SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 2 – Behavioural insights into what motivates public employees on the front line to respond to reforms championed by elected politicians

Special issue blog series on advancing our understanding of the politics behind nudge and the ‘behavioural insights’ trend in public policy.

Don leeDon Lee 

My recent article in Policy & Politics investigates how bureaucrats on the front line make policy implementation decisions. Political leaders and lawmakers tend to assume that street-level bureaucrats will follow their direction and implement polices as they devised. However, front line workers, in fact, have room to interpret the policies in the implementation process. To understand what important factors influence street-level bureaucrats’ implementation decisions, my article examines two central elements in policy implementation: 1) whether street-level bureaucrats’ policy orientation is congruent with that of elected politicians and 2) to what extent street-level bureaucrats have discretion in implementing policies. Continue reading

FORTHCOMING SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES: Blog 1 – Why Nudge Sometimes Fails: Fatalism and the Problem of Behaviour Change

FORTHCOMING SPECIAL ISSUE BLOG SERIES ON ‘Beyond Nudge: advancing the state-of-the-art of Behavioural Public Policy & Administration’

Tom Entwistle

Nudge is frequently in the news at the moment. Thaler and Sunstein coined the term to describe the way in which governments could use small policy interventions (like an advert, a sign, or a letter) to ‘nudge’ people into changing their behaviour for the better, both for themselves and for society at large. Experts in nudge (so called behavioural scientists) have been  busy during the current pandemic advising the government on the best way of getting people to follow coronavirus health advice whether it be washing your hands while singing happy birthday or staying at home to save the NHS. 

We already know however that many people do not do what they are told. In my recent article in Policy & Politics, I describe how scholars working in public health draw on the notion of fatalism to explain the intractability of citizens who ignore their doctors’ advice. A fatalist mindset inclines some people to believe that their fortunes are, in the strongest sense of the word, predetermined or at least heavily constrained by forces beyond their control. People who believe their lives are characterised by luck, powerlessness and impenetrable complexity tend to respond poorly to authoritative advice. Three types of fatalism are of particular relevance to nudge. Continue reading

Comparing citizen and policymaker perceptions of deliberative democratic innovations

koskimaa and rapeliVesa Koskimaa and Lauri Rapeli

It seems that people are growing increasingly disappointed with how representative democracy functions. A big part of the problem is arguably a de-attachment of policymakers from citizens’ everyday problems, which prompts citizens to react by turning their backs on conventional politics. Many scholars and other observers have turned to democratic innovations for solutions on how the link between democratic publics and their democratic leaders could be improved. Innovations based on the theory of deliberative democracy have probably received most attention by scholars and practitioners. Deliberative democracy refers to a decision-making process, which emphasizes informed, reflexive and egalitarian interpersonal communication.

To put theory into practice, mini-publics, like citizen initiative reviews, juries and assemblies have been widely used in democracies across the world. In these deliberative groups, randomly selected individuals discuss and decide upon a specific political issue on the basis of best expert knowledge and argumentation. A considerable number of studies have discussed theoretically whether deliberative bodies could fix the problems of contemporary representative democracy. Other studies have used experimental methods to examine the internal proceedings and effects of these deliberations. What has, however, almost totally been ignored by scholars are the views of policy-making elites, whose opinions on democracy eventually determine the shape of new democratic institutions. Continue reading