A model of choice for public policy

Jones, B. D.; Baumgartner, F. R.
July 2005
Journal of Public Administration Research & Theory;7/1/2005, Vol. 15 Issue 3, p325
Academic Journal
Punctuated equilibrium is supposed to be a viable alternative to incrementalism, and, indeed, the authors of the model have sometimes made such claims. But punctuated equilibrium was developed to explain change in policy subsystems and does not serve as a complete model of policy choice in the same way that incrementalism has served. This article develops a full-blown and viable model of choice for public policy based on disproportionate information processing. Its dynamics are based in the allocation of political attention to policy topics and the manner in which political systems process information. The model leads directly to outcomes that are consistent with punctuated equilibrium and are not generally consistent with incrementalism. Incrementalism, however, may be deduced from the model as a special case. The model is best tested using stochastic process approaches. Incrementalism logically must yield a normal distribution of outcomes, but disproportionate information processing yields leptokurtic outcomes. Adding institutional constraints only makes the stochastic process implications more severe. To support our arguments, we present both static and dynamic simulations of these processes. We also show that these simulations are consistent with observations of U.S. government budgets.


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