Practical Lessons from Policy Theories: a new agenda

Weible workshop 2Professors Chris Weible and Paul Cairney were the successful applicants for our 2019 special issue call for proposals. This blog post summarises a recent workshop held in Colorado on their topic Practical Lessons from Policy Theories by way of presaging some of the key research themes they will pursue in their special issue.

Policy theories provide profound lessons for people trying to understand and engage with the policy process. As policy scholars we often take them for granted, but for non-specialists they can represent a new way of thinking. So, sharing these insights helps scholars and practitioners. Explaining our theories clearly gives us a new way to take stock of policy theory: how does it help us think about and act within the policy process?

That’s why we asked a group of experts to describe the ‘state of the art’ in their field and the practical lessons that they offer. Continue reading

The Welfare State on the Chopping Block

zach_morrisZach Morris, Assistant Professor, Stony Brook University School of Social Welfare

Zach Morris, 2017 winner of our Bleddyn Davies Prize for the best article from an early career scholar, summarises the findings from his winning article, which is free to read until 15 June 2017.

With the Republican Party in power in the US, the welfare state is once again on the chopping block. And disability benefit programs – traditionally designed for the “deserving poor” – may not be protected from these cuts. So, what political strategies are retrenchment advocates pursuing? And will their efforts succeed?

As discussed in my P&P article, a major safeguard against disability benefit retrenchment in the US is its structural positioning as a “Social Security” program. In the UK, the disability benefit program has always been considered distinct from the old-age “State Pension” program. But in the US, the disability and old age programs have historically been grouped together under the auspices of the Social Security Administration. This connection between disability benefits and the more popular old-age program provides a form of institutionalized protection to the US disability program and is a major reason why that program has historically proven so difficult to cut. Continue reading

Policy & Politics announces the 2017 winners of the Early Career and Best Paper Prizes

The winning papers are available to read for free until 15 June 2017.

The Bleddyn Davies Early Career Prize has been awarded to Zachary Morris, University of California Berkeley, USA, for:

zach_morrisConstructing the need for retrenchment: disability benefits in the United States and Great Britain [Free to access until 15 June 2017]

In this excellent paper, Zachary Morris seeks to address an important and politically timely question – Why are some welfare state programmes more susceptible to retrenchment than others? The paper examines why the major disability benefit programme in the United States has proved resistant to austerity measures while the comparable disability programme in Great Britain has been repeatedly scaled back. This engaging comparative analysis reveals that both structural differences matter greatly, as does the way that policy ideas are communicated to the public. In Britain, the portrayal of beneficiaries as underserving proved critical for constructing the need for retrenchment. Continue reading

Depoliticising austerity – how Portugal challenged the discourse of ‘there is no alternative’

Adam Standring.jpgAdam Standring (Faculty of Social and Human Sciences in the New University of Lisbon, Portugal, FCSH-UNL) 

It’s March 2011 and Portugal makes one of its infrequent visits to the pages of the international media.  Rising borrowing rates and pressure from the international financial markets, combined with an increasingly unpopular ruling party, make it increasingly likely that Portugal will become the next of the ‘profligate PIIGS’ to succumb to the contagion of the Eurozone Sovereign debt crisis.  Within four months the Troika will be called in and the country will embark on a harsh ‘Economic Adjustment Programme’ – economics-speak for the raft of austerity measures and structural reforms on which bailout packages are conditioned. Continue reading

Studies in Policy Failure: Government Decisions That Don’t Benefit Anybody

newman_birdJoshua Newman and Malcolm Bird

It seems that whenever political leaders announce a new policy, a program, a tax, a tax cut, a purchase, a sale, or anything else, they invariably claim that this decision will be for the benefit of all citizens. Of course, only the deeply deluded would believe this to be true – the fundamental scarcity of resources insists that every decision that a government makes must produce winners and losers, supporters and opponents. You can’t please all of the people all of the time.

But what if, sometimes, governments did things that didn’t benefit anybody? What if it were possible for situations to arise that actually gave incentives to governing parties to produce pathological policy outcomes? Instead of learning from mistakes, can governments sometimes deliberately make matters worse? Continue reading