What do policy makers do? The question is important, because making policy engages a great number of people one way or another, and what they do they might do well or badly. Our standard answers are rather hazy, not least because policy making entails such great numbers of people doing a great number of things. The literature tends to have addressed the question in functional terms, outlining and defining – and endlessly debating – different sets of activities such as advocacy and agenda-setting, formulating and decision making, implementing and evaluating.
Selen A. Ercan, Carolyn M. Hendriks and John S. Dryzek
Imagine a crowded restaurant that is starting to get noisy. The noise at each table begins to rise as people try to make themselves heard. Eventually the noise becomes so loud that nobody can hear anything. Here’s a familiar context where there is plenty of expression, but precious little listening, and not much good conversation.
The noisy restaurant is a metaphor, we believe, for what we see in contemporary democracy where citizens have plenty of opportunities to express their views and opinions about anything that concerns them, but there is no guarantee and little likelihood that these views will be listened to, reflected upon, and/or taken up by decision-making bodies.
The relationship between policy expertise and policy outcomes and the role that ‘politics’ plays has inspired a rich and varied literature – with academics, journalists and pro-transparency campaigners making important and thought-provoking contributions. They tackle questions of influence and power, discuss the ‘red lines’ between legitimate exchanges and undue influence and critique the diminishing part which academic scholars play in political discourse. In short: the role of policy experts and their activities in a complex world is considered by many worth thorough and critically-minded scrutiny.