Formulation and implementation of policies is a very complex and detailed process because of the variables involved.
Public policy makers have many variables and alternatives to compare before making up their minds on what policy to formulate and implement. Kingdon simplified the art of public policy making into four stages: The setting of the agenda; the specification of alternatives from which a choice is to be made; an authoritative choice among those specified alternatives, as in a legislative vote or a presidential decision; and the implementation of the decision. (Kingdon 3) Kingdon argued that the process of policy making entails three processes: “problems, policies and politics” (16). In the first process, agenda is set when there is a dramatic event that leads to some agenda being set up. More often than not, according to Kingdon, agenda which come up in this manner (through a problem) are often the wrong ones. The manner in which a government acts sometimes is considered not appropriate for a given condition. Another process which defines policy making process is the accumulation of knowledge which in the long run makes inclination of policy towards favoring such knowledge. Lastly, the political processes also affect the setting of the agenda in a significant manner: “swings of national mood, vagaries of public opinion, elections results, changes of administration, and turnover in Congress all may have powerful effects” (Kingdon 17).
In summary, Kingdon pointed out that the three processes -“problem recognition, generation of policy proposals, and political events” – may turn out to be a thrust or a restraint: As an impetus, items are promoted to higher agenda prominence, as ‘when a new administration makes possible the emergence of a new battery of proposals. As a constraint, items are prevented from rising on the agenda, as when a budget constraint operates to rule out the emergence of items that are perceived as being too costly. Some items may not arise on the agenda because of the financial cost, the lack of acceptance by the public, the opposition of powerful of interests, or simply because they are less pressing than other items in the competition for attention. (Kingdon 17)
The Rational Choice Process
As already discussed above, policy making is a process confronted with many influencing forces.
Ways have been formulated to give guidance on which policy is to be formulated. The rational choice process is among the ways which are used to decide on which policy is to be formulated and implemented (“Rational choice” par. 1). The rational choice process tends to make the process of policy making one which will bring about changes that are required (Bueno de Mesquita par. 1).
In applying this method, values or objectives are clarified. This clarification makes it possible to ensure a policy will address the actual problem it was meant to, in other words, the means of analysis starts from the end: “first the ends are isolated, then the means to achieve them are sought” (Lindblom 81). The process of analyzing is carried out in a comprehensive manner with every detail that has significance being put into consideration. This method has a heavy reliance on theory (Lindblom 81).
Public offices more often than not have to deal with conflicting interests. These interests are more pronounced when it comes to policy formulation which affects different parties. The parties which are to be affected are likely to exert pressure by whichever means to ensure that the policy formulated is such that it benefits a certain party.
This kind of influence is often bad as it leads to formulation of policies which are discriminatory in addressing issues which are affecting the general public. Such influences should be countered to ensure that policies are formulated to benefit the general public and not a section of the public. Formulation of policies in my public agency has a fixed procedure that is followed. This procedure is meant to ensure that the process of policy formulation is free from ridicule and above all that the policy is formulated in such a way that it addresses the main problem affecting the general public. Bureaucracy therefore is not an issue in our office. The transparency in our office helps to ensure that all the processes especially on formulation of policies is open to all the public for scrutiny. The agency is also committed to serving all the Californians in the best manner possible.
Through processes such as the 3Cs and the 5 Ps, the agency ensures that policy formulation is carried out in a rational manner. In my public agency, there is the standard operating precedence (SOP). This is a procedure which has to be followed in all legislative procedures. This implies that no short cuts can be taken when it is necessary to save on time.
SOP makes it hard to make fast decisions in the cases of emergencies or any other situations which require very quick decisions.
Holders of public offices ought to uphold integrity in the line of duty. Since they are dealing with public wealth and issues which influence the general public, public officials should ensure that their administration is ethical. According to Thompson, administrative ethics has to do with the “application of moral principles to the conduct of officials in organizations” (Thompson 458), in the context of public offices, “administrative ethics is a species of political ethics, which applies moral principles to political life more generally” (Thompson 458).
Thompson goes ahead to show what moral principles define: The rights and duties that individuals should respect when they act in ways that seriously affect the well-being of other individuals and society; and the conditions that collective practices and policies should satisfy when they similarly affect the well being of individuals and society. (Thompson 458) Thompson further argued that moral principles do not advocate for a particular interested perspective but rather advocates for the interest of every person. It is imperative that when an action is being taken it receives a general acceptance even by those who may have not taken part in the action. There are two challenges to administrative ethics: “the ethic of neutrality and the ethic of structure” (Thompson 458). According to the ethic of neutrality, administrators are neutral ethically in the sense that they execute the orders that are given to them by their superiors.
It is argued that the orders to be executed do not come from the administrators and therefore the administrators are just used as tools hence the need to view them neutrally in the light of ethics. The principle of the ethic of neutrality argues that officials have a duty to serve the organizations they are leading such that those organizations will serve the society in turn. This principle acknowledges the fact that administrators more often than not have to use their judgment when making the policies. However, the administrators always have to make the policies in a manner that is inclined to the philosophies of the superiors. It is further argued that even if an administrator may differ in opinion with her or his superior, once the policy is formulated the administrator will only have the choice of implementing it. The proposals that have been brought up by the principle of the ethic of neutrality however have been confronted by criticism in three aspects. The first argument point is that the influence of an administrator in policy formulation is more than just implementing the superiors’ orders.
Administrators have the potential of mobilizing huge support for formulation of policies and therefore they can determine the direction of a policy. The second argument is closely related to the third argument. In the second objection, opponents of this principle argue that there are many reasons that make it hard for an administrator to resign such that not resigning would not automatically imply that an administrator is in agreement with the way an organization is run. It is also pointed out against the principle of ethic that if all public officials who are not in agreement with the policies formulated in their organizations are to resign then the nation will experience a great loss of public service. Lastly, the principle of the ethic of neutrality is objected to because of the limitation it imposes on public administrators: obedience or resignation. The second challenge to administrative ethics is the ethic of structure. The ethic of structure advocates for the blame of a wrong committed to be on an organization or the government as a whole. According to this principle, public officials are only liable for the actions that they commit at the level of their own offices.
For a person to take up blame then following criteria must be met: “That the person’s actions or omissions were a cause of the outcome; and that the person did not act in excusable ignorance or under compulsion” (Thompson 463).
In my public office, accountability by each member is of a high priority. Each person accorded any responsibility has to take responsibility with a lot of seriousness. All the interns and any other person working at the agency are encouraged to always seek for clarifications and direction from group members or from superiors concerning projects they are carrying out. Every person in the agency is responsible for his or actions. There is free discussion among all the people working in the organization on issues affecting California. The public is at liberty to contact the organization and make suggestions on what they wish to have implemented.
The general observation therefore is that the agency is not plagued with the administrative ethics challenges. The rational method of choice should be adopted by the agency to ensure that the process of policy formulation is in line with the public demands. There are other mechanisms which can be used to strengthen accountability in my public agency.
One of them is hiring of a private firm to oversee the operations of the agency. In most cases private agencies are neutral and as a result they are likely to carry out their duties without any external influence. Encouraging transparency especially in regard to overtime practices will help to reduce abuse of overtime provisions. Transparency can also cut across on how public resources are used.
For instance, when agency cars are used, for instance, on private missions this should be brought book. Using of public resources for private purposed can be avoided when everything is kept transparent and available for scrutiny by the public eye. This should include the seemingly insignificant issues such as running errands.
Bueno de Mesquita, Bruce 2012, Foreign policy analysis and rational choice models. PDF file. 18 June 2012.
Kingdon, John. How Does an Idea’s Time Come? Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies. New York: Prentice Hall, 1995. Print.
Lindblom, Charles. Science of Muddling Through. New York: Prentice Hall, 1959. Print. Mosher, Frederick. Watergate: Implications for Responsible Government. New York: Prentice Hall, 1974. Print.
Rational Choice 2012. Web. 18 June 2012.
Thompson, Dennis. The Possibility of Administrative Ethics. New York: Prentice Hall, 1985. Print.