The Dynamics of Public Policy

The Dynamics of Public Policy

Theory and Evidence

New Horizons in Public Policy series

Adrian Kay

In The Dynamics of Public Policy, Adrian Kay sets out the crucial methodological, theoretical and empirical implications of two important trends in the social sciences: a frequently expressed ambition for analysis of ‘movies not stills’ and the regular observation that policy, politics and governance is becoming more complex.

Chapter 1: Introduction: Why We Need Dynamic Perspectives

Adrian Kay

Subjects: politics and public policy, public policy

Extract

WHAT IS DYNAMIC ANALYSIS? This is a book about the dynamics of public policy. Like many well-used and widespread terms in the social sciences the idea of dynamic perspective or analysis, whilst intuitive and appealing, is difficult to define precisely in a manner that will cover all of its different uses. For example, even within the field of economics and its commitment to a positivist science, the Nobel Laureate Paul Samuelson (1947, p. 311) was able to say that: ‘often in the writings of economists the words “dynamic” and “static” are used as nothing more than synonyms for good and bad, realistic and unrealistic, simple and complex’. In his Essays in Economic Semantics, the Austrian economist Fritz Machlup (1975, p. 10) offered the view that: ‘Typically, “statics” was what those benighted opponents have been writing; “dynamics” was one’s own vastly superior theory.’ Precise definitions do exist: for example, Samuelson’s own formulation that dynamic analysis refers to models in which time is an independent variable would be recognized by students of economics. However, this limited definition is of little utility outside the formal models of economics and does not capture any substantial sense of the concept of dynamic analysis as it is used variously in the social sciences. Instead this definition is an exemplar of ‘how economics forgot history’, the title of Geoffrey Hodgson’s investigation of the long-standing difficulty of time and historical specificity in the social sciences (Hodgson 2001). It is precisely the difficulty that economists have had in modelling...