Analysis and Public Policy

Analysis and Public Policy

Successes, Failures and Directions for Reform

New Horizons in Public Policy series

Stuart Shapiro

How do we incorporate analytical thinking into public policy decisions? Stuart Shapiro confronts this issue in Analysis and Public Policy by looking at various types of analysis, and discussing how they are used in regulatory policy-making in the US. By looking at the successes and failures of incorporating cost-benefit analysis, risk assessment, and environmental impact assessment, he draws broader lessons on its use, focusing on the interactions between analysis and political factors, legal structures and bureaucratic organizations as possible areas for reform.

Chapter 2: Regulation in the United States and comprehensive-rational analysis

Stuart Shapiro

Subjects: environment, valuation, politics and public policy, public policy, research methods in politics and public policy, research methods, research methods in politics and public policy


When students are taught public policy analysis, or its many offshoots, few of them focus on regulation as the type of policy they will be analyzing. Indeed, analysis in its many guises informs many types of public decisions that are not strictly regulatory, including such examples as: the decision whether or not to build the Keystone Pipeline (which required an environmental impact statement (EIS)), and the decision to invest in nanotechnology (risk assessment). In fact, policy analysis in its earliest incarnations was created to analyze questions of national defense, and then expanded to questions of budgeting for social service programs (Radin 2013). So why is regulation the focus of this book? The first reason is that regulation has grown in importance dramatically as a policy tool over the past several decades. Regulatory decisions made by bureaucratic agencies in the executive branch affect the air we breathe, the food we eat, and implement protections against the risk of terrorism, and the collapse of the financial system. They have costs that are in the billions of dollars per year. The number of lives extended each year due to their protections number in the thousands. In addition, policy analysis in many of its forms has a long and deep history with the rule-making process. Since the 1970s, when regulation emerged as a significant policy instrument, there have been attempts to require the executive branch agencies that issue regulations to justify their actions with analysis.

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