Copyright: © 2017 Authors. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the CreativeCommons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium,provided the original author and source are credited.

Get Professional Assignment Help Cheaply

Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?

Whichever your reason may is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.

Our essay writers are graduates with diplomas, bachelor’s, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college diploma. When assigning your order, we match the paper subject with the area of specialization of the writer.

Why Choose Our Academic Writing Service?

 

Plagiarism free papers
Timely delivery
Any deadline
Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
Subject-relevant academic writer
Adherence to paper instructions
Ability to tackle bulk assignments
Reasonable prices
24/7 Customer Support
Get superb grades consistently

How It Works

1.      Place an order

You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.

2.      Pay for the order

Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.

3.      Track the progress

You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.

4.      Download the paper

The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.

Get Professional Assignment Help Cheaply
Are you busy and do not have time to handle your assignment? Are you scared that your paper will not make the grade? Do you have responsibilities that may hinder you from turning in your assignment on time? Are you tired and can barely handle your assignment? Are your grades inconsistent?
Whichever your reason may is, it is valid! You can get professional academic help from our service at affordable rates. We have a team of professional academic writers who can handle all your assignments.
Our essay writers are graduates with diplomas, bachelor’s, masters, Ph.D., and doctorate degrees in various subjects. The minimum requirement to be an essay writer with our essay writing service is to have a college diploma. When assigning your order, we match the paper subject with the area of specialization of the writer.
Why Choose Our Academic Writing Service?

Plagiarism free papers
Timely delivery
Any deadline
Skilled, Experienced Native English Writers
Subject-relevant academic writer
Adherence to paper instructions
Ability to tackle bulk assignments
Reasonable prices
24/7 Customer Support
Get superb grades consistently

How It Works
1.      Place an order
You fill all the paper instructions in the order form. Make sure you include all the helpful materials so that our academic writers can deliver the perfect paper. It will also help to eliminate unnecessary revisions.
2.      Pay for the order
Proceed to pay for the paper so that it can be assigned to one of our expert academic writers. The paper subject is matched with the writer’s area of specialization.
3.      Track the progress
You communicate with the writer and know about the progress of the paper. The client can ask the writer for drafts of the paper. The client can upload extra material and include additional instructions from the lecturer. Receive a paper.
4.      Download the paper
The paper is sent to your email and uploaded to your personal account. You also get a plagiarism report attached to your paper.

 

PLACE THIS ORDER OR A SIMILAR ORDER WITH ASSIGNMENT WORKER TODAY AND GET AN AMAZING DISCOUNT

The post International Journal of Political Science appeared first on Essay fount.


What Students Are Saying About Us

.......... Customer ID: 12*** | Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
"Honestly, I was afraid to send my paper to you, but you proved you are a trustworthy service. My essay was done in less than a day, and I received a brilliant piece. I didn’t even believe it was my essay at first 🙂 Great job, thank you!"

.......... Customer ID: 11***| Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
"This company is the best there is. They saved me so many times, I cannot even keep count. Now I recommend it to all my friends, and none of them have complained about it. The writers here are excellent."


"Order a custom Paper on Similar Assignment at essayfount.com! No Plagiarism! Enjoy 20% Discount!"