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Michael Howlett

Anyone interested in policy formulation should be aware of, and knowledgeable about, the origins, nature and capabilities of the various policy tools that comprise the different policy alternatives developed and considered at this stage of the policy process. Policy tools have been the subject of inquiry in many policy-related fields, including political science, public administration and economics, and in sector-specific areas of study such as health studies, energy and utilities studies, labour studies, social policy studies, women’s studies and international studies. They are a critical part of policy-making, providing the ‘means’ by which policy ‘ends’ are achieved. The chapter examines and derives lessons from these studies concerning the role of both procedural and substantive policy tools in policy formulation.

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Michael Howlett

Policy studies to date commonly focuses on the “good” side of policy-making that is, dealing with concerns around ensuring that best evidence is marshalled towards developing the best feasible policy in any given context. This assumes well-intentioned governments and accommodating policy targets exist and often does so without carefully examining or allowing for the possibility that government intentions may not be solely oriented towards the efficient creation of public value, or that policy targets may also indulge in various forms of “misconduct” from fraud and gamesmanship to corruption and malfeasance. The need to ensure policies are resilient against conscious and determined efforts on the part of policy-makers and targets to undermine them is essential to good policy design. Since self-interested, corrupt or clientelistic policy-making has been the subject of many studies in administrative and regulatory law, lessons can be drawn from these other studies to inform how policy designs can be improved to deal with malicious behaviour.

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Michael Howlett

Many policy mechanisms operate at the level of individual and group behavior and have been discussed in recent research on these subjects. A third class of such “first-order” mechanisms exists, however, that directly affect and change policy subsystem structure and behavior. This chapter explores this category of network mechanisms, one in which policy tools activate structural components of policy subsystems affecting the number of type of nodes and links present in a policy community or network rather than individual or group behavior, per se. Procedural policy tools in particular utilize statecraft resources to activate mechanisms that affect subsystem structural elements – nodes and links – by introducing new actors or reconfiguring relationships in order to affect policy targets and drive policy change. While use of such mechanisms and instruments is common, surprisingly, studies and understanding of the them are not. This chapter helps fill this gap in the policy design and mechanisms literature.

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Michael Howlett

Policy ‘targets’ are often assumed to act as simple rational utility maximizers susceptible to shifts in apparent gains and losses linked to policy incentives and disincentives. This has begun to change with recent work examining policy ‘nudges’ and the effects of co-production and social marketing efforts which both suggest, or are based on, alternative logics of target behaviour. However, analysis and expectations of policy target behaviour still all too often retains a crude concept of the subject inspired by utilitarianism and related assumptions about self-maximizing activity on the part of citizens. This thinking has led to many considerations of policy design focusing on the calibrations of policy tools such as the relative size of penalties or rewards rather than upon the tools being used can attain the nature of compliance and co-operation required or demanded by a design situation. This chapter proposes a new research and practice agenda in order to correct this problem.

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Michael Howlett

Choosing which policy instruments to use to address public problems is an important topic in public policy studies. In a time when policymakers are increasingly asked to put forth innovative solutions to complex policy issues such as climate change and poverty or homelessness, for example, it is urgent to better understand the instruments of governance and how they can best be deployed. This approach now focuses both on traditional ‘substantive’ tools of policy-making such as regulation and public ownership, and on ‘procedural’ tools tied to the design and implementation of public participation and other activities only indirectly linked to both goods and service delivery—such as the design of advisory committees to regulatory agencies—and to policy processes more generally—such as the design of public hearings, websites, judicial review processes and others as well as upon how they are mixed together in policy bundles or portfolios. This chapter looks at both kinds of tools and how they can be combined, and draws lessons for practitioners from the work of scholars on these subjects over the past several decades.

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Michael Howlett and Ishani Mukherjee

Abstract Stakeholder and public participation occur ‘naturally’ or accidently, but are also designed by governments through the use of policy tools which enhance or curtail specific kinds of activities by specific sets of actors. The avenues of participation by different policy actors in policy processes, and their behaviour within them, are affected in particular by a specific class of policy tools, or ‘procedural instruments’ used to manipulate policy processes. These tools are distinct from those with a more substantive aim to deliver policy goods and services although they exhibit many of the same dynamics and can be analysed through the use of analogous methods. Procedural instruments, including freedom of assembly and information legislation, or the provision of funding and differential tax treatment for charities and various kinds of interest groups, focus and modify the interactions and activities of different policy actors, affecting their behaviour in articulating, developing, choosing, or supporting particular policy activities like public participation.
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Michael Howlett and Ishani Mukherjee

The introductory chapter provides a brief overview of the central questions that have inspired policy formulation research in the policy sciences. Distinguishing policy formulation as that activity in the policy process during which policy-makers craft solutions for identified problems, the chapter depicts public policies as being, in essence, government efforts to affect changes in their own or in public behaviour. Formulation is portrayed in this chapter as the result of an interplay of knowledge-based analytics and power-based politics as governments act on articulating feasible policy options to meet social goals, resulting in complex assemblages of policy aims and policy means that are unique to each jurisdiction. The chapter also explains the organizational logic behind how the contributions of this Handbook have been organized.

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Sreeja Nair and Michael Howlett

The chapter presents an overview of how uncertainty has been characterized in policymaking and why it is an issue of concern for policy formulation. The emphasis of the discussion is on designing policies to deal with ill-structured and ‘wicked’ problems such as climate change. While much of the effort towards reduction of uncertainty has focused on gathering more information and addressing gaps in knowledge, this step by itself has been found to be inadequate in ensuring the development of a ‘good’ policy design under uncertainty, owing to the differential perspectives, interpretation, interests and preferences of individuals and groups associated with the policy issue in question. This chapter discusses the role of adaptive policymaking and policy experimentation to deal with many of these problems.

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Michael Howlett and Jeremy Rayner

Thinking about policy mixes is at the forefront of current research work in the policy sciences and raises many significant questions with respect to policy tools and instruments, processes of policy formulation and the evolution of tool choices over time. Not least among these is how to assess the potential for multiple policy tools to achieve policy goals in an efficient and effective way. Previous conceptual work on policy mixes has highlighted evaluative criteria such as ‘consistency’ (the ability of multiple policy tools to reinforce rather than undermine each other in the pursuit of individual policy goals), ‘coherence’ (or the ability of multiple policy goals to co-exist with each other in a logical fashion) and ‘congruence’ (or the ability of multiple goals and instruments to work together in a uni-directional or mutually supportive fashion) as important design principles and measures of optimality in policy mixes. And previous empirical work on the evolution of existing policy mixes has highlighted how these three criteria are often lacking in mixes which have evolved over time as well as those which have otherwise been consciously designed. The chapter revisits this early design work in order to more clearly assess the reasons why many existing policy mixes are sub-optimal and the consequences this has for thinking about policy formulation processes and the practices of policy design.