Making Policies Work
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Making Policies Work

First- and Second-order Mechanisms in Policy Design

Edited by Giliberto Capano, Michael Howlett, M Ramesh and Altaf Virani

Policy design efforts are hampered by inadequate understanding of how policy tools and actions promote effective policies. The objective of this book is to address this gap in understanding by proposing a causal theory of the linkages between policy actions and policy effects. Adopting a mechanistic perspective, the book identifies the causal processes that activate effects and help achieve goals. It thus offers a powerful analytical tool to both scholars and practitioners of public policy seeking to design effective policies.
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Chapter 7: Policy instruments, policy learning and politics: impact assessment in the European Union

Claire A. Dunlop and Claudio M. Radaelli


One proposition put forward in this volume is that there is a relationship between policy instruments and mechanisms. To find out how exactly this relationship works, its activators and the causal role of policy instruments, the authors zoom in on the case of impact assessment (IA) in the European Union. IA is an evidence-based instrument adopted by the EU in the context of the evidence-based better regulation strategy. The connection between IA and learning is apparently intuitive: IA should bring evidence to bear on the process of selecting policy options, and therefore assist decision-makers in learning from different type of analysis, dialogue with experts and stakeholders, and open consultation. However, we find out that learning comes in different modes (epistemic, reflexive, bargaining and hierarchical) and that the activators, context and results of learning vary across modes. In the conclusions, we reflect on the connections between learning and politics revealed by our approach to policy instruments and varieties of learning.

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