Administration and political decision

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We will first identify some theoretical models and then go into finer processes to analyze the decision-making processes developed by Paolo Urio.

Decision models in theory: Jürgen Habermas[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Decision models according to Jürgen Habermas (vs. Luhmann)[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

There is an opposition made by Habermas. He contrasts the notion of "social systems" which Niklas Luhmann put in place with the notion of "world lived". One can distinguish two ways of organizing society, either by system as proposed by Luhmann, or by a more respectful way by the lived world of people.

In Luhmann's view, the notion of "system" means that people find themselves in the same social sphere and the same social system operating according to the logic of that system. If we take the legal system as an example, individuals in this legal system will interpret the world in a binary legal - illegal way. The legal system operates in a vacuum, it is a system that has its own logic and will operate exclusively according to its own logic. All the reality of people and other circumstances of oneself will be interpreted according to this binary code. In the economic system, according to Luhmann, it is the same logic according to a process of self-referentiality, i. e. the system is its own reference and does not deal with other systems. In an economic system, the binary code will be profitable - loss, in the political system, the binary code will be favourable to the government - favorable to the opposition, in the scientific system, the binary code will be true - false.

In the system, there are a certain number of important elements, it is a language that Habermas will call "strategic": it simplifies reality because it analyzes it only according to a particular criterion. Thus, it prefers a binary code to simplify reality. On the other hand, there is no exchange between systems. The "colonization of the lived world" means that people have complex and multidimensional pathways and lifestyles, and the system will only take into account one dimension forgetting all other aspects of the lived world. Habermas will criticize the notion of system. It can be observed that some spheres of reality function as systems and beyond systems, there is the idea of the "world lived" that must be taken into account. To take into account that the "world lived", we must move away from the systemic approach in order to take into account exchanges. It is necessary to find a way of giving space for an exchange and discussion between the different dimensions that are part of the person's "lived world". This is what Habermas calls "communicational action" is what will give much more space to complexity and we will try to make the different dimensions that are part of the "lived world" of people interact and dialogue. If we have a systemic vision, the solutions are defined in advance since it is only a question of applying the binary world, whereas in communicative action, we cannot define in advance the solutions and compromises between the different dimensions that are relevant.

Decision-making model Technocratic model (state-centred or scientific) Pragmatic model
Relationship between experts / administration and politicians separation: each works in isolation separation exchanges: there is no hierarchy between the two worlds.
Relationship Hierarchy Politician > Expert
There is a domination of the political world over public administration or the scientific world. For example, the information that will come in and emanate from the scientific world will be used selectively. It's a classic top-down model. It is a "power driven" model with the will to assert its power.
Expert > Politician
The relationship is reversed, either the scientific world dominates the political world or the world of public administration. It is a problem driven model to find the most appropriate solutions. Scientific knowledge dominates the scientific process.
With the state-centred or scientific model, it is scientific representatives who will dominate the political process.
This is a technocratic model or it is no longer politics that dominates.
Expert = Politician
All parties will contribute to the political debate in order to find the best solution or that are new and not those defended by one of the actors to the detriment of the other actors.

The first two models, the decision-making model and the technocratic model, are part of Luhmann's systemic approach, where everyone operates according to their own logic. In the third model, we are closer to the "lived world" of Habermas with an interaction between the two worlds that forms the basis of the pragmatic model. On the one hand, there are models that function according to Luhmann's logic in a vacuum and on the other hand, there is an interacting model. What will distinguish the two models will be the hierarchy of the relationship. With the technocratic model, there would be a scientific model with scientific expertise of greater importance to policy that can be based on scientific knowledge. These three models are nested. There is a combination or mix that can be found in reality.

Empirical example[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Sager in Habermas' models of decisionism, technocracy and pragmatism in times of governance published in 2007 shows how models of alcoholism control can be studied according to the models presented by Habermas. Its comparative analysis focuses on alcohol policies in the Swiss cantons. In order to assess the quality of alcoholism prevention, it first looks at whether there is a wide range of policy instruments that can be mobilised, showing that the wider the range of instruments and the more effective the policy will be in achieving its objective. The second criterion is if we look at the output of this policy. The Habermas model seems to be the right model because it does not allow the initiative to be confiscated for the benefit of a single actor.

Sager's conclusions seem to go against what Habermas says. The choice of intervention instruments (primary prevention through information and education, price control, stipulation of the need to sell alcohol and secondary prevention on risk groups, protection of minors, treatment, etc.) is a key factor in the prevention of alcohol abuse.) is broader and more diversified in cantons with a technocratic model than in cantons with decision-making or pragmatic models; output is also better in this model. The second model on this issue of available tools for alcohol abuse prevention would be more effective.

Sager puts forward two explanations to justify himself. In the field of prevention, there are very few political benefits to be expected in the short term, politicians will not use this theme because there are very few short-term benefits to be gained in the election. On the contrary, the administration has benefits to gain by making the technocratic model more appropriate and effective in the Swiss context. The second element that emerges is the political salience of a problem which is the fact that the more a problem and promising, the more it will have a political interest on the contrary, the more the administration will be interested the less the problem is salient. The decision-making model is elected politicians, the pragmatic model is discussion and debate, while the technocratic model is a model of imposition of decisions by a technocracy. Sager shows that technocracy, which according to Habermas would be the least legitimate, also has advantages in terms of the quality of public policies, since it makes it possible to pass on certain problems that do not have enough political clout. One obvious weakness is that there is no analysis of the decision-making process. It is interesting to make the Habermas model a little more complex to enter the decision-making model.

Analyzing decision-making processes and the political role of public administration: Paolo Urio's approach[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

According to Paolo Urio's approach, the ideal-type decision system follows the following process, which would be a linear one:

people -> parliament -> government -> administration -> users

According to Urio, if we accept this model, it means that the only possibility of revising the model is with the users. There can't be any distortion. Users may or may not comply with directives and send information to the administration and government. If necessary, the system must adapt to restore balance. It is only at the level of user behaviour that policy adequacy or inequity can be identified. If there is an inequity problem, the information will go back to the decision-makers. Urio points out that there are elements that exist to ensure that things happen this way. It identifies three instances:

  • the people[ 1];
  • Parliament [2];
  • the government [3].

Given this linear model and these three supervisory bodies, there would be a necessary convergence of objectives between the people, the parliament and the administration, and the only problem that can happen is at the level of the users if they do not behave in the expected way. In other words, parliament, government and administration comply with the directives set out by the people. Difficulties can only arise because of the non-conformity of the recipient's behaviour.

For Urio, this model is naïve and does not correspond to reality because it is in a model where each of these actors can have their own interests or objectives. In other words, there is no convergence of objectives between the actors in the chain and the result in the users' behaviour.

The problem is that there may be gaps between each of the actors and objectives, and differences may arise at any stage of the decision-making process. According to Urio, each actor, each system pursues its objectives and, at each stage, there can be distortions. Urio's model will take into account the possibility of divergence that can be found at each stage of the political decision-making process. At Urio, there are "decision-making units" that are the place where, in a process, a political decision has to be made. For example, if we are in a referendum process, the place of decision will be the popular referendum process.

In a decision-making process, there are several decision units that can be identified and each time, each decision unit will be characterized by three types of systems:

  • organizational unit: for each decision-making unit, there will be an organizational system that is a formal standard that says who is responsible for what in the decision-making processes, it is the standards that organize the decision-making process. This is what Urio calls an organizational unit;
  • communication system: transmission of information and how information is transmitted in relation to a particular decision-making unit;
  • motivational system: to know whether, in the place, the decision-making unit concerned, and-what motivation or incentive there will be to pursue the collective and general interest or, on the contrary, to pursue partisan, corporatist or personal interests.

The decision-making unit is the place where decisions are made and where other actors' efforts to influence this choice converge. The actors involved in the decision-making process, are endowed with their own system of objectives and depending on the stages of the decision-making process, the decision-making unit can change. There is a decision-making unit organized according to the three systems is around the decision units, there are actors who will converge to try to influence the decision-making process. All the actors will converge towards the place of decision to try to change the decision or to ensure that the decision goes in the direction of the actors concerned. There are several decision-making units and no determinism between them. We often find the same debates that were the subject of popular votes at parliamentary and political decision makers' level.

In particular, the decision is influenced by three types of factors:

  • Media environment: this is the context and circumstances in which decisions are made. In a functionalist approach to public policy, political decision making is a way of adapting policy to mediated circumstances. For Urio, this approach would be functionalist or deterministic of public policy.
  • immediate environment: interactions between actors with their various objectives. Politics is not only about finding the most appropriate solution according to external circumstances, but also about finding the most appropriate solutions between the actors concerned.
  • information exchanged: knowledge is a resource of power.

With these three elements, we have a vision of policy that is potentially more dynamic. Politics is not just adjusting to the circumstances, but finding compromises in certain situations and a question of knowing. This applies to all stages of the decision. A decision is not a linear process, but a decision can evolve according to the stages.

Politics, the political decision is to seek a balance between the various elements mentioned above, a balance that takes into account the system of motivation, information and communication, the actors and the media environment in order to arrive at a balance between these different elements. Urio envisages four types of equilibria that allow for a more dynamic vision than Easton. Urio identifies four types of equilibrium:

  • fixed equilibrium: perfect stability and nothing moves, we are always on the same type of decisions.
  • statistical equilibrium: this system will be able to evolve, but it will always return to the initial equilibrium situation. There are balancing processes that always return to the initial equilibrium.
  • dynamic equilibrium: allows to pass from a state of equilibrium to another state of equilibrium. The political decision is always about balance, and it is the decision-making process that will move from balance to balance.
  • continuous model of change: the system is constantly changing, the actors are always interacting.

Urio's model is a model that also allows us to think about the notion of continuous change, whereas Easton's or Parson's models are models that clearly cannot go beyond the first three equilibrium situations that favour fixed or static equilibrium, which can contemplate dynamic equilibrium, but cannot go as far as the stage of continuous change. Urio's model is complex.

A concrete case: the Mirages affair (1958 - 1964)[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Mirage III.

The chronology of events can be summarized in two main stages:

  • 1958 to April 1964: Closed decisions leading to the acquisition of 100 Mirages;
  • from May 1964 to the end of 1964: open decisions that will lead to the acquisition of 57 Mirages and DMF reforms

Timeline: Step 1 (1958 - April 1964)[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

In the spring of 1958, Switzerland made the political choice to abandon the manufacture of the P-16, a combat aircraft designed by the Swiss aeronautics industry. On 2 June 1958, the Federal Council instructed the DMF to make proposals for the acquisition of a foreign airplane to "ensure the protection of airspace, the support of ground troops and reconnaissance missions". On 10 August 1958, the Chief of the DMF assigned this task to the EMG. The EMG is a working group on the acquisition of aircraft (GTAA) which is composed of three representatives to select the most necessary aircraft for Switzerland, while taking into account the mediate environment with the idea of having the least interaction with actors with divergent interests. These three representatives who make up a coherent group are

  • EMG;
  • Aviation and DCA;
  • Military Technical Service (MTS).

So everything goes to the DMF, i. e. it leads to the abolition of the former Military Aircraft Procurement Commission, which had existed since 1943 and consisted of professors from EPFL, senior officials and representatives of the private sector. The work of the GTAA was to compare six aircraft (Swedish Draken, American Starfighter, American Supertiger, French Mirage III, Italian Fiat and American Freedom Fighter). The choice of airplane, electronics and cost calculation led to the order of 100 Mirages equipped, built under license, adapted to the specificities of the Swiss army and delivered 5 years after the contract was signed, for a total amount of 1.07 billion Swiss francs (October 1959).

There will be a consultation with the other departments. The Political Department and the Department of Public Economy would prefer the Swedish plane (because Sweden is a member of EFTA as well as Switzerland) and the Department of Finance and Customs would like to buy a cheaper plane. The GTAA reduced the budget to CHF 947 million in September 1960. The DMF maintained its choice in favour of the Mirage, and transmitted it to the CF, which confirmed this choice on 28 December 1960. The CF instructs the DMF to write the 1961 CF message for the attention of Parliament. The concern is to present the Federal Assembly with an acceptable request of 871 million francs when it was impossible at the time to calculate the actual costs of electronics and therefore the total costs of the aircraft.

The military committees of the Federal Assembly discuss the project, hold hearings and consult additional GTAA documents without consulting independent experts. We come up with a recommendation that is to acquire 100 Mirages built in series, fully equipped, including on-board electronics for 515 million francs. Political acceptability plays a much greater role in the way costs are presented than the actual calculation of costs. This proposal will be accepted by Parliament.

The signature of the contracts (by the STM) with Dassault took place on 25 July 1961 with the ratification by the head of the DMF without consulting the Federal Council, even though the head of the DMF was aware of an overexpenditure estimated at 43-45 million francs. The GTAA's choice of electronics (Taran) was made in October 1961, even though it was obvious that the appropriations would be exceeded and confirmed by the head of the DMF on 20 October 1961, but the file was sent to the Federal Council only on 20 December when it had to take a decision before the end of the year and the overexpenditure was estimated at FRF 95.3 million. The Federal Council ratified the Taran on 26 December 1961. Once the purchase and ratified, the GTAA is disbanded and the costs will be analyzed again.

On 12 February 1964, the head of the DMF informed the Federal Council that the overrun amounted to 356 million francs in addition to the 220.4 million francs in inflation. The cost has doubled, so additional funding needs to be requested. On 25 March 1964, the Federal Council decided to set up a commission of experts (the so-called Daenzer Commission) composed of experts from industry and economics.

Without even waiting for the results of this Commission, a new message was written by the Federal Council (24 April 1964) to the Federal Assembly asking for an additional appropriation with a stronger involvement of economists and technicians under the auspices of the STM. Supplementary appropriations were made public in May 1964. It should be noted that the Federal Council, in its 1964 message, acknowledges the errors in estimating the costs of the federal government and the administration, which can be seen as an attempt to win the sympathy of potential opponents of the 100 Mirages. Until then, the decisions were closed and the process began in the spring of 1964. The decision-making centre is therefore in Parliament, where the efforts of all stakeholders converge.

Timeline: Step 2 (May 1964 - late 1964)[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The press will be mobilised on the Mirages affair and more generally on parliamentary control of the bureaucracy as well as public opinion and will react the political parties, including at cantonal level, as soon as the CF message is published in May 1964. This case is getting bigger. The Federal Military Department has to defend itself publicly against the NZZ, which accuses CF Chaudet, head of the DMF, of pitting patriots against anti-militarists in order to pass on the additional funds. The process will change, we are no longer in a closed process, but in a much more open process.

Parliamentarians (especially members of the AF military commissions) are thus put under pressure. The June 1964 session was defined as the "Mirages session" leading to the creation of a parliamentary inquiry commission. The interim report of the Daenzer Committee of Experts (established by the Federal Council) presented the day before the debate to the National Council (8 June 1964) highlights a number of shortcomings:

  • deficiency of the GTAA study from an industrial perspective;
  • absence of a body independent of the DMF;
  • 1961 FC message gives an "impression of misleading accuracy";
  • The views of the STM and the Department of Finance and Customs were insufficiently taken into account;
  • no culpable negligence (no personal enrichment);
  • it is impossible at this stage to specify the total amount required for the acquisition of Mirages.
PUK-Vorsitzender Kurt Furgler

On 9 June 1964, parliamentary debates decided at the National Council were returned (by 156 votes to 3) and a parliamentary inquiry committee chaired by Furgler was appointed. On 17 June 1964 a similar decision of the CoE was taken (by 33 votes without opposition). The press welcomes the creation of the Furgler Commission. On 19 June 1964, the Furgler Commission was granted the exceptional power to question officials by operation of law. Three sub-commissions will focus on financial problems, military and technical problems, problems of organization of the DMF over six 3-day sessions with 51 interviewees who produce analyses and documents, are also called external experts from industry.

The report of the Furgler Commission was adopted unanimously on 1 September 1964, highlighting the following points:

  • poorly organized fee calculation within the GTAA;
  • The 1961 FC message was partly biased;
  • DMF's desire for perfectionism did not take into account financial limitations;
  • various additional costs foreseeable as early as 1961 should have caused the CF to postpone its message and inform the AF. Through their multiple decisions, the DMF and the CF have restricted, month after month, the freedom of decision of the FA;
  • The CF is responsible for the unfortunate turn of events in the Mirages affair.

The Furgler Commission also concludes that the following costs, plus CHF 300 million for take-off and landing gear, are the most plausible to date:

  • 100 Mirages = 1.5 - 1.7 billion francs;
  • 70 Mirages = 1.39 - 1.54 billion francs;
  • 50 Mirages = 1.3 - 1.4 billion francs;
  • 30 Mirages = 1.19 - 1.24 billion francs

These amounts confirm the estimates made in 1963 by the STM and the budget granted so far corresponds to approximately 57 Mirages. Other proposals of the Furgler Commission concerning the reorganisation of the DMF such as, for example, the appointment of a head of armaments, parliamentary control of the administration with the reinforcement to be discussed in collaboration with the Management Committees and Finance Committees of the Federal Assembly, a possible administrative jurisdiction in federal matters, etc., will be discussed.

The press pays tribute to the work of the Furgler Commission: it attacks senior military officials, underlines the lack of curiosity in Parliament, does not deal in itself with the military problem and speaks in favour of the reforms called for. Parliamentary debates took place in the autumn of 1964 on 23 September. The FC, while convinced that Switzerland needed 100 Mirages, decided not to defend its position firmly. CN accepted 57 Mirages on September 24th with 139 votes to 31 from communists and some socialists and independents. The CoE approved the decision on 7 October by 34 votes to 0 with 8 abstentions.

Lessons from this case (according to P. Urio) on the root causes of the Mirages affair[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

According to Urio, the system is outdated in terms of authority, organisation and information within the federal administration and between it and the political power (CF, AF). The absence of modern analytical techniques shows that modern analytical tools are needed, and there is a lack of systemic analysis that reflects an inability of the 1950s administration to address such a complex subject. Urio also points to Parliament's weakness and its lack of curiosity and resources, but also to the weakness of the press to follow the case, even though it has created a climate conducive to reducing the number of aircraft.

On a more theoretical level, this case illustrates that there is a multiplicity of places and types of decision, the decision must be seen as a process with multiple decision-making units and depending on the decision units, it is possible to go back and question previous decisions. Urio also highlights the plurality of possible relations between administration and political power in the decision-making process, the political role played by the administration through the manipulation of information, the possession of a specific competence and the reputation of its officials as experts. The final element highlighted is that knowledge and information are fundamental resources of power.

The consequences are commensurate with the scandal affecting the careers of several elites. Heads fall to the DMF as the air force boss who is suspended by the CF and the leader of the EMG resigns. CF Paul Chaudet (leader of the DMF) could not resist the pressure for long: he also resigned in November 1966 (following pressure from the Assembly of delegates of the PRD who were concerned about the 1967 elections).

Ressources[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]