Sunday, June 2, 2013

Policy Analysis

There are a number of different types of policy analysis to potentially use.  In the case of examining the passage of the Single European Act (SEA) and the creation of the Single Market, events that have already happened, analysis entails what Patton refers to as “descriptive” or “ex post” policy analysis (Patton, 19).  There are two key components of descriptive policy analysis, the first being “retrospective analysis” which is the “description and interpretation of past policies.” (Patton, 19)  The second part of descriptive policy analysis is evaluative, which seeks to examine if the “purposes of the policy” were met. (Patton, 19)  Patton further identifies six steps to follow in the basic policy analysis process:

1)    Verify, Define, and Detail the Problem
2)    Establish evaluation criteria
3)    Identify alternative policies
4)    Evaluate alternative policies
5)    Display and select among alternative policies
6)    Monitor policy outcomes

In identifying which article provides the most logically sound account of the SEA, Patton’s framework is useful to provide a framework for evaluation.

In the first article, Moravcsik argues that the European community “reform rested on interstate bargains between Britain, France, and Germany.” (Moravcsik, 21)  He also points out that there were a number of important preconditions to facilitate changes including “the convergence of economic policy prescriptions of the ruling party coalitions” and the “negotiating leverage that France and Germany gained by exploiting the threat of creating a ‘two-track’ Europe and excluding Britain from it.” (Moravscik, 21)
Moravscik argues that intergovernmental institutionalism is the best explanatory theory.  Intergovernmental institutionalism places a certain degree of emphasis on the importance of supranational organizations in cementing existing interstate bargains as the foundation for integration, but also notes that the main source of integration lies in the interests of the states themselves. 
Intergovernmental institutionalism is “based on three principles: intergovernmentalism, lowest-common-denominator bargaining, and strict limits on future transfers of sovereignty.” (Moravschik, 25)  Intergovernmentalism refers to the idea that the expression of state political interest is done at the domestic or national level.  Lowest-common-denominator bargaining means that bargaining “tends to converge toward the lowest common denominator large state interests.” (Moravschik, 26.)  Finally, the strict limits on the future transfers of sovereignty refers to states seeking to prevent large losses of sovereignty to a supranational organization.
            Sandholtz and Zysman primarily focus their article on the importance of economic bases of power.  They argue that “a real shift in the distribution of economic power resources” caused changes within the EU.  Generally speaking, the authors portray increases of economic capabilities in Asia as a catalyst for change.  The rise of Asia necessitated that the European states cooperate economically to remain globally relevant.  Furthermore, Sandholtz and Zysman also argue that the “failure of national strategies for economic growth and the transformation of the left in European politics” led to more European-level, market-oriented solutions. (Sandholtz, 108)  Thus, it was a combination of changes inherent to European states as well as international shifts that resulted in the passage of SEA and the Single Market.
            Garret presents a more eclectic argument than Moravcsik and Sandholtz/Zysman, writing that his “study…draws on several approaches developed in other areas, including those based on spatial theories of political competition and those focusing on bargaining games, the effects of incomplete information, and the dynamics of incomplete contracting.” (Garret, 536)  Using these tools, Garret seeks to answer questions surrounding the dynamics of the EU’s internal market, power structures, and institutions.   Garret points out that authors like Sandholtz and Zysman could be mistaken in attributing the passage of SEA to the rise of other powers like Asia and argues that the EU could have written a number of alternative policy prescriptions.  Garret places a greater degree of emphasis on the role of power politics and how stronger states are able to exert their will within the EU.
            In using Patton’s policy analysis tools, I found the arguments of Sandholtz and Zysman to be the most logically sound, although others might disagree with me.  I thought that they clearly outlined and described an issue (shifting balances of economic power) and established how and why the EU decided to act.  The authors did a good job coherently laying out, in methodical and clear manner, their approach and articulating the circumstances that allowed for the passage of SEA.  Garret’s point is well taken in that there were other possible policy options, but in terms of explaining what happened, I thought Sandholtz and Zysman did a nice job.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    1. Sorry, typo here, copy and pasted my comment below...

  2. I'm with you in the Sandholtz/Zysman camp. I've already put in other comments and my own post why I prefer their analysis, but I thought it was interesting that you found the approach by Garrett to be the most eclectic. I actually thought Sandholtz/Zysman were the least rigid in their analysis. Garrett's approach seemed functionalist, but it was my second favorite because it touched a little bit more than Moravcsik on the implications of the SEA.

  3. After reading your take on Sandholz&Zysman I understand why it was it considered the logical choice for the two of you. I agree that they outlined and described the issue well and stated how and why the EU decided to act. They did a good job laying out their approach and "articulating the circumstances that allowed for the passage of SEA."

    However, I'm still pulling for Moravcsik's article mainly due to his explanation of the theory behind the success of the passage.

  4. A very thorough post, Grant! As I think about the technique of policy analysis, I'd point out that we should also pay close attention to who the key actors are in the policy process. Obviously, policies don't just "happen" but are instead thought about, discussed, refined, passed, and implemented by individuals and groups. The actors for Moravcsik's liberal intergovernmentalist account are fairly clear -- the member state governments are the key actors. But what about the accounts from Sandholtz & Zysman and from Garrett? I'm curious as to who you and others would identify as the key actors here?

  5. I agree with what Garrett and Moravcsik emphasized, that the relative power of State actors played a large role in the outcome of the SEA. I do however think that the other key actors to keep in mind here are the other international markets (America, Asia), transnational businesses (who sought lower barriers to entry into new national markets) and of course, domestic constituents (who's opinions varied, but left their impression [keeping in mind the limitation of information exchange that determined whether political actors would act truly rationally and in their constituent's interests] and local farmers and local businesses (who actually stood to loose quite a bit potentially from economic integration into a single market, since this would usher in new competition into their previously domestic markets).

  6. I think one of the most important things to keep in mind when considering Sandholtz & Zysman's neofunctionalist account is that the supranational actors in the EU itself (particularly the Commission, and in this case Delors as Commission president) are key actors. It was Delors and the Commission that brought the SEA proposal *to* the Member States (not the other way around!) and thus set the stage and circumscribed the policy space available to states throughout the process!