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Public Policy Analysis: Definition and cycle of public policy

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When we look at the analysis of public policies, also called public action, we try to find out why the government or parliament intervenes in a particular area in order to regulate, for example, security issues or issues of equal pay for men and women, or the salary of the civil service. In other words, when we look at public policy analysis, we are interested in what the government does, how it does it, and the effects of government actions in different areas such as security; why would the state decide to intervene to start protecting, for example, theatres, need to intervene, how does it decide to do so and what is the potential deterrent effect in terms of security that can be expected from the state's actions?

We are going to deal with the concrete state or the State in action, which is what the state does concretely on a day-to-day basis. These public policies, we are all directly and daily confronted with them. We will illustrate the plurality of the State's fields of intervention, the diversity of public policies that are pursued.

Here we will try to define what constitutes public policy and public action by approaching public actions through the cycle of public policy. This session focuses on public policy analysis and the public policy cycle.

We will proceed in five stages: first, to position the so-called public policy analysis approach within political science, then we will present a number of very concrete examples that should challenge our daily experience in order to show us the plurality of public policies currently being pursued by the State and all the challenges facing the State when it has to design and implement a public policy, in the third point we will move towards a working definition of a public policy, and then we will see how this definition of "public policy" can be used to define it.

Public policy analysis in political science 
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We will see how to position public policy analysis within political science. It is possible to make a detour through the English language in order to clearly show the specificities of public policy analysis. In French, we speak of "du politique" or "de la politique". In English, there are three different terms that cover very different realities of the political phenomenon. These three terms are "polity", "politics" and "public policy". Public policies concern the third level.

The three themes must be introduced because there are inevitably interactions between these three complementary facets of the political phenomenon.

Polity[edit | edit source]

This first English term covers what are commonly referred to as "political systems" or "political regimes". So, we are interested in this type of approach in political science, we ask ourselves the question of what are the rules, the structures and the institutions that are in place in a political system. To take a sporting image that Americans love, it is the "frame of the political game".

We have seen that the Swiss system has certain specificities; it is neither a parliamentary system nor a presidential system, it is a somewhat hybrid case between the two. There are other specificities of the Swiss political system such as direct democracy, for example, the possibility of launching a popular initiative if you have 100,000 signatures in order to put on the agenda a public problem, which we call "public policy". There is also, through direct democracy, the possibility of opposing a public policy that would have been decided by parliament through an optional referendum. There are specificities such as direct democracy that can be found in some political systems, but not in others. Direct democracy is certainly the most widely practised form of direct democracy in Switzerland, but it is also practised in several American states such as Oregon and California, for example. Federalism is the fact that there is a division of tasks and roles, particularly in the conduct of public policies between confederation, cantons and communes.

In Switzerland, there is the perfect bicameralism with the same weight of the House of Representatives of the People, which is the National Council and the Upper House of Representatives of the cantons, which is the Council of States. In other countries that are more centralized, there is not necessarily a second chamber, or representation of local interests at the parliamentary level. Therefore, the question that will interest us is to what extent these rules, these structures, these institutions of a political system, of a democratic regime will facilitate or prevent the conduct of public action. Is it easier to carry out a spatial planning policy in a centralised system where the centre decides how the different parcels of land are to be allocated, or is it better to have a federalist system such as Switzerland which allows the communes to determine their own allocation plan and how they will use their space? This is a question that arises and is of interest to people who do public policy analysis.

To come back to direct democracy, is it easier to put on the agenda certain problems, such as moral issues such as abortion, end of life or medically assisted procreation, stem cell research, if we can use an instrument such as the popular initiative rather than if we cannot use it in some countries where it simply does not exist? It can be assumed that the different rules in a political system will have a decisive influence on the content and process of public action.

Politics[edit | edit source]

This dimension is more attractive to political games or power struggles. This is typically what we analyze when we look at electoral sociology, namely what power struggles we have between parties and who wins elections. If we look at this politics' dimension, this procedural dimension of politics, we will focus on political parties, for example. One example is the interest in the Swiss political system, with the rise of the SVP since the 1990s and the increasing polarization of the various political parties. It is not only the political parties that are struggling to gain power, there are also interest groups, representatives of big business leaders like Économie suisse, representatives of peasants like the Swiss Farmers' Union, representatives of tenants like ASLOCA, representatives of alterglobalists like ATTAC, who are actors who form pressure groups, interest groups or political parties.

The interesting question here is, if, for example, we have a change of government, if we have new electoral results, a new majority that is coming to power, does that change anything? For the conduct of public action, if the left replaces the right-wing in power, does it change the employment policies we are pursuing? This seems obvious to those who are interested in political parties, it seems to be empirical evidence if we think of very emblematic cases like the arrival of Barack Obama after George W. Bush; the Obama care which is the American health care system was certainly not possible under a republican majority, it was made possible under a Democratic majority. So, indeed, the alternation of the parties in power could translate into a major transformation of the public policies that are carried out, the contents of public action. However, even to stay on the case of Obama, he did not shut down Guantanamo Bay, for example, he did not succeed in reducing firearms, so for those public policies in particular, the change of government did not make any difference at all. It is really an empirical question to know whether "yes", following a majority overthrow, we will observe or not a change in public actions that are public. For example, if we look at Nicolas Sarkozy and François Hollande and look at the 35-hour policy, one wonders whether labour regulation has really changed or, in tax matters, whether there has been a transformation of tax levies when we move from right to left in this case.

Public Policies[edit | edit source]

The "politics" dimension is not at the heart of public policy analysis, however, it is an explanatory factor. When we are genuinely interested in public policy, we are interested in the substantial dimension of the state, which is what the state does, the decisions it makes, the actions it takes, the changes in the behaviour of citizens that it imposes or tries to encourage. The simplest apprehension of public policies is simply to take the nominal public policies mentioned in the press:"public employment policy","environmental policy","equal pay policy","monetary policy","social policy" or "security policy". When we talk about "public policy", we are talking about the final results of the political game. The most concrete action taken by the State takes the form of actions aimed in particular at citizens. A professor and his students are in a public policy that is a tertiary education policy, it is a public policy interaction. A teacher provides administrative services in terms of education and therefore this is part of public policy.

Public policies focus on the results of public action and not on power struggles or the institutional architecture of a political system. Nevertheless, this approach is not blind to these other two dimensions in the sense that it is generally assumed that public policy will depend on who is in power and what the rules of the game are. So we will pay particular attention in public policy analysis to comparative approaches where we try to change who is in power or, for example, to change the countries we compare by taking centralised countries or federalist countries, presidential countries or even parliamentary countries or hybrid cases like Switzerland.

When we look at public policy, there is a double ambition, namely that it is public policy analysis and analysis for public policy. Public policy analysis really refers to the willingness to describe correctly, to understand, to interpret and even to explain how politics works, it is an analytical and empirical approach with also a theoretical ambition, trying to find regularities in the state's operating models. From the outset, there is a more prescriptive and normative ambition which was to say that public policy analysis must also serve to improve the content of public policies, and thus to formulate proposals and recommendations in order to have public policies that are more effective and useful, and of better quality.

When analysing public policies, one is at the level of the results of public action, one distinguishes oneself from electoral sociology or comparative analysis of public policy systems while not being totally isolated, but tries to find out to what extent institutional rules or power relations influence the content of policies.

This public policy approach is much more recent than the two previous approaches. It's something that only dates back to the 1960s. This is much more recent than descriptive approaches in terms of political system.

Examples of public policies[edit | edit source]

How are public actions translated in the field? We are all confronted, whether we like it or not, with government intervention and public policies. We will review some of the public policies that are carried out, not in a totally arbitrary way and without any order, but according to the actual organization of the state. We will see that the State deals with very different problems that affect us all almost every day, and these public policies are carried out by different federal departments and different ministries. Thus, all the public administration that we observe has the mission to formulate and implement public policies, to conduct public action, there is therefore a specialization of the administration in relation to one or other of these public policies. We will see how, at the moment, a particular ministry or department of the Federal Government is responsible for carrying out a particular public policy and, above all, what coordination issues exist between different ministries. It should be noted that not all public policies are equally important. In particular, in public opinion, not all problems are considered to be of equal importance, there are issues that appear to be priorities such as, for example, immigration, the environment or employment. Similarly, when we analyze public policies, we will see that the means allocated to the conduct of these public policies, whether it be the number of public servants or budgets, are very different from one public policy to another.

Justice and Police[edit | edit source]

The TETRA report ("terrorist travellers") is therefore the Swiss who travel to countries to train in jihad, and there is a task force called TETRA which is made up of FEDPOL, the public prosecutor's office of the confederation, but also of the confederation's intelligence services trying to find out how many young people will be trained in jihad from Switzerland. This is an official report that can be found in the analysis made by the TETRA Task Force published in November 2015[1], which states that if we look at Switzerland, are there people who are either already radicalized or see radicalization leaving Switzerland and going to jihad training in different countries? There are 71 individuals who have been formally identified, some 40 young men and women, and 31 women. There is not yet full parity, but there are still an impressive number of jihadists identified and recognized, registered by the State, as part of the State's security policy. This is managed by the Federal Department of Justice and Police under the aegis of Mrs Sommaruga.

Since 2001, 71 departures to conflict zones have been recorded, according to figures from the Federal Intelligence Service.(SRC). Image: SRC[2]

The number of parties to conflict zones is: 13 to Somalia, 1 person to Afghanistan/Pakistan and the largest majority, 57, to Syria and Iraq.

What we're interested in is the opposite arrow, which is what people do when they try to come back. This report states that there have already been 22 denials of entry to the territory of jihadists in Switzerland once again by actors who are pursuing a security policy, namely the federal police and cantonal police, border guards and intelligence services.

However, it should be noted that there is no clear trend in the origin of the persons involved in the jihad, there are investigations into possible networks as in Winterthur, but the investigation is ongoing and there is no official communication from FEDPOL or the intelligence service of the confederation on the origin or differences in the regional origin of Swiss jihadists. On the other hand, the "official communication" states that the proportion of women remains minimal.

Today, this debate has taken on a very large scale, obstructing the media and is taking the lead of a large number of people. It was not a policy that was very visible until 13 November 2015, but today it is at the top of the agenda. The debate is growing in scope as we are beginning to discuss many things that were already in the state pipeline, which was not the subject of political debate, such as whether it is necessary to "yes" or "no" to change Switzerland's participation in Schengen, which provides for the removal of borders when things are going well, but Article 2§2 also provides that borders can be reintroduced when we are in a situation of "border-crossing". So we can nowadays, within the framework of the Schengen agreement that Switzerland has signed, on which the people voted in 2005 and agreed to 56% of the agreement provides for a security policy. Reading the first three Schengen articles makes it clear that the debate is a bit curious.

Therefore, the abandonment of borders is something that is debated, but not entirely reasonable. In the same way, today there is a law on intelligence adopted by the parliament that provides for Trojan horses to be placed in private computers in case of suspicion, to make telephone tapping so that people can be followed up without their knowledge if it is assumed that they represent a danger for the citizens or even for the whole country.

What happens to this bill today? There is a whole debate about whether the state security standard should take precedence over individual liberty and whether it is acceptable for the state to monitor behaviour even if it does not know it in order to protect the entire population. So the whole question is where are we going to put the cursor, where are we going to find a balance between the protection of the population, security and the protection of individual freedoms? At present, this law tries to allow the state to observe some of the people who might pose a threat a little closer. The Left and the Greens, when this law was adopted, decided to launch an optional referendum and therefore to contest the parliamentary majority that accepted it. If the necessary number of signatures is collected, then citizens will be called upon to vote on whether they possibly want a little more intrusion into their private sphere in order to defend their security or, on the contrary, to keep individual liberties completely at risk of a possible terrorist attack. It is a concrete choice that citizens will face if the referendum is successful and they are called upon to vote on this law.

Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications[edit | edit source]

Within the framework of the Department of Environment, Transport, Energy and Communications, department managed by Ms. Leuthard.

source:La Liberté, Alex[3].

Mrs Leuthard is pursuing a mobility policy. SBB drivers are a little worried because there is a narrowing of the tracks, in the sense that they want to reduce SBB cuts by 20 billion by 2030. It's an economic shock program. Public spending is in the order of 66 billion, so that is not nothing, it corresponds to a third of the public expenditure that could be saved by 2030.

In addition to these mobility policies, which concern SBB, this department also carries out other public policies that concern us all, for example regulating access to mobile telephony, telecommunications and other network industries such as electricity networks.

Defence, Civil Protection and Sports[edit | edit source]

L’armée relève du département de la défense, de la protection de la population et des sports dirigés par monsieur Maurer qui est UDC. Ce qui avait fait l’actualité après le refus de l’achat des Grippen, l’armée aura bientôt besoin de nouveaux appareils. Récemment, dans le cadre d’un exercice usuel, un avion est tombé.

Interior[edit | edit source]

The Federal Department of Home Affairs is managed by Mr Berset. Recently, Mr. Berset obtained an extension of the period of work for women before they could qualify for retirement. Thus, in view of the demographic evolution in Switzerland, there are fewer and fewer contributors and more and more pensioners who are receiving pensions, and in view of this imbalance, particularly in demographic terms, and also in the face of uncertainties regarding labour productivity, Berset proposed to increase the retirement age for women. There is a street mobilization against this increase in the retirement age.

Suisse manifestation Berset.jpg

Economics, training and research[edit | edit source]

Mr Schneider-Ammann is responsible for the economy, training and research, and has faced a problem of the high cost of the franc versus the euro. If the franc is in an unfavourable position against the euro, this will raise problems in terms of production costs in Switzerland, but also in terms of the cost of exports. For a majority of economic players on the domestic market, the high cost of the franc is a real problem. The question is to know what we are doing against this high cost of the franc, there are few means of action because it is the National Bank that manages this public policy and the National Bank is largely independent of the political power, it can take decisions without having to refer them or have the approval of the Federal Council. For example, once this decision is taken, we will have to take accompanying measures in order to try, for example, to support economic sectors that are hardest hit. In terms of research, this is something that concerns us as well. If there is a major transformation in the ratio between the euro and the Swiss franc, when we receive European projects and a European budget, there is much less room for manoeuvre in Switzerland to hire researchers, since the euro is worth less. If we go from CHF 1.2 to 1.00 per euro at parity, we lose 20% of our purchasing capacity, we eliminate 20% of researchers. For example, the Human brain project weighs a billion dollars.

Thus, exchange rate stability or accompanying measures when there are major changes, for example in exchange rates, is a very important economic public policy that must be pursued.

Finance[edit | edit source]

Rope banking secrecy - Silvan (swen) Wegmann, Aargauer Zeitung, 21.02.2009[4]

Mrs Widmer-Schlumpf has had to deal with public policies that have been widely publicised and almost symbolically the destruction of Swiss myths. We have to think of the issues that have been managed and the changes in public policy that have taken place in the last Parliament, such as money laundering and much more restrictive measures to detect funds deposited by dictators, drug lords or terrorists in anonymous Swiss accounts, tax evasion and tax evasion with all those outside the country who came to Switzerland to deposit their funds before escaping their taxes. This was not accepted for a very long time by the countries of the European Union, by OECD countries, but above all by the United States after the financial crisis of 2007 - 2008, Switzerland had to reverse its subtle legal distinction between "evasion" and "tax fraud". We can also think of the funds in dishonesty or banking secrecy that have been undermined, particularly under the aegis of international players.

The difference between political science and international relations for public policy analysis makes little sense. Many public policies are at the interface of a nation-state, international organizations and supranational organizations. In the majority of cases, it is Switzerland in interaction with other organisations or countries that formulate or implement public policies.

Foreign Affairs[edit | edit source]

Foreign affairs are handled by Mr. Burkhalter. The issue of refugees is now at the heart of the attention not only of associations defending certain human rights, but also of the public administration, since the SDC, which is the development aid agency, was originally a federal foreign affairs agency, but also the division of human security is concerned with these issues, which are becoming increasingly prevalent and present in the media.

Humanitarian aid, one area of intervention among others. © DDC[5]

Summary[edit | edit source]

The Fulfirsten chains in the St. Wales massif.

We have selectively seen a large number of public policies in order to show the plurality of the fields of State intervention which are pre-structured by the administrative organization of the executive power. There are seven federal departments in Switzerland because the constitution provides that every federal councillor is at the same time a member of the executive college and head of a department. This is again a Swiss institutional specificity. In any other country, there are so-called ministerial reshuffles in which departments are created, there are deficits and the number of departments is not fixed at all. In Switzerland, the number of federal councillors and thus of administrative departments is limited to seven, as fixed as the Fulfirsten chains in the St. Wales massif. If we try to reform the federal system by going to nine federal councillors, it is a difficult task, there have been many attempts to reform the confederation executive.

In each of the ministries, there is usually a secretary general who will try to coordinate vertically the actions taken by the various offices within these administrations. Boards, it is nothing but administrative divisions or organizations that are responsible for more specific matters dealt with by the Minister. If we take the Federal Ministry of the Interior, there is a Federal Office for Culture, the Swiss National Library, the Federal Office for Gender Equality, but there is also social insurance. So in every department there is a secretary general who coordinates what is going on within that department.

In addition, in some ministries there are secretariats of state secretariats that are a kind of deputy minister, people who have a certain autonomy to represent the government, to represent the head of department, especially outside the government. If we take the case of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, there is a Secretary of State, Mr Yves Rossier, who is very active in the media and negotiates certain things with the European Union. There are other secretaries of state at the level, for example, of migration policy with Mr. Gattiker, and there are also other secretaries of state at the level of negotiating international financial issues with Mr. Jacques de Watteville. There is a State Secretariat for Economic Affairs with Mrs. Ineichen-Fleisch and a State Secretariat for Training, Research and Innovation with Mr. Dell' Ambrogio. They are people who count for a great deal in the conduct of public policy, they are a kind of "super civil servant" who, together with the secretaries-general, very strongly support the action of the heads of department, who are nothing more than the seven members of the Federal Council. The impacts of a person in a consensual system are generally relatively insensitive on the content of public policies, not on everyday partisan gesticulation, and even Mr. Blocher's arrival in power did not translate into major changes in all areas, even if there had been a noticeable impact in terms of tougher laws on foreigners.

Employees of the Confederation. source: Confederation in Brief. Ed. 2015[6]

Beyond the description of the organization chart, it is important to remember that the importance of public policies is not the same in all departments. It is possible to look at the number of people in the different departments in order to try to measure the importance that the Swiss political system attaches to different issues and different public policies. There are approximately 38,000 employees, and we can see that there are 1,400, i. e. almost 30% of the civil servants who still work in defence. On the other hand, as far as the interior is concerned, there are only 2,200, i. e. about 6% of the civil servants who deal with internal affairs. Nevertheless, this first indicator on the number of civil servants available to conduct public policies does not tell us everything about the relative importance of these public policies; it could be said that, in addition to personal resources, we have to look at the financial resources, i. e. the proportion of public expenditure devoted to the various public policies carried out in the departments.

Employees of the Confederation. source: Confederation in Brief. Ed. 2015[7]

If we look at these two examples, we can see that there is only $6.4 billion spent on defence, which is significantly less than 10% of the budget, whereas the Federal Department of Home Affairs manages around $17 billion, compared to the entire budget, which represents more than a quarter of the budget. There is a great disparity between the number of civil servants in the departments and the public budget managed by these civil servants. These are two summary indicators that do not yet tell us everything about the importance of public policy. There are very important public policies that require few staff and have little budgetary impact, and in particular all the so-called "moral" issues such as the abortion policy, which for decades has polarised the Swiss political scene in a truly polarised way, with the impulses of the "moral" issues.ications financières ou les implications en termes de personnel de la fonction publique nécessaire pour gérer ces enjeux n’est pas très élevée.

source: La Confédération en bref. Ed.2013

If we look at this graph now, we have shown the Confederation's revenues and expenditures. About $63.7 billion is spent by the confederation. Almost a third of the largest expenditure is on social insurance, social security such as invalidity insurance, old-age insurance and supervision or unemployment insurance, which is typically managed by the Federal Department of Home Affairs with only 6% of the civil servants. On the other hand, national defence accounts for less than 8% of the budget. The green side represents the confederation's revenue with direct taxation and everyone pays VAT on the various goods and services they consume, and this is the other major part of the confederation's revenue. This representation makes almost every other country fantasize and dream, since the revenues are higher than the expenses. It even makes Genevaers dream, especially. There is $65 billion for $63.7 billion. There is a surplus, some people talk about profits; it is an absolutely exceptional situation which is linked to a mechanism introduced in 2003 at the level of the Confederation, namely a brake on indebtedness, that is to say that we do not have the right to spend more than we have revenue, we must balance public budgets, at least over a cyclical period. While it is possible to have excess spending in a recessionary period, then it is necessary to have budget surpluses in a period of economic growth, as it seems to be the case now.

In Switzerland, therefore, there has been very restrictive public finance management in Switzerland since 2003, which means that we have been able to avoid situations like Greece, Space or France.

Changes in Swiss debt between 1999 and 2013.
Gross debt of Swiss public finances between 2000 and 2013.

This graph is a representation of debt and gross debt. So, if we accumulate budget deficits, we have to footprint money on the financial markets, there is a debt burden that will potentially increase and a debt itself that could increase. This graph shows not only the gross debt of the Confederation, but also of the cantons and municipalities as well as social insurance and the debt ratio, which is gradually declining, so that the financial situation of public authorities is very healthy and almost all our neighbours are fantasising, especially when they see this graph.

Comparaison du taux d'endettement entre la suisse et la zone euro 2000 - 2013.jpg

This graph shows the debt ratio in euro area countries and Switzerland. Broadly speaking, in the euro area, all the countries that wanted to participate in the euro area were told that certain criteria, and in particular the Maastricht criteria, had to be met, namely that there should not be a ratio of more than 60% of debt to GDP to all the values that are created during a year. The criterion for joining the euro area is to be below 60%. Almost all the countries in the euro area, almost all of them, do not comply with the rules they have set themselves, and, as is often the case, Switzerland is the only country that could join the euro area because it complies with the criteria that it has not set itself, but that it voluntarily imposes itself. It is the same thing in a lot of European directives, if we compare the implementation of European directives. Switzerland applies all European standards applied by European countries much better and more voluntarily. This is a situation to clean up public expenditure and thus reduce expenditure. These constraints in terms of debt and budget are essential if we want to understand what resources we have at our disposal when we are pursuing public policies.

In terms of security, the main measures taken by the confederation's intelligence services were to increase the number of intelligence personnel in Switzerland by six after the Charly Hebdo and Hypercasher incidents; and the additional staff was even reduced to four afterward, perhaps considering that there were no resources to pursue a more ambitious policy.

Thus, there are seven ministries with a very different number of civil servants who manage public expenditure, the size of which is also very different from one department to another, which also indicates the priorities given by the State to one or other of these public policies, even if not all public policies are measured in terms of importance, the number of civil servants they occupy or the number of francs spent in the sectors concerned.

Definition of public policy 
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A working definition must be applicable to all public policies that can be empirically identified.

The definition of work is that a public policy is a sequence of intentionally coherent decisions and activities taken by different public actors to solve a collective problem.

Public policy analysis suggests that the state is there and that public servants are there to solve collective problems. It is an instrumental vision of the State; the State makes decisions and takes action to solve problems that are constructed as collective problems.

Generally speaking, it is not a public actor, but a plurality of public actors who together must try to solve this problem, whether it is the increase in unemployment, the pollution of water by phosphates or whether it is the lack of training in Swiss political science. So, there are a multitude of actors who together will have to coordinate and these actors can come, of course, from different ministries, but they can also come from different levels of power. It is possible that the actors who together conduct public policy may find each other at the level of the confederation, the cantons and the communes. Sometimes even some public policy tasks are delegated to private actors.

This multitude of actors who together try to resolve public policy issues is complicated because they belong to different organisations, sometimes have different interests and resources in terms of personnel, finance, cognitive resources in terms of information and knowledge that are sometimes different, and therefore there is a great need for coordination between all these actors.

In terms of security, if only to control the borders, there is a need for a high level of coordination between the federal police, perhaps the army, the border guards who are all in different departments, but certainly also the cantonal police forces.

If we take this definition seriously, i. e. the fact that a public policy is a chain of decisions and activities taken by several actors who coordinate to solve a public problem, then we can see that the concept of public policy is an analytical construct. If we want to analyze a public policy, we must reconstruct that public policy, it does not exist in a book with a clearly defined boundary. This is the reconstruction work to which public policy analysis invites. It is not something that can be found by opening a book or report, it is something that the analyst must reconstruct, in particular by identifying the problem, the actors and the actions carried out by the various stakeholders of a public policy.

How was it proposed to analyze these public policies? The systemic approach was the first attempt to tell how to analyze public policy and the second concept of a public policy cycle that should be structuring for future sessions.

Easton's Systems Approach
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Article détaillé : La théorie systémique.
David Easton (1917 - 2014).

One of the first to take an interest in public policy analysis was Easton, who proposed a systematic approach to analyzing public policies and, above all, positioning public policies in the political system. With the concept of systematism, we relate what happens in political reality to one of the elements of a system, different elements that are in relation to each other, effects of interactions on each other and the whole is in neo-static equilibrium. 


Approche systémique Easton graphique.png

Easton represented public policy. There is a political system in which we typically find the government, the parliament, the judiciary and the administration, this public political system will make decisions or take action. Typically, it will produce public policy.

Why does the public policy system suddenly decide to intervene in an area and invest resources?

This is certainly because it faces demands and supports upstream. There are actors who call for government intervention in a particular area. It is not easy to articulate requests and, above all, to be heard by the State because the State not only faces a multitude of requests to intervene, such as the fact that we would like to see student scholarships still available despite budgetary restrictions; and there is also a need for more or less strong support from some groups and sometimes even from the groups that make the requests. Thus, one could imagine that, for example, farmers' associations would ask for support from the State in the context of a liberalised agricultural market. It provides them with some typical support through partisan support. The SVP, before being a radical right-wing party, had mainly an agrarian base, it was a farmers' party. They are therefore making demands, we would like to see more support for the agricultural sector, and we are providing some support, particularly through the SVP party and its representatives in parliament, the government and even the administration. Faced with these demands and support, the public policy system will develop public policies that will then lead to decisions, actions such as, for example, the granting of billions in direct payments to farmers, i. e. subsidies to farmers.

Where the approach is truly systemic is that if these public policies meet the initial demands, then, through feedback, the system will be balanced. Public policies satisfy social demands, guarantee support for the state, so public policy is maintained and allows the entire public system to be in balance. It could also be said that the requests are made by bankers who ask the state not to decide not to intervene, they support them as, for example, by financing the parties (this is a purely fictitious case), and the people who are in government say that they will respond to their request in order to be able to benefit from their support by taking the decision not to have strong public policy, but simply to delegate the regulation of this sector to the State. One could imagine that individuals in environmental matters would ask the state to intervene to, for example, protect the landscape, assures some support to the state by saying that if they do so, they will not launch a popular initiative or challenge decisions in court, and in the face of these claims, which are more or less credible, the state will conduct policies to protect the landscape.

Thus, this approach gave a very important weight to public policies in the sense that it is the quality of what is done in terms of public policy that will enable people who make demands or offer support to the state to be satisfied or dissatisfied and thus to question or not question the functioning of the system, the whole being in balance.

This very simple model can also be linked to the theory of democracy. It is often said that democracy is government by the people and government for the people. A democratic management of the State is a management that allows a plurality of actors through freedom of expression and freedom of the press to articulate their demands or demands and also allows them, for example, through the electoral system, to offer their support, for example, to political parties competing to participate in the political system. This is democracy as being the government by the people, which is the possibility of participating and articulating demands on the state, it is the primary legitimacy of the state. Quite often, when we want to transform undemocratic political systems, we focus only on this by saying that we are organising referendums and that this will suffice.

The second dimension that this graph shows is the public policies that are carried out, this secondary legitimacy of the state or government for the people. Public policies are there to serve citizens, policies are there to solve the problems that affect citizens. According to this model, every state needs double legitimation: upstream and downstream, primary and secondary, government by the people, government for the people. The quality of public policies, the outputs that are produced, is really central to the balance of a political system. So even if we are more interested in issues of a democratic nature or "political regime" type, it is in our interest to focus on what goes out of the state, on the public policies that are carried out.

Public Policy Cycle 
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This model certainly had certain virtues, but nonetheless, we soon wondered what was going on in this "black box". The first approaches that followed the systemic approach tried to open up the "black box" of the state. They were interested in how public policy was shaped within the state; how to move from demands to decisions and actions. In order to address what is happening in this black box, the model of a public policy cycle has been developed.

Intro APP 2015 cycle d'une politique publique 1.png

It is an approach that dates back to the 1970s, has a certain heuristic virtue and was a real qualitative leap in the subject matter of public policy. Public policy seeks to solve collective problems. Thus, the cycle of public policy represented as a circle will begin when a problem emerges. This problem must be perceived by private and public actors. These private and public actors must then be in a position to put this problem on the agenda, to say that this problem is a priority, that this problem concerns the State, that this problem must be solved by the State, that we must adopt a public policy in this matter, we cannot do nothing.

Thus, the first real step in public policy is the perception of a problem and the success in bringing it to the attention of policy makers. This is very difficult to do. A majority of problems never make it to the government agenda. He can't get the attention of decision-makers.

Let us start from the fiction that a problem has been put on the agenda. This is sometimes done by external shocks such as an attack or a nuclear accident, a major economic crisis, and sometimes it is done by other means. If this problem is put on the agenda, public policy will seek to address it. So, we are going to go into a phase in which we formulate different alternative solutions to solve this problem. Then we proceed to choose one solution over another. Generally speaking, this phase of formulating the alternative and adopting a solution, typically in a law, is the work of the administration, government and parliament. Sometimes the adopted legislation is contested, so people are still involved in the formal adoption phase of public policy. Usually, in the Swiss political system, there is a phase of formulation at the preparatory level controlled by the government, a phase of debate and decision making at the parliamentary level, and possibly a third phase if an optional referendum is launched or if there is a compulsory referendum which is a referendum phase.

So the second step is really to find a solution and anchor it in legislation. Once this solution has been found, once it has reached a sufficient consensus to be adopted, the phase of implementation, involvement and enforcement takes place; therefore, what is in a law must be applied, must be carried out by the administration. The administrations are not all working perfectly, so sometimes this phase of implementation may be complicated, deficits or troublesome. The law is simply not enforced or is poorly enforced. Assuming that the policy has addressed an important problem and resulted in a solution, has been properly implemented, the last element in this cycle of public policy is the phase of assessing the effects of the policy. At this point in time, the question arises as to whether everything that has been done upstream can solve the problem we are facing. It is a truly reflective phase in which we try to see whether the law has been properly implemented, whether it has been properly formulated and whether the problem that we are trying to solve has been well understood. Again, it is not clear that this cycle is perfectly linear, with a majority of public policies never really being evaluated. Assuming that the evaluation has been carried out, it can be demonstrated that the policy is effective or, conversely, that it does not achieve the objectives, and depending on the results of the evaluation, it will be possible to reconsider the problem sought to be solved and say that if the solution is not fully solved, we will embark on a new cycle of public policy. If, on the contrary, public policy has all the desired effects, then we could very well imagine abandoning that policy.

This model of the cycle of public policy must be seen as a cycle succession or spiral. Public policy is an incisive and never-ending exercise that systematically goes through phases of redefinition of the problem, transformation of the solution, legislative transformation, redefinition of implementation activities and possibly new assessments.

One of the advantages of this so-called "public policy cycle" model, which allowed the systemism model to be overtaken because it opened up the "black box", is that the different questions of analysis can be very clearly distinguished according to the different stages of the public policy cycle. If you are interested in the agenda, you may wonder why some issues get political attention and why others do not.

What explains why, in the construction of public problems, the State is sometimes interested in certain sectors and sometimes not at all? if we are interested in the formulation and adoption phase, we ask very classic questions for a political scientist, i. e. which coalition of actors makes it possible to adopt a concrete public policy; which coalition of political parties in particular makes it possible to have a majority that will favour the adoption of a law; if we are in a direct democracy, what majority of the people or cantons will allow the acceptance of a compulsory referendum. These are therefore very focused questions on actors who are truly at the heart of parliament. If we are at the level of implementation, we are instead concentrating on the action of the administration and we are going to ask ourselves the question of what is the best mechanism for implementing a public policy, what is the best type of administrative arrangement to promote the proper implementation of public policies.

At the level of evaluation, the question might be who should carry out the evaluation of public policies, who should monitor whether public policies are well implemented, well formulated and address the right issues. This type of question is dealt with by people who focus on the evaluation phase. For example, there is the Court of Auditors, which evaluates public policies on a wide variety of subjects. The first report of the Court of Auditors evaluating a public policy was on prostitution. If you are interested in the prostitution market in Geneva, you should read the Court of Auditors' report available on the Court of Auditors' website. They then worked on more technical subjects such as the annual training voucher, young people who had broken up and the unemployed at the end of their studies.

Thus, the model of the public policy cycle allows for a certain dynamic in what is happening within the state apparatus, segmenting issues into different stages of analysis, and is quite consistent with the idea that public policy is about solving a problem. This is a problem-solving cycle, and for those who prefer engineering to political science, there is a perfect match between the cycle of public policy and the different classical stages of solving a problem, whether it is an engineering problem, a medical problem or another type of technical problem. Public policies are manufactured and constructed in the same way, even though the rules of the game and the players involved in public policy are certainly somewhat different.

Annnexes[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Mesures de lutte prise par la Suisse contre le terrorisme à motivation djihadiste - Second rapport de la task force TETRA (octobre 2015). Url:https://www.fedpol.admin.ch/dam/data/fedpol/aktuell/news/2015/2015-11-02/ber-tetra-f.pdf
  2. "La Suisse S'active Contre Les Candidats Au Djihad." Tdg.ch/, 22 Oct. 2015. Web. 26 Nov. 2015. <http://www.tdg.ch/suisse/suisse-s-active-candidats-djihad/story/18109239>.
  3. Wuillemin, Christine. "Cure D'amaigrissement Pour Les CFF." 6La Liberté. N.p., 6 Nov. 2015. Web. 26 Nov. 2015. <http://www.laliberte.ch/news/suisse/cure-d-amaigrissement-pour-les-cff-306119>
  4. http://www.swissinfo.ch/fre/caricatures_le-secret-bancaire-sous----presse/188536
  5. "L’aide Humanitaire, Un Axe D’intervention Parmi D’autres." Axes D’intervention De La Suisse Face à La Crise Syrienne. 1 Oct. 2015. Web. 26 Nov. 2015. <https://www.eda.admin.ch/deza/fr/home/activites-projets/activites/aide-humanitaire/priorites/dossier-syrien/schwerpunkte-schweiz-syrien.html>.
  6. "Chancellerie Fédérale." La Confédération En Bref. Confédération Helvétique, Web. 26 Nov. 2015. <https://www.bk.admin.ch/dokumentation/02070/index.html?lang=fr>.
  7. "Chancellerie Fédérale." La Confédération En Bref. Confédération Helvétique, Web. 26 Nov. 2015. <https://www.bk.admin.ch/dokumentation/02070/index.html?lang=fr>.