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The Framing of Policy Problems PA 306 Koliba. Problem Definition Rationality project: “statement of a goal and the discrepancy between it and the status.

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Presentation on theme: "The Framing of Policy Problems PA 306 Koliba. Problem Definition Rationality project: “statement of a goal and the discrepancy between it and the status."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Framing of Policy Problems PA 306 Koliba

2 Problem Definition Rationality project: “statement of a goal and the discrepancy between it and the status quo.” Rationality project: “statement of a goal and the discrepancy between it and the status quo.” Question of observation and arithmeticQuestion of observation and arithmetic But, we learned earlier in the discussion of goals that there are no fixed goals or positions, but rather competing conceptions of abstract goals. But, we learned earlier in the discussion of goals that there are no fixed goals or positions, but rather competing conceptions of abstract goals.

3 In the Polis: “Problem definition is never simply a matter of defining goals and measuring our distance from them. It is rather the strategic representation of situations. ” Stone p. 133 “Problem definition is never simply a matter of defining goals and measuring our distance from them. It is rather the strategic representation of situations. ” Stone p. 133 Problems are portrayed by actors in a way that promotes their favored course of action, wins people to their side, and provides leverage over opponents. Problems are portrayed by actors in a way that promotes their favored course of action, wins people to their side, and provides leverage over opponents.

4 So how are problems defined? No scientific and objective ‘best approach’ for all problems No scientific and objective ‘best approach’ for all problems Actors tell stories Actors tell stories Using symbols and conventional literary devicesUsing symbols and conventional literary devices Using numbers to tell storiesUsing numbers to tell stories Stories about causes of problemsStories about causes of problems Stories about interests: who is affected, and what they should doStories about interests: who is affected, and what they should do We want to learn how to look at problems from multiple perspectives to achieve the best problem definition We want to learn how to look at problems from multiple perspectives to achieve the best problem definition

5 SYMBOLS “Symbols are collectively created. Any good symbolic device, one that works to capture the imagination, also shapes our perceptions and suspends skepticism, at least temporarily. Those effects are what make symbols political devices. They are a means of influence and control, even though it is often hard to tell with symbols exactly who is influencing whom.” Stone p.137 “Symbols are collectively created. Any good symbolic device, one that works to capture the imagination, also shapes our perceptions and suspends skepticism, at least temporarily. Those effects are what make symbols political devices. They are a means of influence and control, even though it is often hard to tell with symbols exactly who is influencing whom.” Stone p.137

6 Symbolic representation construed as four aspects: Narrative stories —provide explanation of how the world works Narrative stories —provide explanation of how the world works Synecdoches—figures of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole Synecdoches—figures of speech in which a part is used to represent the whole Metaphors-- seeing the likeness between two things Metaphors-- seeing the likeness between two things Ambiguity—capacity to have multiple meanings Stone p Ambiguity—capacity to have multiple meanings Stone p

7 Variations of stories: Story of decline —things have gotten worse (Moral values; Loss of wetlands and sandbars in Louisiana; Health care system?) Recitation of facts and figures to show how things have gotten worse. Recitation of facts and figures to show how things have gotten worse. E.g. War on poverty, selective use of facts and figuresE.g. War on poverty, selective use of facts and figures “In the beginning, things were pretty good. But they got worse. In fact, right now, they are nearly intolerable. Something must be done.” Stone p.138 “In the beginning, things were pretty good. But they got worse. In fact, right now, they are nearly intolerable. Something must be done.” Stone p.138

8 Stymied progress story “In the beginning things were terrible. Then things got better, thanks to a certain someone. But now somebody or something is interfering with our hero, so things are going to get terrible again.” Stone pp.139, 143 “In the beginning things were terrible. Then things got better, thanks to a certain someone. But now somebody or something is interfering with our hero, so things are going to get terrible again.” Stone pp.139, 143 E.g. War on poverty: minimum wage peaked in 1972 E.g. War on poverty: minimum wage peaked in 1972 Also Told by groups resisting regulation… Also Told by groups resisting regulation…

9 Change-is-only-an-illusion story “You always thought things were getting worse (or better). But you were wrong. Let me show you some evidence that things are in fact going in the opposite direction decline (or improvement) was an illusion.” Stone p. 142 “You always thought things were getting worse (or better). But you were wrong. Let me show you some evidence that things are in fact going in the opposite direction decline (or improvement) was an illusion.” Stone p vs in New Orleans 1927 vs in New Orleans Crime Crime

10 Story of helplessness and control “The situation is bad. We have always believed that the situation was out of control, something we had to accept but could not influence. Now, however, let me show you that in fact we can control things…” Stone p. 143 “The situation is bad. We have always believed that the situation was out of control, something we had to accept but could not influence. Now, however, let me show you that in fact we can control things…” Stone p. 143 Natural disasters? Natural disasters? Terrorism? Terrorism? Relates to liberty, controlling our own lives Relates to liberty, controlling our own lives

11 Conspiracy “Its plot moves us from the realm of fate to the realm of control, but it claims to show that all along control has been in the hands of a few who have used it to their benefit and concealed it from the rest of us.” Stone p.143 “Its plot moves us from the realm of fate to the realm of control, but it claims to show that all along control has been in the hands of a few who have used it to their benefit and concealed it from the rest of us.” Stone p.143 E.g. cancer alley, corruption and pollution E.g. cancer alley, corruption and pollution The many need to rise up against the few The many need to rise up against the few

12 Blame-the-victim “Locates control in the very people who suffer the problem.” “Locates control in the very people who suffer the problem.” Homelessness; poverty Stone p.144 Common to all of these is the motivation to seize control Common to all of these is the motivation to seize control

13 Synecdoche Use of anecdotes—individual examples to illustrate a larger point. Use of anecdotes—individual examples to illustrate a larger point. “It is common in politics that one part of a problem particularly catches the popular imagination and confines the policy response to that part of the problem.” Stone p.146 “It is common in politics that one part of a problem particularly catches the popular imagination and confines the policy response to that part of the problem.” Stone p.146 E.g. welfare queens E.g. welfare queens Compelling life stories: Rice, Thomas, Gonzalez Compelling life stories: Rice, Thomas, Gonzalez

14 “As with other forms of symbolic representation, the synecodoche can suspend our critical thinking with its powerful poetry. The strategy of focusing on a part of the problem, particularly one that can be dramatized as a horror story, thus is likely to lead to skewed strategy. It is a good organizing tool, because it can make a problem concrete, allow people to identify with someone else, and mobilize anger. Also it reduces the scope of the problem, and thereby makes it more manageable. The extreme version of this strategy is reducing a large scale problem to a single instance.” Stone p “As with other forms of symbolic representation, the synecodoche can suspend our critical thinking with its powerful poetry. The strategy of focusing on a part of the problem, particularly one that can be dramatized as a horror story, thus is likely to lead to skewed strategy. It is a good organizing tool, because it can make a problem concrete, allow people to identify with someone else, and mobilize anger. Also it reduces the scope of the problem, and thereby makes it more manageable. The extreme version of this strategy is reducing a large scale problem to a single instance.” Stone p

15 Metaphors “On the surface, [metaphors] simply draw a comparison between one thing and another, but in a more subtle way they usually imply a whole narrative story and a prescription for action.” Stone p.148 “On the surface, [metaphors] simply draw a comparison between one thing and another, but in a more subtle way they usually imply a whole narrative story and a prescription for action.” Stone p.148 “Buried in every policy metaphor is an assumption that if a is like b, then the way to solve a is to do what you would do with b. Because policy metaphors imply prescription, they are a form of advocacy.” Stone p.149 “Buried in every policy metaphor is an assumption that if a is like b, then the way to solve a is to do what you would do with b. Because policy metaphors imply prescription, they are a form of advocacy.” Stone p.149

16 Common metaphors Social institutions as living organisms. Stone p.149 Social institutions as living organisms. Stone p.149 Natural laws Natural laws Social DarwinismSocial Darwinism Futility thesis—futile for people to pursue solutions. Stone p Futility thesis—futile for people to pursue solutions. Stone p Law of unintended consequences—helping those in need actually leads to more dependence.—Charles Murray. Stone p.150Law of unintended consequences—helping those in need actually leads to more dependence.—Charles Murray. Stone p.150 Works well with synecdocheWorks well with synecdoche

17 Machines and mechanical devises Machines and mechanical devises Balance—checks and balances “Cogs”Stone p Wedges and inclines Wedges and inclines “Foot in the door”“Foot in the door” domino theorydomino theory “Slippery slope” (Stone p.152)“Slippery slope” (Stone p.152)

18 Escalations Escalations Ladders Stone p.152 Containers ContainersLeaks Power vacuum Mopping up

19 Disease Disease “Imply a story of decline.” Stone p.153 Poverty as pathology Stone p.153 Health Forests Initiative War WarInvasionBattle Epic competition Stone p.154

20 Normative leaps Does the description of a problem imply a solution, and do we make the normative leap? Does the description of a problem imply a solution, and do we make the normative leap? E.g. Natural capital  investing in natural capitalE.g. Natural capital  investing in natural capital

21 Key questions pertaining to metaphors: “What is the underlying narrative? “What is the underlying narrative? Does it make sense? Does it make sense? Does the metaphor seem to obviate the need for evidence, or does it bias the kind of information opponents might bring to bear on a conflict?” Stone p.156 Does the metaphor seem to obviate the need for evidence, or does it bias the kind of information opponents might bring to bear on a conflict?” Stone p.156

22 Ambiguity What is religious freedom? Equal opportunity? What is religious freedom? Equal opportunity? “Ambiguity enables the transformation of individual intentions and actions into collective results and purposes. Without it, cooperation and compromise would be far more difficult, if not impossible.” Stone p.157 “Ambiguity enables the transformation of individual intentions and actions into collective results and purposes. Without it, cooperation and compromise would be far more difficult, if not impossible.” Stone p.157

23 “Ambiguity enables leaders to carve out a sphere of maneuvering hidden from public view, where they can take decisive action on a problem. Legislators can satisfy demands to ‘do something’ about a problem by passing a vague statute with ambiguous meaning, then letting administrative agencies hash out the more conflictual details behind the scenes.” Stone p.159 “Ambiguity enables leaders to carve out a sphere of maneuvering hidden from public view, where they can take decisive action on a problem. Legislators can satisfy demands to ‘do something’ about a problem by passing a vague statute with ambiguous meaning, then letting administrative agencies hash out the more conflictual details behind the scenes.” Stone p.159 Did the mayor of Houston order an evacuation or not?Did the mayor of Houston order an evacuation or not?

24 Ambiguity allows policy makers to placate both sides in a conflict by ‘giving the rhetoric to one side and the decision to the other.’… leaders can perform the magic of making two different decisions at once.” Stone p.159 Ambiguity allows policy makers to placate both sides in a conflict by ‘giving the rhetoric to one side and the decision to the other.’… leaders can perform the magic of making two different decisions at once.” Stone p.159 Healthy forests and clear skies initiativesHealthy forests and clear skies initiatives facilitates negotiation and compromise because it allows opponents to claim victory from a single resolution.” Stone p.159 facilitates negotiation and compromise because it allows opponents to claim victory from a single resolution.” Stone p.159

25 NUMBERS Counting is used to tell stories Counting is used to tell stories Bush and Brown’s use of numbers Bush and Brown’s use of numbers

26 How do we count? How do we define? “Unemployed”… “Unemployed”… “Homeless”… “Homeless”… “At-Risk”… “At-Risk”… “Handicapped”… “Handicapped”… “Black”… “Black”… “Poor”… “Poor”… The “middle class”… The “middle class”…

27 Every number is a political claim about ‘where to draw the line.’ Stone p. 167 Every number is a political claim about ‘where to draw the line.’ Stone p. 167 Are we counting the right thing?Are we counting the right thing? Inclusion and exclusionInclusion and exclusion “Numbers are the opposite of symbols— they are not ambiguous.” Stone p.165 “Numbers are the opposite of symbols— they are not ambiguous.” Stone p.165 But what do they mean? Interpretation is more important than the numbers themselves.But what do they mean? Interpretation is more important than the numbers themselves. Numbers act like metaphors. Stone p.165Numbers act like metaphors. Stone p.165

28 “Like metaphors, numbers make normative leaps. Measures imply a need for action, because we do not measure things except when we want to change them or change our behavior in response to them.” Stone p.167 “Like metaphors, numbers make normative leaps. Measures imply a need for action, because we do not measure things except when we want to change them or change our behavior in response to them.” Stone p.167

29 Relationship Between Numbers and Stories “Numbers never stand by themselves in policy debates, they are clothed in words and symbols and carried in narrative stories…” Stone p.185 “Numbers never stand by themselves in policy debates, they are clothed in words and symbols and carried in narrative stories…” Stone p.185

30 Why Counting is Political Includes decisions about inclusion and exclusion Includes decisions about inclusion and exclusion Implies norms about how much is too much, too little or just right Implies norms about how much is too much, too little or just right Allow for ambiguity Allow for ambiguity Tells stories Tells stories Create illusion of control, boil complex issues down to numbers. Create illusion of control, boil complex issues down to numbers.

31 Creates a community Therefore essential instrument in political mobilization Offers conflict resolution through arithmetic e.g. Roe vs. Wade Help bolster authority of those who count

32 Numerical strategies Reactivity– people react to being measured Reactivity– people react to being measured Is reward or punishment based on count?Is reward or punishment based on count? Counting makes us notice things Counting makes us notice things Can stimulate demand for change Can stimulate demand for change What we count is critical. Measurers have power What we count is critical. Measurers have power How many casualties in the Iraq war?How many casualties in the Iraq war? Setting boundaries—how much does a warplane cost?Setting boundaries—how much does a warplane cost? Alliances between measured and measurers Alliances between measured and measurers Numbers don’t speak for themselves Numbers don’t speak for themselves

33 CAUSES “We often think we have defined a problem when we have described its causes” “We often think we have defined a problem when we have described its causes” “In the polis, causal stories are strategically crafted with symbols and numbers and then asserted by political actors who try to make their versions the basis of policy choices. Causal stories are essential political instruments for shaping alliances and for settling the distribution of benefits and costs.” Stone p.189 “In the polis, causal stories are strategically crafted with symbols and numbers and then asserted by political actors who try to make their versions the basis of policy choices. Causal stories are essential political instruments for shaping alliances and for settling the distribution of benefits and costs.” Stone p.189

34 The relationship between: The relationship between: Actions & Consequences Actions: Actions: UnguidedUnguided PurposefulPurposeful Consequences: Consequences: IntendedIntended UnintendedUnintended

35 Unguided Guided IntendedUnintended MECHANICAL CAUSE: We did our best with the levies, but failed anyway INTENTIONAL CAUSE: Poor people poor by choice; People build homes in floodplains because they know government will pay for them; Money not allocated to protect poor people because politicians know they have no power. INADVERTENT CAUSE: People were not aware of flooding problems, corporations thought no one would be harmed by draining wetlands, etc. ACCIDENTAL CAUSE: Hurricanes happen Consequences Actions

36 Much of politics is trying to change people’s perception of causality. Much of politics is trying to change people’s perception of causality. Weakest positions are mechanical cause and inadvertent cause. Strongest are intentional and accidental. Weakest positions are mechanical cause and inadvertent cause. Strongest are intentional and accidental.

37 Complex Causality Complex systems Complex systems Institutional complexity Institutional complexity Historical complexity Historical complexity Not popular in politics, as there is not one thing to target. Not popular in politics, as there is not one thing to target. Can be used to avoid blame. Can be used to avoid blame.

38 Hence one of the biggest tensions between social science and real- world politics: social scientists tend to see complex causes of social problems, while in politics, people search for immediate and simple causes.” Stone p.197 Hence one of the biggest tensions between social science and real- world politics: social scientists tend to see complex causes of social problems, while in politics, people search for immediate and simple causes.” Stone p.197

39 Causal Strategies Show problems is act of nature Show problems is act of nature Show something formerly interpreted as accidental is actually result of human action Show something formerly interpreted as accidental is actually result of human action Show that effects of an action were secretly intended Show that effects of an action were secretly intended Show that low probability was accepted as calculated risk Show that low probability was accepted as calculated risk Show that causes are complex and large scale change is needed. Show that causes are complex and large scale change is needed.

40 What leads to acceptance of causality? Being accepted by public is one test of success. Being accepted by public is one test of success. Ultimate success is acceptance by policy makers Ultimate success is acceptance by policy makers Visibility, access to media, proponents in prominent positions Visibility, access to media, proponents in prominent positions Capture or responds to national mood Capture or responds to national mood Entails no need to shake established order Entails no need to shake established order Court of law and science Court of law and science How much does this hold true?How much does this hold true?

41 Using causes in the Polis Challenge or protect existing social order Challenge or protect existing social order Assign responsibility Assign responsibility Legitimize and empower certain actors as ‘fixers’ of the problem Legitimize and empower certain actors as ‘fixers’ of the problem No bid contracts in IraqNo bid contracts in Iraq Create new alliances Create new alliances among victimsamong victims “Causal theories serve as devices for building alliances between groups who have problems and groups who have solutions.” Stone p.208“Causal theories serve as devices for building alliances between groups who have problems and groups who have solutions.” Stone p.208 “Shifting the location of responsibility on a causal chain can restructure alliances.” Stone p.208 “Shifting the location of responsibility on a causal chain can restructure alliances.” Stone p.208 Look at issues such as gun control, drunk driving, global warming, etc.Look at issues such as gun control, drunk driving, global warming, etc.

42 What caused Katrina? Wrath of God? Wrath of God? Global warming? Global warming? Normal oscillation? Normal oscillation? Building a city below waterline? Building a city below waterline? Not allowing the river to flood and replenish sediments? Not allowing the river to flood and replenish sediments? Loss of wetlands due to industry (oil?) Loss of wetlands due to industry (oil?) Toxic waste emissions in New Orleans? Toxic waste emissions in New Orleans? Bush administration turning down requests for money to rebuild levees? Bush administration turning down requests for money to rebuild levees? Lack of response by Bush administration? Lack of response by Bush administration? Lack of preparation by local government? Lack of preparation by local government? Inequality that did not allow poor to evacuate, and that forced them to live in most dangerous areas? Inequality that did not allow poor to evacuate, and that forced them to live in most dangerous areas?

43 INTERESTS Who a problem affects may be more important than who causes it Who a problem affects may be more important than who causes it “The quintessential political points of view define problems not by their causes, but by their effects. Who is affected? In what way? Do they know it?” Stone p.210 “The quintessential political points of view define problems not by their causes, but by their effects. Who is affected? In what way? Do they know it?” Stone p.210

44 “Interests, in the language of politics, are the active side of effects, the result of people experiencing or imagining effects and attempting to influence them. “Interests, in the language of politics, are the active side of effects, the result of people experiencing or imagining effects and attempting to influence them. Effects do not become important in politics until they are translated into demands. Thus, one of the central questions in political analysis of public policy is how, when, and why effects are converted to political interests.” Stone p.210 Effects do not become important in politics until they are translated into demands. Thus, one of the central questions in political analysis of public policy is how, when, and why effects are converted to political interests.” Stone p.210

45 Issues with Interests Difference between real interests and political demands Difference between real interests and political demands People can be mistaken about their interests People can be mistaken about their interests People do not always translate interests into demands. People do not always translate interests into demands. False consciousness and lack of consciousness False consciousness and lack of consciousness

46 Concepts of Interest (p. 216) Objective and subjective interests Objective and subjective interests Group interests—negative vs. positive Group interests—negative vs. positive

47 Paradox of Representation “Representation is the process by which interests are defined and activated in politics. Political organizations, electoral candidates, officials, and representatives seek to describe an issue… in ways that make it appear advantageous or disadvantageous to different sets of people. Individuals and groups, in turn, decide which organization or candidates to support depending on a dual quality: representatives give expression to an interest by portraying an issue, showing how it affects people and persuading them that the portrait is accurate; and representatives speak for people in the sense of standing for them and articulating their wishes in policy debates. P. 215 Stone “Representation is the process by which interests are defined and activated in politics. Political organizations, electoral candidates, officials, and representatives seek to describe an issue… in ways that make it appear advantageous or disadvantageous to different sets of people. Individuals and groups, in turn, decide which organization or candidates to support depending on a dual quality: representatives give expression to an interest by portraying an issue, showing how it affects people and persuading them that the portrait is accurate; and representatives speak for people in the sense of standing for them and articulating their wishes in policy debates. P. 215 Stone

48 The paradox is that what representatives say when they speak for their constituents is not the constituents’ own words (figuratively speaking), but words the representatives composed and used to persuade their constituents in the first place.” Stone p.215 The paradox is that what representatives say when they speak for their constituents is not the constituents’ own words (figuratively speaking), but words the representatives composed and used to persuade their constituents in the first place.” Stone p.215

49 Mobilization “the process by which effects and experiences are converted in to organized efforts to bring about change” “the process by which effects and experiences are converted in to organized efforts to bring about change” What leads to mobilization? What leads to mobilization? What deters it? What deters it? Free riding?Free riding? Influence vs. self interestInfluence vs. self interest Laws of passion vs. laws of matter Laws of passion vs. laws of matter Social capitalSocial capital Gains vs. losses Gains vs. losses How we tell the storyHow we tell the story

50 “Participation in collective efforts tends to follow the laws of passion rather than the laws of matter… Collective action is more like a sports competition than a bargaining unit.” Stone p.219 “Participation in collective efforts tends to follow the laws of passion rather than the laws of matter… Collective action is more like a sports competition than a bargaining unit.” Stone p.219 Social capital —stockpiles of collective norms, trust and social networks that help develop bonds and bridges. Stone p.220 Social capital —stockpiles of collective norms, trust and social networks that help develop bonds and bridges. Stone p.220

51 The intensity of effects —more likely to mobilize around issues that directly affect the individual. Stone p The intensity of effects —more likely to mobilize around issues that directly affect the individual. Stone p

52 Concentrated vs. Diffused interests Diffused benefits Diffused benefits Concentrated benefits Concentrated benefits Diffused costs Diffused costs Concentrated costs Concentrated costs


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