Public Policy Analysis: Implementation and Evaluation

De Baripedia

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The main objective of this analysis is to explore the path taken by a law, from its formulation to its application and enforcement, generally orchestrated by public institutions.

To explore this issue further, our study is divided into three distinct segments: First, we will return to the notion of implementation in the context of public policy analysis. Essentially, it is a dynamic process, often subject to tensions, which has the potential to radically transform the decisions taken when the law was created. Secondly, we will look at one particular aspect with reference to the situation in Switzerland, more specifically what is known as the 'polity', which corresponds to the country's federalist institutional structure. In this federal dynamic, the Confederation draws up the laws, but it is the cantons and municipalities that put them into practice. This unique arrangement can give rise to a number of challenges, as well as advantages, in the application process. Finally, we will emphasise the importance of taking account of the local situation when evaluating enforcement measures. More specifically, we will examine the behaviour of officials in the field, whether on the street or behind a counter. Rather than focusing on abstract theories, we will back up our arguments with tangible examples.

Implementation: an open and complex process[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Implementation studies began to take shape as a distinct discipline within political science in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. It was inspired by a series of academic works aimed at understanding why certain public policies did not produce the expected results once they had been implemented. It was the 'implementation school' that really formalised the subject as a distinct branch of study. Researchers in this school began to examine the implementation process not simply as the execution of policy directives, but as a complex and multidimensional phase of the policy process, involving multiple actors, levels of government and power dynamics. Researchers such as Jeffrey Pressman, Aaron Wildavsky and James Q. Wilson have contributed influential work to implementation theory. Pressman and Wildavsky, for example, wrote "Implementation: How Great Expectations in Washington Are Dashed in Oakland" in 1973, a work often cited as the first major book on the subject.[1] This work has paved the way for a more nuanced understanding of implementation, recognizing that the implementation phase is itself a complex political process, often marked by conflict, negotiation, and compromise.

"Implementation: How Great Expectations in Washington Are Dashed in Oakland; Or, Why It's Amazing that Federal Programs Work at All, This Being a Saga ... Morals on a Foundation" is a seminal work that truly launched the field of study of public policy implementation. Written by Jeffrey L. Pressman and Aaron Wildavsky in 1973, the book exposes the complex and often surprising challenges of implementing public policy. The book's subtitle raises a central question: how the high expectations formulated in Washington can clash with the reality on the ground in Oakland. It highlights the potential gap between the formulation of a policy (the intention) and its actual implementation (the reality). This raises questions about the effectiveness of federal programmes, given the complexity of the implementation process. By revealing this complexity, Pressman and Wildavsky paved the way for a multitude of studies on implementation. These studies have sought to understand the many nuts and bolts of successful implementation and to highlight the many obstacles that can impede the process. In doing so, they have contributed to a more nuanced understanding of public policy, one that recognises implementation as an essential and distinct phase of the policy process, rather than a mere formality once the policy decision has been made.

The almost canonical definition of implementation is a social process in which actors assert their interests, powers and opportunities for influence. This definition highlights the complexity and dynamics of the process. Indeed, implementation is often perceived as a social process involving various players seeking to promote their interests, exercise their power and use their means of influence. Laws, ordinances and other prescriptions are not simply fixed rules to be applied; rather, they are normative offers that different actors can interpret and use in different ways to achieve their objectives. In other words, these 'offers' serve as resources that actors in the field can exploit, modify, adapt or even challenge, depending on their own interests and the way they perceive these normative offers. This perspective underlines the importance of actors on the ground in determining the actual content of a public policy. The decisions they take, the strategies they adopt and the interpretations they make of legal requirements can significantly influence the final outcome of implementation, and therefore the actual impact of public policy on society.

Describing implementation as an "implementation game" underlines its negotiated, strategic and interactive nature. Rather than being a simple process of mechanically applying the law, implementation is a dynamic process, in which different actors interact, negotiate, cooperate and sometimes oppose each other, in order to advance their interests and objectives. This 'game' can involve a wide range of actors, including implementers within the public administration, policy beneficiaries, interest groups, service providers and other stakeholders. Each of these actors may have different interests, priorities and perspectives, and may use different strategies to influence the implementation process and its outcomes. This perspective highlights the open and complex nature of implementation, showing that it is a process that is shaped by ongoing interactions, negotiations and conflicts between different actors. It also highlights the uncertain and unpredictable nature of implementation, as the outcome of the 'implementation game' may depend on many factors, including power dynamics, available resources, contextual conditions and unforeseen events.

Executive federalism - diversity and deficits in the cantons[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

What does this mean in practice in Switzerland? In Switzerland, executive federalism is the practical expression of the division of powers between levels of government in the process of implementing public policy. Under this system, policy formulation is dominated by the federal institutions, in particular the National Council, the Council of States and sometimes even the people through direct-democratic votes. However, once these policies have been defined, responsibility for their implementation is generally delegated to the cantons and municipalities. This structure reflects the high degree of decentralisation and local autonomy in Switzerland, allowing each canton to tailor implementation to specific local conditions. However, this system can also lead to variations in implementation between different cantons, depending on their interpretation of policies, their resources and capacities, and their political priorities. In addition, it can sometimes lead to tensions between the federal level and the cantons over issues such as the allocation of resources and responsibilities, or the interpretation of federal laws.

The configuration of executive federalism in Switzerland, where the Confederation draws up laws and the cantons are responsible for implementing them, is in reality more complex than a simple division of tasks. This division is not always clear-cut and rigid, and there is often considerable room for manoeuvre for the cantons, and even the municipalities, in applying federal laws. This autonomy can give rise to an impressive diversity in the way the same law is implemented from one canton to another, and even from one municipality to another. This diversity can be reflected not only in the specific actions taken to implement the law, but also in the effects of that implementation on citizens. So even if a law is uniform at federal level, the way it is applied and the effects it has can vary considerably from one place to another. In some cases, this can lead to significant differences in the treatment of Swiss citizens, potentially creating de facto inequalities between them. This situation highlights the importance of taking local and regional specificities into account when analysing the implementation of public policies in Switzerland. It also highlights the need to balance local autonomy and national uniformity in the implementation of public policy, in order to ensure that the law is applied fairly and equitably.

We will examine how conventional analytical questions can shed light on the effects of executive federalism. More specifically, we will seek to understand how the political and institutional structure - which we will call 'polity' - influences policy implementation - or 'public policy'. In other words, we will explore how federalism in Switzerland concretely affects the implementation of public policy.

Analysing the impact of federalism (polity) on the implementation of public policy in Switzerland requires an understanding of how the country's institutional and political framework influences implementation practices. Executive federalism, in which the cantons and municipalities are largely responsible for implementing federal laws, has several important implications. Firstly, federalism allows a degree of flexibility in the application of public policy. This means that the cantons can adapt implementation to specific local conditions and the needs of their citizens. For example, an education or health policy may be implemented differently depending on the resources available, local political priorities and the demographic or socio-economic characteristics of the cantons. Secondly, federalism can lead to diversity in the implementation of public policy, with potentially significant differences between cantons. This diversity can be beneficial in allowing policy experimentation and fostering innovation, but it can also lead to inequalities and variations in the quality of services provided to citizens. Thirdly, federalism can create challenges in terms of coordination and efficiency. Coordination between different levels of government can be difficult, especially when responsibilities are shared or when policies require concerted action at several levels. In addition, fragmented responsibilities can make it more difficult to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of policies. In short, federalism in Switzerland has a significant impact on the implementation of public policy, offering opportunities for adaptation and innovation, but also posing challenges in terms of equality, coordination and effectiveness.

Case study - Wildlife control/hunting (cf. Nahrath study, 2000)[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The first example we are going to look at is the regulation of hunting in Switzerland, a topical issue. If we look at the way in which hunting and wildlife are managed, we see a fairly notable diversity of approaches, reflecting what might be described as a "federalist laboratory". In other words, the cantons are experimenting with different methods of regulating hunting, creating a variety of approaches and solutions across the country.

Why is this? Under the Swiss Federal Constitution, the allocation of hunting rights is a public monopoly. However, it is up to the cantons to determine the hunting regime to be implemented to regulate not only who can hunt, but also at what intensity. The Confederation limits itself to regulating certain aspects such as protected species (not just any animal can be hunted), the types of weapons that can be used and the use of traps. When we analyse public policy, we sometimes find ourselves in a wide variety of areas. For example, we are going to look at how the cantons have chosen to regulate hunting, given the wide discretion granted to them by the Federal Constitution.

There are several ways in which the Swiss cantons can regulate hunting, depending on their interpretation of the Constitution and federal laws. This can result in a variety of hunting regimes, with each canton adapting the rules to its own needs and circumstances. For example, some cantons may choose to allocate hunting rights on an individual basis, perhaps according to the hunter's skills or experience. Other cantons may prefer a licence system, perhaps limiting the number of licences available or allocating them by lot. In addition, each canton has the ability to determine the intensity of hunting that is permitted. This may include regulations on the number of animals that can be shot, the species that can be hunted, or even the times of year when hunting is permitted. The impact of this diversity of regulations is twofold. On the one hand, it allows a degree of experimentation and innovation in hunting management, with each canton able to adapt its rules to best meet local needs. On the other hand, it can also lead to inequalities, with hunters in some cantons potentially subject to stricter rules than those in other cantons. This analysis shows how the autonomy granted to the cantons under Swiss federalism can influence the implementation of public policies. While this may allow a degree of flexibility and adaptation to local conditions, it can also lead to disparities between regions.

The geopgrahical distribution of hunting systems in switzerland.png

This breakdown of hunting regulation in Switzerland clearly demonstrates the diversity of public policies resulting from the interpretation of federal laws by the various cantons. In the canton of Geneva, hunting is banned outright, which is a unique exception in the country. This probably reflects stronger environmental values, as well as a high population density that makes hunting less practicable. In the Romansh-speaking, Alpine and Appenzell Inner and Outer Rhodes cantons, hunting is regulated by a permit system. This means that anyone wishing to hunt must obtain a licence, which is probably issued on the basis of certain criteria, such as the hunter's skill or experience. Finally, in the German-speaking cantons of Switzerland, hunting is regulated by a "leasing" system. Under this system, hunting rights for a certain area are 'leased' to an individual or group, who then have the right to hunt there for a set period. This allows for more intensive and targeted wildlife management. This variety of hunting regimes shows how cantons can adapt federal laws to their own needs and circumstances, leading to a diversity of public policies across the country. It also highlights the importance of examining the implementation of public policies at a local level to fully understand their impact.

In the canton of Geneva, hunting is strictly reserved for professional gamekeepers, making private hunting prohibited. This particular regulation has several notable consequences. Firstly, it entails significant costs for the canton. Indeed, recruiting professional gamekeepers to manage the animal population involves significant expenditure. In addition, the canton of Geneva does not receive any income from the sale of hunting licences, which would be the case if private hunting were authorised. Furthermore, this particular regulation of hunting is associated with certain criticisms in terms of hunting ethics, i.e. the moral principles that govern the practice of hunting. For example, it is generally forbidden to hunt at night with infrared weapons, for reasons of safety and respect for wildlife. However, in Geneva, these rules are not always respected, because of the risk of accidents if hunting takes place during the day. Gamekeepers are therefore sometimes forced to hunt at night, contrary to federal law, in order to maintain the ban on private hunting. This illustrates how the implementation of public policy can lead to ethical and practical dilemmas, requiring a delicate balance between different priorities and constraints.

In the case of cantons that adopt the hunting licence system, access to this activity is regulated by issuing licences to different hunters. These hunters can then hunt throughout the canton within the limits defined by the licence, often in the form of animal quotas that must not be exceeded. However, this system of regulation by permit presents its own challenges. In particular, wildlife is often under-exploited, i.e. the number of animals slaughtered is lower than the quotas set. This can lead to ecological imbalances, with negative impacts on forests and crops. In the canton of Geneva, for example, an excessive wild boar population can cause considerable damage to crops. So, unlike the system in place in Geneva, where wildlife is managed by professionals, the hunting licence system does not necessarily guarantee balanced wildlife management throughout the canton. It thus reveals the limits of a decentralised approach to the implementation of public policies, where local variations can lead to uneven results.

The third model of hunting administration found in Switzerland is that of leasing. This system differs significantly from the previous two in that it does not allocate individual hunting permits, but rather entrusts the management of a territory to a hunters' association for a period of 6 to 8 years. During this period, the association is responsible for regulating the number of animals that can be hunted and is also liable for any damage caused by wildlife to forests or crops. At the end of each cycle of 6 to 8 years, the leasing right is auctioned off again. If a hunting association has mismanaged its territory during this period, it risks losing its leasing rights at the next auction, which could lead to its exclusion from hunting. This leasing system therefore creates an incentive for responsible management of wildlife and its impact on the local environment.

The empirical analysis carried out on these three hunting management systems revealed that, in terms of sustainability and rational wildlife management, the leasing system is generally the most effective. By entrusting responsibility for wildlife management to a hunters' association for a specific area, better results are obtained than those obtained either by entrusting this task to bureaucrats or by granting individuals the opportunity to hunt via a licence. Leasing seems to promote more effective and sustainable wildlife management than the other methods examined.

Although these three systems derive from the same delegation of powers to the federal level, they differ markedly in terms of implementation methods and impact. This is precisely what executive federalism allows: it provides a framework for experimenting with different implementation solutions in a "federalist laboratory". In the case of hunting, this system has enabled valuable lessons to be learned from the different approaches employed by the cantons. However, this process of learning and adaptation is not limited to the management of hunting. It can be found in various other public policies. For example, in the field of drug regulation, the cantons of Geneva, Zurich and Basel have experimented with different management methods. Lessons can then be learned from these experiments and the most effective model adopted. The same applies to various social policies: implementing federalism not only makes it possible to benefit from a diversity of approaches, but also to test different solutions, before finally choosing and adopting the one that proves to be the most effective. This shows that, in many areas, executive federalism can be a valuable tool for innovation and improving public policy.

Case study - Acquisition of property by foreigners (cf. study by Delley et al., 1982)[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The Swiss Federal Law on the Acquisition of Real Estate by Persons Abroad, commonly known as the "Lex Koller", was introduced in the 1960s in response to an increase in the number of property purchases by non-residents. The aim of this legislation was to control the acquisition of property by foreigners in Switzerland. The law was put in place to protect national interests and to prevent excessive property inflation that could make housing unaffordable for Swiss residents. It is a protectionist measure designed to protect the Swiss property market from foreign speculation. Jean-Daniel Delley, Professor of Law at the University of Geneva, has produced a classic analysis of this policy. It is interesting to examine how the implementation of this law was influenced by Swiss federalism, and how it varied from canton to canton.

In the 1960s, certain groups in Switzerland were concerned about the increase in foreign purchases of property, fearing that this would lead to greater foreign control over Swiss soil. These concerns were particularly pronounced among certain sectors of the political right, which had a more nationalist outlook. They argued that this trend represented a threat to Swiss national interests, not least because rising property prices were making housing less affordable for Swiss residents and because increased foreign control over Swiss soil could threaten national sovereignty. These concerns contributed to the drafting of the law on the acquisition of real estate by persons abroad, known as the "Lex Koller". This law was designed to restrict the purchase of property in Switzerland by non-residents, with the aim of protecting the Swiss property market and preserving national sovereignty.

In addition to the nationalist concerns of the right, the Swiss left also had concerns about the increase in property purchases by foreigners, but for very different reasons. The left was mainly concerned about the socio-economic impact of these acquisitions. Specifically, they feared that the purchase of property by foreign investors, with the aim of speculating on the property market, would lead to an increase in rents across the country. This, in turn, could make housing less affordable for many Swiss people, particularly those on moderate incomes. In addition, it could contribute to a scarcity of low-cost housing, further exacerbating Switzerland's housing problems. So while the right was primarily concerned about sovereignty and foreign control, the left was worried about the socio-economic implications of increased foreign property purchases. These joint concerns helped shape the debate on property ownership policy for non-residents.

A third group of players also took part in the debate, namely the liberal right. This political faction saw no need for regulation on this issue. Instead, they defended the principle of private property and Switzerland's traditional approach to free trade. In their view, foreign ownership was not in itself a problem. As a result, they opposed any state intervention in property construction or rent control, nor did they see any danger in the idea of foreign influence on Swiss territory. For them, the free market should be the main determinant of property transactions, regardless of the nationality of the owner.

The forces of these three parties were fairly balanced, and no clear majority emerged in favour of any one of them. So a compromise was reached that allowed all parties to express their views. It was recognised that there was a need to exercise control over this issue, and that a foreigner wishing to acquire real estate in Switzerland would have to obtain formal authorisation from the State. However, the question remained as to the conditions under which such authorisation could be granted. This is where the subtlety of implementation came into play, and where the role of executive federalism was crucial in the practical application of this policy.

In the text of the law, authorisation to acquire a building is granted "if there is a legitimate interest". This is what is known as an indeterminate legal concept, which leaves a great deal of room for interpretation. Given Switzerland's federal structure, it was the cantons that were responsible for implementing this law. The cantons were therefore responsible for defining in concrete terms what was meant by "legitimate interest". The law had very different objectives and there was no solid consensus at federal level. As a result, when the law was implemented, it was used to suit the specific interests of the cantons and local regions. Some have described this as a "misuse of the law" by the cantons, as the interpretation of legitimate interest varied widely from one canton to another, depending on their own priorities and concerns.

Varrone étude Delley et al 1982.png

The graph shows how, in an initial situation where cantonal practices were in some respects similar or comparable, the introduction of various laws aimed at controlling, or even reducing, the acquisition of property by foreigners led to a significant divergence in the approaches adopted by the different cantons. The different cantons then adopted distinct strategies for interpreting and applying these laws. This reflects the flexible aspect of implementing federalism, which allows local authorities to adapt the implementation of national laws to their own specific needs and concerns. This variety of approaches can also be seen as a 'laboratory' for policy experimentation, where different strategies can be compared and evaluated for their effectiveness.

The canton of Valais has chosen to interpret the notion of 'legitimate interest' in relation to its ambition to promote tourism through the inflow of foreign capital. As a result, the canton has adopted a policy of expanding tourism by granting permits fairly freely, thereby enabling a large amount of housing to be built for non-residents. Even when the Confederation expressed doubts about the legitimacy of some of these authorisations, Valais found ways of getting round these objections. One such method was to set up local trusts which, although officially Swiss, were financed by foreign capital. These trusts enabled foreigners to acquire property indirectly, through a 'pseudo-Swiss' entity, in order to circumvent the restrictions on the purchase of property by non-residents. This illustrates how, depending on local priorities, the application of a federal law can be creatively adapted.

The canton of Lucerne has taken a very different approach in applying the same law. Despite its tourist appeal, Lucerne has chosen to use this legislation as a tool to limit foreign control over local development, favouring local and Swiss investment. Unlike Valais, Lucerne has granted very few authorisations for the purchase of real estate to foreigners. The authorisation curve in the canton of Lucerne is almost at zero, which shows that the canton has adopted a very strict policy when it comes to controlling property purchases by foreigners. This difference in approach is a good example of how the implementation of the same law can vary considerably depending on the local context and priorities. So, even with federal legislation, there can be a wide variety of outcomes depending on how each canton chooses to implement it.

In the canton of Geneva, the approach to the application of the law on the purchase of property by foreigners has varied according to fluctuations in the local property market. When the property market is growing and demand for housing is strong, the canton may have been more willing to grant purchase authorisations to foreigners because of the potential economic benefits of such investments. Conversely, during property market downturns, the canton could have adopted a more restrictive approach to limit foreign speculation and protect local residents from rising rents and property costs. This illustrates how the cantons can adapt their implementation of federal laws to suit local economic conditions and the needs of their population. It also demonstrates the flexibility that Swiss federalism allows the cantons in applying the law, even when that law is enacted at federal level.

Studying the implementation of laws, particularly those that are broadly or vaguely formulated, is an essential part of public policy analysis. It allows us to understand not only how a law is interpreted and applied in different contexts, but also how its application can vary according to local conditions and the values and interests of the actors involved. In the case of the Swiss law on the acquisition of real estate by foreigners, the concept of 'legitimate interest' leaves a great deal of leeway to the cantons in determining what constitutes a legitimate interest. As a result, as we have seen, the application of the law can vary considerably from one canton to another, depending on how each canton interprets the concept. This highlights the importance of the implementation of the law in determining its real effects and raises interesting questions about the role of federalism and decentralisation in the management of public policy. It also highlights the importance of empirical research in the study of public policy, as it allows us to see how laws work in practice, beyond what is written in the text of the law itself.

Case study - Disability insurance reforms (see study by Byland et al. 2015)[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

The precise wording of a law can effectively reduce variability in its application, as it leaves less room for interpretation. However, this does not necessarily guarantee uniform application of the law. Differences in implementation can still arise due to a variety of factors, including differences in available resources, political priorities, the competence of those responsible for implementation, and administrative culture. The 2015 study by Byland et al. on disability insurance reforms in Switzerland is a good example of this. Despite the fact that the law on invalidity insurance was fairly precisely formulated, they found significant variations in implementation between cantons. These variations were due to factors such as differences in the resources available to implement the law, differences in the interpretation of the legislative provisions, and differences in the administrative culture and political priorities between the cantons. This illustrates the importance of analysing implementation in the study of public policy, as even a well-conceived and precisely formulated law can lead to varied results depending on how it is implemented. It is therefore crucial to take contextual factors into account when analysing the impact of a law and its reforms.

Invalidity insurance reforms: unequal treatment or convergence between cantons?

The graph seems to indicate that, at a certain point, a policy was put in place with the aim of reducing the number of disability insurance beneficiaries and, consequently, reducing the disability insurance deficit. This inflection point may be the result of various measures taken, for example the introduction of stricter criteria for eligibility for invalidity insurance, increased requirements for rehabilitation or professional reintegration, or the application of stricter controls to combat fraud. It is also possible that external factors, such as an improving economy or changes in the structure of the population (for example, a drop in the number of people with chronic illnesses or long-term conditions), have contributed to the decline in the number of disability insurance beneficiaries.

The development of disability insurance policy in Switzerland can be examined over three distinct periods: 1999 - 2003, 2004 - 2007 and 2008 - 2011. Each period was characterised by a specific policy direction. From 1999 to 2003, the dominant policy was that of granting pensions. In other words, when a person could no longer work because of disability, they received a pension. This traditional approach encouraged many people to claim pensions, which led to an increase in disability insurance deficits. In 2003, faced with increasing deficits, a reform was introduced. The new approach continued to grant pensions, but only if individuals could not be reintegrated into the labour market. Pensions remained the main instrument, while trying to keep disabled people active in the labour market as much as possible. For example, granting partial pensions was an option, allowing recipients to work part-time while receiving a pension, which reduced the pressure on disability insurance. However, this measure proved insufficient to put disability insurance finances on a sounder footing. As a result, new restrictions were introduced, fundamentally changing the philosophy of disability insurance policy. Since 2008, the granting of a pension has been considered only as a last resort. To qualify for a pension, you have to prove that all possible measures to reintegrate yourself into the labour market have been unsuccessful. This development means that, over time, obtaining a pension has become increasingly difficult. The emphasis is now on getting disabled people back into work and keeping them there, even on a part-time basis.

How is this federal policy applied at cantonal level? Federal policy on invalidity insurance is implemented at cantonal level by the AI (Invalidity Insurance) Offices. These offices are responsible for examining applications for invalidity pensions and deciding whether or not to accept them. When an application is made, the AI Office assesses the applicant's disability and determines whether it is serious enough to justify the granting of a pension. This assessment takes into account various factors, including the claimant's ability to work (either full-time or part-time), the employment opportunities available and the effectiveness of rehabilitation or reintegration efforts. However, although disability insurance policy is federal, the way in which it is implemented can vary from canton to canton. Each IV office may have its own procedures and criteria for assessing claims. As a result, there may be variations in the acceptance rates for disability claims between different cantons. This means that the way in which this policy is implemented on the ground can depend largely on the interpretation and individual management of each IV Office. This is why it is important to understand how each canton applies this policy, to ensure that it is implemented effectively and fairly across the country.

Rates of award of IV pensions (IV offices) by canton and scheme.

In this context, three distinct periods are highlighted, along with the national average disability pension approval rate. As time passes, there is a steady decline in the acceptance rate for pension claims, meaning that fewer and fewer pensions are being granted in relation to the claims made. The central concern for a political scientist in this situation is to determine whether the chances of obtaining a pension are uniform across all the cantons, or whether the application of the policy at cantonal level could lead to discrimination. In other words, is it possible for the same situation to give rise to totally different decisions by the cantonal administration, despite the fact that they are all subject to the same federal law? This question raises issues of fairness and uniformity in the application of the law.

It is clearly illustrated here that the acceptance rate for pension applications decreases as we move forward in time, indicating that it is becoming increasingly difficult to obtain a pension. The relevant question for a political scientist would be to determine whether the chances of obtaining a pension are equal in all cantons, or whether the application of federal law by the various cantons can lead to discrimination. In other words, could the same situation lead to different administrative decisions depending on the canton, even if they are all governed by the same federal law? This question is all the more important as it could have significant implications in terms of fairness and equal access to disability benefits. This is why it is essential to understand how policies are implemented at different administrative levels and whether these differences can lead to inequalities between cantons.

We often hear talk of the "Lake Geneva syndrome", a notion that suggests that only the cantons in French-speaking Switzerland grant pensions. The canton of Valais is the most restrictive in this respect, while the canton of Neuchâtel has seen its practices tighten up over time. What we can see is that all the cantons are adopting an increasingly strict approach, but at very different speeds. As a result of these successive reforms, there appears to be increasing diversity in the way the cantons implement the policy, and potentially greater inequality in the treatment of citizens depending on the canton in which they live.

Rates of award of IV pensions by IV offices by scheme (median and quartiles).

The box plots presented here show the median, as well as the first, second, third and fourth quartiles. An initial dispersion can be seen, which is initially reduced, then increases significantly during the third period. Today, inequality of treatment, in the political sense of the term, seems to have increased between the cantons. However, it should be noted that this analysis is purely quantitative. It would be necessary to compare comparable cases in different cantonal systems to determine whether objectively similar situations of disability lead to radically different decisions.

Case study - Snow guns[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Let's take the example of hypothetical legislation concerning the use of snow guns in ski resorts. Let's assume that this law clearly states that it is forbidden to use these machines between certain hours in order to minimise their impact on the environment. On paper, this rule is simple and straightforward. However, its implementation can be affected by a number of factors at local level. For example, local authorities may come under pressure from ski resort operators, who argue that the ban is damaging their operations and therefore the local economy. There may be a flexible interpretation of the law, with some officials turning a blind eye to non-compliance during peak periods of the ski season. In other cases, the application of the law may be inconsistent, with penalties for some offenders and not for others. There is also the possibility of what is known as "circumvention of the law". For example, ski resort operators can technically comply with the ban by switching off the machines during the prescribed hours, but they can switch them on again immediately afterwards, perhaps at a higher level to compensate for the time lost. In this way, they respect the letter of the law, but not its spirit. So, although the law on the use of snow cannons is clear and precise, its actual implementation can vary considerably, depending on factors such as local economic pressures, the interpretation of the law by those in charge and the tactics used to get round the law. This can lead to significant differences between the original purpose of the law and its actual impact on the ground.

The implementation of policies at local level can be strongly influenced by the power dynamics and relationships between the different actors involved. Specific configurations of actors can create considerable obstacles to the effective application of rules. For example, in a local community, a number of influential actors, such as business leaders, elected representatives or special interest groups, may oppose the application of a certain rule because of their own interests or beliefs. They may use their power and influence to challenge, delay or hinder the implementation of the rule. In some cases, actors may engage in rule-bypassing activities, for example by exploiting loopholes or ambiguities in the legislation, putting pressure on those responsible for enforcing the rules, or mobilising public opinion against the rule. This underlines the importance of taking account of local realities and power dynamics when designing and implementing policies. A thorough understanding of local actors, their interests and their relationships can help to anticipate potential challenges to the application of rules and to develop strategies to deal with them.

Clearly, the implementation of this specific rule on artificial snowmaking is fraught with challenges because of the diversity of the players involved and their divergent interests. Firstly, there is the commune of Les Agettes, a small town in the Valais, which is considering a merger with the town of Sion. Local decision-makers may be more concerned about the economic and political implications of this potential merger than about applying the rule on artificial snow. Secondly, there are the local environmental groups, who are seeking to enforce the law banning artificial snow before November 1, in order to protect the natural environment. Thirdly, there is the local promoter of Téléveysonnaz, who may have a commercial interest in early snowmaking to extend the ski season and attract more tourists. Finally, there are the hydropower producers, who need water to generate electricity. They might prefer their water not to be used for artificial snowmaking, as they need hydroelectricity for other uses, notably industrial and heating purposes, particularly during cold spells. Thus, the effective implementation of the rule on artificial snowmaking comes up against a variety of interests and local dynamics. This situation illustrates the complexity of the challenges involved in implementing policies, even when the law is clear and unambiguous.

This example highlights how local power dynamics can influence the effective implementation of public policy. In this case, Mr Fournier, described as an influential tourism player, appears to have enough power to openly circumvent the law on artificial snow. This behaviour suggests a perception that certain individuals or groups are, de facto, 'above the law' because of their local influence. What is particularly surprising in this situation is the passivity of local authorities and environmental groups. Although the latter might be expected to want to enforce the law, they have not prosecuted this illegal act. This might suggest that the reality of local power relations can sometimes go beyond the legal framework and policy implementation, and that the actors involved may be unable or unwilling to challenge these power dynamics due to various factors, such as political, economic or other considerations.

This example illustrates how, when implementing a policy, the law can sometimes be ignored or circumvented. In this case, no request for authorisation was submitted, the municipality that should have granted it did not react, and no action was reported to the cantonal authorities. What seems to exist is a tacit agreement between all the players involved: the law will simply not be applied. This situation highlights the complexity of implementing public policies, where local institutional, social and political forces can sometimes interfere with strict compliance with the law. It also highlights the importance of the local context and power dynamics in the interpretation and application of public policies.

This example is certainly evocative, but it is important to note that in some cases the stakes can be much higher than the snow cover on a few ski slopes. The concept of the "implementation gap" becomes crucial when, despite the clarity of the law, local resistance prevents the effective application of legal norms. This reminds us that drafting a law is only the first stage in the process of implementing public policy. The implementation of these laws can be hampered by various factors, including local resistance, conflicts of interest, power dynamics and variations in the interpretation of laws. This is why it is essential to examine public policies not only in the context of their conception, but also in the context of their implementation on the ground.

Bureaucracy "on the ground"[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

Concept and definition[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

In addition to executive federalism, another factor explaining the difficulties associated with policy implementation is the role of the "street-level bureaucrats" or front-line agents, also known as front-office agents. These are the individuals who work on a daily basis with the beneficiaries of public policies, and they often have a wide discretion in the way they apply directives and regulations. These front-line agents can include a variety of professionals such as social workers, teachers, police officers and many others. Their day-to-day interaction with citizens gives them a unique perspective on the effects of policies on the ground. As a result, they can play a decisive role in implementing policies, often by adapting, interpreting or even modifying directives to meet the specific needs of the people they work with.

Field" bureaucrats are civil servants who interact directly and frequently with citizens. They are responsible for granting authorisations or providing services. However, a key element of their role is their discretion, which allows them to tailor the implementation of policies to specific situations. The guidelines and rules they are charged with implementing are often not detailed enough to cover all possible situations. As a result, these bureaucrats have the freedom to interpret and apply these rules flexibly, according to their personal judgement. Moreover, these officials often enjoy a degree of autonomy from their superiors, reinforcing their discretionary power. This means that they have the freedom to make decisions without having to obtain prior approval from their superiors. It is this combination of discretionary power and autonomy that enables these field bureaucrats to have a significant influence on the way policies are implemented.

Applying the attributes mentioned above - regular and direct interaction with citizens, power of interpretation and discretion - leads us to understand that many public servants play a decisive role. They include teachers, university lecturers, police officers, social workers, judges and healthcare workers. These field bureaucrats are often faced with a multitude of situations for which the public policy guidelines they implement cannot anticipate every detail. The concrete, individual situations they face are so varied that it's up to them to assess in real time the best course of action to take. This can range from deciding whether or not to impose a sanction, to providing or refusing care, to selecting a particular subject to discuss or not, and so on. So it's up to them to make instant decisions based on the situations they encounter: deciding whether or not to apply a sanction, deciding whether or not to provide care, choosing a particular subject to discuss or setting it aside, and so on.

When drawing up a public policy, decision-makers need to bear in mind that, during the implementation phase, they may come up against resistance from the bureaucrats on the ground, i.e. those responsible for putting the policy into practice on the ground. These field bureaucrats, whether they are police officers, teachers, social workers or other civil servants in direct contact with the public, have a discretionary margin of manoeuvre in the application of policies. They have the power to interpret the rules and decide how to apply them in specific situations. This latitude can be used to shape, modify or even thwart the original intentions of the policy. For example, in education, a teacher may choose to interpret and apply curriculum guidelines in a way that reflects his or her own beliefs or the specific reality of the classroom. Similarly, a police officer may choose to enforce the law selectively or on the basis of his or her own interpretation of the rules. Furthermore, resistance to enforcement can also be a form of bottom-up feedback. Bureaucrats on the ground, faced with the day-to-day reality of policy implementation, may identify unforeseen problems or obstacles that were not apparent when the policy was formulated. Their reactions can therefore offer valuable lessons for improving future policies. It is therefore crucial for decision-makers to take this dynamic into account when formulating public policy. A good understanding of the reality on the ground, the mechanisms of implementation and the potential for resistance can greatly contribute to the success of the policy. To achieve this, it can be beneficial to involve stakeholders on the ground from the policy development phase onwards, and to put in place monitoring and feedback mechanisms to adapt the policy in real time and guarantee its effectiveness.

Applying the attributes mentioned above - regular and direct interaction with citizens, power of interpretation and discretion - leads us to understand that many public servants play a decisive role. They include teachers, university lecturers, police officers, social workers, judges and healthcare workers. These field bureaucrats are often faced with a multitude of situations for which the public policy guidelines they implement cannot anticipate every detail. The concrete, individual situations they face are so varied that it's up to them to assess in real time the best course of action to take. I argue that public policy is not best understood as made in legislatures or top-floor suites of high-ranking administrators, because in important ways it is actually made in the crowded offices and daily encounters of street-level workers".

Lipsky argues that to really understand public policy, we should not focus solely on the decisions made in legislatures or by senior civil servants. Instead, he points out that public policy is largely shaped in the crowded offices and day-to-day interactions of frontline workers. This idea challenges the traditional view of public policymaking, which generally assumes that decisions made by legislators and high-level administrators are directly translated into action on the ground. Instead, Lipsky stresses the importance of recognising the autonomy and discretion of field bureaucrats, who play an active and decisive role in policy implementation. Recognition of this phenomenon has important implications for the design and implementation of public policy. It means that decision-makers must take into account not only the intentions and objectives of the policy, but also the way in which they will be interpreted and implemented by the actors on the ground. Lipsky argues that to really understand public policy, we should not focus solely on the decisions made in legislatures or by senior civil servants.

Interactions between bureaucrats on the ground and citizens are at the heart of the effective implementation of public policy. These interactions are where public policy is interpreted, applied and adjusted to suit individual situations. These field bureaucrats not only have direct contact with citizens, they also have a detailed and nuanced understanding of local contexts and the specific problems that public policy aims to solve. They are often able to see the effects of public policies on the ground and understand how they can be adapted to better meet citizens' needs. Interactions between field bureaucrats and citizens can also have a significant impact on citizens' perceptions of public policy and public administration in general. Their attitudes, behaviour and how they apply public policy can influence citizens' trust in public institutions and their willingness to comply with public policy. Ultimately, if we want to understand how public policies are actually implemented and how they might be improved, it is crucial to focus on these interactions at street level. This requires a more decentralised and participatory approach to public policy, which takes into account the active role that grassroots bureaucrats play in policy implementation.

Street-level bureaucrats play a crucial role in the implementation of public policy. Their actions, decisions, routines and strategies can significantly impact how policies are applied and interpreted. For example, a social worker who interprets and applies welfare guidelines will directly influence how welfare is distributed, to whom it is allocated, and how recipients perceive it. In the same way, a teacher will decide how best to apply a curriculum and his or her interpretation and application will directly affect pupils' educational experiences. As a result, these field bureaucrats are in fact key players in public policy. They are the ones who actually 'make' policy on the ground. Their role therefore goes well beyond the mere execution of policies as conceived by decision-makers at a higher level. They are active agents in the implementation process, shaping and influencing policy through their day-to-day interactions with citizens. This perspective underlines the importance of considering stakeholders on the ground when designing and evaluating public policies. It is essential to understand their perspectives, challenges and strategies if public policies are to be implemented effectively.

Case study of social policy reform in California (Reference: Meyer et al., 1998)[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

This reform of social policy in California aimed to promote 'workfare' rather than 'welfare', i.e. to encourage welfare recipients to return to the labour market rather than remain dependent on government assistance. In this context, social workers have played an essential role in implementing this reform. As field bureaucrats, they were on the front line in interacting with welfare recipients, explaining the new requirements of the reform, helping them navigate the job search process and supporting them throughout this transition. However, social workers also had some leeway in interpreting and applying the reform. They have had to make discretionary decisions based on their assessment of each beneficiary's situation, abilities and needs. They also faced challenges and dilemmas, such as the difficulty of reconciling the objectives of the reform with the realities of the labour market and the individual circumstances of each beneficiary. This study therefore highlights the importance of grassroots bureaucrats in implementing public policy, and also illustrates the challenges they can face when confronted with reforms that require a significant change in the way services are delivered.

The promotion of the active welfare state is based on the idea that welfare is not simply a passive benefit provided by the state, but that it should also encourage and facilitate the active reintegration of recipients into society, and in particular into the labour market. This approach emphasises the importance of individual responsibility and the active participation of recipients in their reintegration process. As part of this reform in California, for example, welfare recipients were encouraged to seek employment, undertake training or participate in other activities that might improve their chances of finding a job. In exchange for this active participation, they continued to receive financial assistance from the state. However, the successful implementation of this approach depends largely on field bureaucrats, such as social workers, who are responsible for accompanying beneficiaries through the process, monitoring their progress and helping them to overcome any obstacles they may encounter.

Bureaucrats on the ground, those who work directly with beneficiaries, are often the first and most important interpreters of policy. Their understanding, interpretation and application of the rules can have a significant impact on how a policy is implemented in practice. In the case of social policy reform in California, these field bureaucrats were the social workers working in decentralised social agencies. For the reform to succeed, it was essential that these social workers fully understood the intent of the policy, how it should be implemented and the role they would play in the process. For this reason, a detailed training programme was put in place for these social workers. The aim of this programme was not only to provide them with the knowledge they needed to understand and implement the reform, but also to make them aware of the importance of their role and to motivate them to work proactively to help welfare recipients back into the labour market. This example clearly illustrates the importance of the role of field bureaucrats in implementing public policy, and shows how targeted efforts to train and support them can contribute to the success of a reform.

The use of ethnographic approaches, such as direct observation of interactions between field bureaucrats and welfare recipients, enables researchers to obtain a detailed view of how policy is applied on the ground. This includes not only how field bureaucrats interpret and apply the rules, but also how they interact with recipients, how they handle difficult or ambiguous situations, and what factors influence their behaviour. Researchers can then use this information to identify any problems or obstacles to the effective implementation of the policy, and to make recommendations on how these problems might be resolved. In addition, conducting interviews with field bureaucrats after the observations can also be very useful. These interviews can help to clarify and deepen the observations made, and can provide an opportunity to discuss any issues or concerns that field bureaucrats may have. They can also help to understand the motivations, attitudes and perceptions of field bureaucrats, all of which can have an impact on the way they implement policy.

It was a great disappointment when they realised, in the course of their observations, that the bureaucrats on the ground had never referred to the central principle of the reform, namely "it's always good to work". Despite the efforts made to train and raise the awareness of these key players, the reform seemed to have had no real impact. It seemed that despite all the efforts made, nothing had really changed on the ground.

This is a common disappointment when implementing public policies. Even with proper training and awareness-raising, it can be difficult to change the entrenched behaviours and routines of bureaucrats on the ground. This is all the more the case when new directives or policies require a major change in the way things are done.

There are several possible reasons for this:

  1. Resistance to change: As with any organisation or individual, there may be a natural resistance to change. Field bureaucrats may feel more comfortable with existing methods and procedures and may be reluctant to change their working habits.
  2. Lack of understanding or support: Despite training, field bureaucrats may not fully understand the new policy or be convinced of its benefits. They may also lack the support or resources to implement the change.
  3. Conflicting values or priorities: Field bureaucrats may not agree with the principles or objectives of the new policy. For example, in the case of the California reform, they may feel that welfare recipients need more support and understanding, rather than being pushed to work.
  4. Workload and stress: Implementing a new policy can lead to increased workload and stress for field bureaucrats, which may deter them from adopting it.

This example highlights the importance of the cooperation of all stakeholders in the implementation of a public policy, including those considered to be at the bottom of the hierarchy. Let's take the example of an education policy: its success depends to a large extent on the commitment of players on the ground such as teachers. If the latter resist or oppose the implementation of a reform, they have the power to block its application, despite decisions taken upstream at parliamentary or senior administrative level. In other words, the success of a public policy can be compromised if the bureaucrats on the ground do not support its vision and objectives.

Annexes[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

References[modifier | modifier le wikicode]

  1. Derthick, M. (1974). Implementation: How Great Expectations in Washington are Dashed in Oakland; Or, Why It's Amazing that Federal Programs Work at All, This Being a Saga of the Economic Development Administration as Told by Two Sympathetic Observers Who Seek to Build Morals on a Foundation of Ruined Hopes. By Jeffrey L. Pressman and Aaron Wildavsky (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973. pp. xviii, 182. $7.50.). American Political Science Review, 68(3), 1336-1337. doi:10.2307/1959201