Analysis and Public Policy
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Analysis and Public Policy

Successes, Failures and Directions for Reform

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.
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Chapter 6: Impact analysis and the regulatory process

Stuart Shapiro


Impact analyses make less of a claim of being comprehensive than the other forms of comprehensive-rational analysis discussed in this book. By their very name, they indicate that the intention of the analysis is not to look at the comprehensive impact of a policy or regulation, but rather the particular impact on a subset of the affected universe. Like Environmental Impact Statements (EISs), they focus on one policy aspect of a regulatory decision but on a more manageable scale then the “environment.” Like cost-benefit analyses they are focused on the economic impacts of the regulation, but just on a relevant population, not as part of an attempt to measure changes in social welfare. In some sense then, impact analyses are smaller than the other analyses. Impact analyses have a political appeal that in some ways exceeds that of other forms of analysis. When political actors support a requirement to look at the impact of government policy on a particular group, they are signaling a value for that constituency. If a constituency is upset about a particular regulation, or regulations in general, one way to assuage those potential voters/donors is to require agencies to pay particular attention to that constituency in future regulatory decisions. That constituency will then be a reliable supporter of the impact analysis enacted in their behalf. Impact analyses have also been studied less than the other forms of analysis in this book.

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