Public Policy Polarization

Development of Public Policy, according to Charles E. Lindblom in his article The Science of “Muddling Through” [1], requires a rational process which is either optimal or not. He makes a distinction between the two processes and alleges that the optimal approach may work well for less complex issue resolution but, for major policies of a more complex nature, the time and difficulty required for the preferred methodology must be waived in favor of “muddling through” with the alternative approach. On the other hand, Anthony Downs in his article Up and down with ecology – the ”issue-attention cycle” (Locker, lecture) describes a five-step process for developing public policy he calls the “issue-attention cycle”. It appears there is a common denominator which prevails in both approaches to analysis of policy development, and that is the indispensable analysis of public ‘values’. Although one could never overlook other crucial elements of public policy making, it seems rational to delegate a primary degree of importance to at least some element of consensus in public ‘values’. This would beg the question, how can a consensus be established regarding public ‘values’ if multiculturalism is skewing the consensus with reluctance to assimilate or compromise ethnic and/or secular values? It would seem that the more unassimilated cultural diversity, as described by Samuel Huntington in “One Nation Out of Many: Why ‘Americanization’ of Newcomers Is Still Important” (Magazine article from The American Enterprise, Vol. 15, No. 6), the less ‘value’ consensus.

Lindblom suggests the best method of developing public policy involves an administrator listing all related values in order of importance, then all possible policy outcomes could be rated as more or less efficient in maximizing these values. This would of course require a prodigious inquiry into values held by members of society and an equally prodigious set of calculations on how much of each value is equal to how much of each other value. He could then proceed to outline all possible policy alternatives. In a third step, he would undertake systematic comparison of his multitude of alternatives to determine which attains the greatest amount of values. The preceding steps are admittedly costly, complex, and time-consuming. Therefore, Lindblom suggests simpler alternative options which he identifies as Rational-Comprehensive (Root) or Successive Limited Comparisons (Branch). Each of these methods involves a five-step process beginning with the identification, clarification, and selection of ‘values’; policy-formulation; means-end analysis; testing of “good” and appropriate policy; comprehensive analysis; and determination of reliance upon theory.

A topic presented during in-class lecture was the five-step ”issue-attention cycle” described by Anthony Downs. This process of addressing public policy-making outlined the circumstances which must exist in addressing public issues. According to Downs, not all major social problems go through this “issue-attention cycle.” The first component of the “issue-attention cycle” is the “Pre-problem stage” before the public becomes aware of the issue. The second is the “Alarmed discovery and euphoric enthusiasm” stage when the public becomes both aware of the issue and alarmed. The third stage is “Realizing the cost of significant progress” which will be required to solve the problem, and invariably involves some sacrifice by all interests. The fourth stage is the “Gradual decline of intense public interest” which occurs as affected interests become aware of the personal costs involved in the ‘solution’. The last stage is the “Post-problem stage” when the problem focus moves into a prolonged period of suspended or diminished activity due to decreased public attention during the first two stages (Locker, lecture).

Development of public policy must conform to political principles which govern all decision-making; who’s values prevail, who gets what, where, when, and how. There are tools available to decision-makers which have been formulated in development of empiric methodology, by Political Scientists. The tools and methodology proposed by Lindblom and Anthony Downs were developed under the presupposition of cultural homogeneity in the United States. The ‘deconstruction’ and polarization produced by “establishment institutions” which control political resources but do not reflect the consensus of the constituency are destructive of the “core culture” and/or the American creed when they seek to impose unnatural cultural changes without assimilation of cultures. The “indigestibility” of cultures which refuse assimilation, under the false flag of “diversity”, facilitates foreign and/or domestic enemies to implement their agendas of subterfuge while divisiveness and inability to foster consensus paralyzes the political machinery of our Constitutional Republic. John Adams said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” What he failed to consider was the cultural imperative: There can be no unity where cultures are antithetical.

[1] The Science of “Muddling Through”, Charles E. Lindblom, Public Administration Review, Vol. 19, No. 2 (Spring, 1959), pp. 79-88, Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the American Society for Public Administration


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