Friday, November 5, 2010

APPAM Panel: Boundary Crossing Problems

May, Jochim, Pump -- We need convergence in attention to particular dimensions of a problem across different subsystems. Bureaucratic policymaking tends to be less on the frontburner (e.g. food safety). Anemic policymaking is the problem of getting anything done (e.g. infrastructure). You don't solve problems generally by top-down grand coalitions as typically argued, but by coalitions pushing on their representatives to effect change.

Pump -- Policymaking is messy and crossboundary problems messier: many institutions means many veto points. Information is not neutral and it must be politically processed. The fact that the Fed could have bought $600billion in assets in September but didn't is a political issue. Other things equal, the deeper the recession, the greater the partisan conflict. This slows down policy responses.

Discussant: The problem is that the argument is a lot messier and needs cleaning. Automatic stabilizers play a much larger roll now than before, as does monetary policy. Does the speed with which government respond depend on size of recession? How is failure to respond to recession different from the normal, delayed legislative process?

Moffitt and Cohen -- When does bad news about policies/programs finally have a political impact? A: when implementers lack ability to respond. Bad news can be a policy instrument. Bad news without an established infrastructure does not tell us what policy is needed. It only identifies a problem.

Discussant: All policies start with bad news. The question is which problems are worst.

Sapotichne (MSU) -- Urban policy is not dead. They are concerned about a number of problems that are highly urban, and the attention has simply shifted from "urban problems" to dealing with particular problems that are mostly in urban areas (crime, pollution, terrorist attacks). Policy change is not driven by macropolitics, but by discrete urban components of policy sectors.

DW -- Who controls the data collection and dissemination? There is an ability to hide bad news that is embarrassing and to bring out bad news that increases funding or attention to policy spheres and policy action that supports the data-collecting institution's interests. Examples include FAO on hunger data during the food price spike, climate change data, other bad news that is important to an upcoming election.

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