Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making

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Norton, 1988 - Political Science - 428 pages
2 Reviews
Unlike most texts, which treat policy analysis and policy making as different enterprises, Policy Paradox demonstrates that "you can't take politics out of analysis." Through a uniquely rich and comprehensive model, this revised edition continues to show how real-world policy grows out of differing ideals, even definitions, of basic societal goals like security, equality, and liberty. The book also demonstrates how these ideals often conflict in policy implementation.

In this revised edition, Stone has added a full-length case study as an appendix, taking up the issue of affirmative action. Clear, provocative, and engaging, Policy Paradox conveys the richness of public policy making and analysis.

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1. Summary. Policy Paradox outlines a method of policy analysis based on the assumption that policy decisions are made within society as a community. This is opposed to what she calls the “rationality project” where decisions are made by individuals to maximize their personal value and where the policy of a community is simply the aggregate of all the individual vectors. Stone says that policy discussions—the selection of goals, definition of problems, and implementation of solutions—is are inherently political and cannot be objective. She embraces the this subjective environment and encourages policy analysts to use her rubric to fight for their favored policies. The book is organized into three sections. First, she discusses society’s goals. To Stone, policy disagreements occur over different interpretations of mutually held abstract values. Second, she discusses problem definition. Political actors, she says, use stories to frame the policy disagreement in terms that favor their own interpretation of the goals. Finally, she discusses methods that political actors use to solve policy problems. She describes solutions as unique sporting grounds, each with its own unique set of rules, moves, and countermoves.
2. Critique. Stone’s basic argument-- about the hopelessness ofthat objective policy-making is unrealistic-- is convincing. Among the first clichés uttered when one moves to Washington, D.C., is that everything is political. I like how she embraces that. Surely policymaking is political because that is who we are as humans, and it is refreshing to have an academic get past that and begin to work within that system. This reality, however, is also more complicated than some rational system. The abstract, rational simplifications were useful for analysis because they arrived at an approximation of reality in ways that made sense to rational brains. As evidenced in her analysis of affirmative action in the last chapter, her technique can be less helpful. The most useful parts of this book were the boxes which detailed good insights into real politics in bullet form and her analysis of the moves and countermoves of specific policy-making strategies (which she calls “problems” and “solutions”).

Review: Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making

User Review  - Bryan - Goodreads

If you like politics and you want a general tool box of the policy making process, this is the book for you. This book does get a little long winded but I think the writing is very well rounded and is willing to look at all sides regardless of how boarding it gets. Read full review

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About the author (1988)

Deborah Stone holds appointments as Research Professor of Government at Dartmouth College and Honorary Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University in Denmark. She has taught in undergraduate and graduate programs at Brandeis, MIT, Yale, Tulane, and Duke, as well as in universities worldwide where Policy Paradox is used.

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