Introduction to Public Policy Analysis
Office: 201 Abernethy Hall
Office hours: Mon or Wed 9am-10am and after class.
Phone: (919) 843-5009
Grader: Valarie Cooley
Prerequisites: There are no prerequisites. However, some exposure to economic analysis at the level of ECON 10 is helpful. Students are strongly encouraged to enroll in ECON 10.
Download Syllabus (Word 2000)
Public policy analysis may be viewed as an element of the larger process of public policy making, beginning with the identification and definition of a problem in the public realm, the generation of policy options or choices for addressing the problem, the selection of a particular policy option through political institutions (e.g., a legislature or governor) and the development of a plan for implementation, and the implementation and evaluation of that policy by the government (or others that the government directs.)
An important goal of public policy analysis is to help policy makers arrive at viable, informed policy choices with a credible expectation of what the expected outcome(s) of those policy choices will be. In a world of complex political and socioeconomic processes, predicting the effectiveness of a particular policy relative to the intended goals while identifying potential unintended consequences is a difficult task. If policy making is an art, policy analysis aims to add a bit of science to the art.
This course is designed to help you develop the skills required to define
and critically analyze policy issues and problems, articulate relevant
decision-making criteria for policy analysis, evaluate alternative policy
solutions, and assess the means and costs of implementation.
These skills and techniques will be applied to a wide range of substantive
public policy issues, with the idea that a good policy analyst can approach
problems as a generalist and bring more specific information from a given
policy area to bear in the analysis.
· Munger, Michael C., Analyzing Policy: Choices, Conflicts and Practices. W.W. Norton & Company, 2000. (ISBN 0-393-97399-9)
· Weimer, D. and Vining, A., Policy Analysis: Concepts and Practices, 3rd Edition. Prentice Hall, 1998. (ISBN 0-13-109083-6)
· Stone, Policy Paradox and Political Reason, Revised Edition. Harper Collins. 2000. (ISBN: 0393976254)
· Hird and Reese, Controversies in American Public Policy. Bedford: St. Martins, 1999 (ISBN: 1-57259-750-X)
· Kennedy School Cases (access through Xanadu at: http://www.unc.edu/~perreira/xanedu71.html)
· Supplemental Readings: Electronic Reserves (access through
Your final grade will be based on the following assignments/exams:
3-part policy memo
Mid-term exam 20%
Group presentations of case studies 15%
Final exam 25%
Class participation and homework assignments 10%
Letter grades are assigned as follows:
A (100-94) B+ (89-86)
C+ (79-76) D+ (69-66)
A- (93-90) B (85-83) C (75-73) D (65-63)
B- (82-80) C- (72-70) D- (62-60)
Evaluation of Essays and Presentations
Writing a good essay is a skill that takes years of practice, patience, and constant editing. It is one of the most important skills you need to be successful regardless of the career you choose to pursue. If you cannot write well by the time you graduate from UNC, you will have wasted your time and your parents' money. There are several different styles of writing (e.g. creative, technical, scientific). This course will focus on writing a policy analysis.
Improvement and effort will be considered in your final participation grade. Either I or the grader will read drafts of your paper submitted to us by November 19, 2003. I encourage all of you to take advantage of the opportunity to have us read your draft. The sooner you turn in a draft, the more likely it is that we will be able to review it.
Papers should be double-spaced with 1” margins on all sides, 12 pt font and no more than 3000 words. A cover sheet should be included with your name, paper title, course number, date, word count, and a signed honor’s pledge. Do not include your name on any other page. There should be a minimum of 10 references in the paper. Your references should include government documents, peer-reviewed articles, and books. A maximum of 4 web-articles will be counted as references. All in-text citations and references should use the APA citation format as discussed by the Writing Center in http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/apa_2002.html. A failure to follow these guidelines may result in a penalty of up to 10 (out of 100) points.
Papers and short answer essays will be graded as follows: Content,
Clarity, Comprehensiveness, and Creativity. Presentations will be
graded using similar criteria: Content, Clarity, Comprehensiveness,
Creativity, Peer Evaluations; Group Participation.
Grade Appeal Policy
I take the evaluation and grading of your exams very seriously because I know that most of you take the preparation and writing of your exams very seriously. I read each paper and exam several times before I assign a grade to it. In arriving at a grade for a particular essay, I first assess whether it meets the basic criteria defined in the guidelines above. A one-page evaluation sheet will be attached to your paper indicating your performance with respect to these criteria. I then employ a method referred to as peer reference norm grading. I compare your essay to those essays that I believe represent excellence, both in the content and the presentation of that content. Upon request, I am happy to provide you with a copy of these essays.
If you think you deserve a higher grade on a paper or exam, you may
write a letter and explain why you would like to appeal the grade.
Before making an appeal, you should review your evaluation sheet and re-read
your paper with these comments in mind. You should then read the
model essay posted on-line. After I receive your letter, I will re-read
your paper/exam within 1-2 class periods. Depending on my re-reading,
your grade may stay the same, be raised, or be lowered. This
system is designed to minimize frivolous grade appeals and to ensure that
you have carefully examined and reflected on the quality of your work before
deciding to initiate a grade appeal.
Munger, Michael C.: This book provides a basis for the material in this course. However, many undergraduates have found it challenging. Therefore, I have included the books by Weimer and Vining and by Rosen to supplement the material in Munger. The syllabus provides you with alternative readings for each of the main ideas in Munger. So, you may always read these alternatives if you prefer.
Weimer, D. and Vining: This book is primarily used in master’s courses in public policy. I have chosen to include it here as a complement to Munger’s book. Some of you may simply prefer to read this book instead of Munger. This is absolutely fine.
Rosen, Harvey S.: This book is not required. However, many of the economic principles of policy analysis are derived from basic public finance theory. Because the focus of this book is on the economics and does not presume any background in economics, its discussion of consumer surplus, producer surplus, deadweight loss and other ideas in Munger and in Weimer and Vining may be easier to read.
Stone, Deborah: This is a very well written and readable book that provides an alternative to the rational analysis model discussed in both Munger (2000) and Weiner and Vining (1999). During the beginning of class, we will read the first third of the book and discuss value conflicts and policy goals other than efficiency, the primary goal presumed by rational policy analysis.
Hird and Reese: This book provides viewpoints on current issues in public policy. We will evaluate 2-3 cases studies contained in this book. These cases are real policy cases that give us an opportunity to apply our skills and do our own analyses.
Kennedy School Cases: As with the cases in Hird and Reese (2000), these cases are real policy cases that give us an opportunity to apply our skills and do our own analyses. You will work through these cases in small groups and complete short homework assignments regarding these cases.
Three Part Policy Memos
Choose one of the 6 topics below and assume the role of an analyst presenting an unbiased review of the key issues to a senator. Prepare a policy memo that the senator can use to develop his/her opinion on the issue. As described below, the policy memo should be laid out in three parts. The senator has very little time to read your analysis and make his/her decision. Therefore, you need to be concise and well organized. The policy memo should be no more than 3,000 words and should include the word count on the cover page.
The following topics have been selected for you based on the timeliness of the issue in current policy making and on the ease of gathering information on the topic to complete your own analyses. These are all federal-level policy issues, however, many of them have local and state implications. You may choose to keep your analysis focused on the federal level and conduct your analysis as if you were working for a senator. Alternatively, you may consider the effects for North Carolina and conduct your analysis as if you were working for the governor. While each person in the class must submit a separate final paper, those of you working on the same topic may choose to combine forces and help each other with the research and analysis. To assist with this, I will create a table that indicates each person’s topic choice and e-mail address.
Medicare Prescription Drug Coverage:
In the 108th Congress, several bills to provide prescription drug coverage to Medicare recipients have been introduced. After researching this issue, you will be able to: (1) describe the Medicare program, (2) explain why prescription drug coverage became a focal issue in the 108th Congress, (3) identify key stakeholders in this debate and their motivations for introducing/promoting/criticizing these bills during the 108th Congress, (4) evaluate alternative forms of coverage that have been proposed, and (5) argue for the passage of one of these proposals or the maintenance of the status quo.
Medical Malpractice Reform:
President Bush defined medical malpractice reform as a key issue during his 2003 State of the Union address. But even before this, several states had taken up the issue as strikes by doctors called attention to the rising cost of malpractice insurance. After researching this issue, you will be able to: (1) describe the medical malpractice insurance system, (2) discuss the costs and benefits of the current system, (3) identify key groups/stakeholders that will be affected by changes in the system, (4) evaluate the political feasibility of changing the malpractice insurance system, (5) evaluate alternative proposals to change the system, and (5) argue for the passage of one of these proposals or the maintenance of the status quo.
No Child Left Behind:
On January 8, 2002, President Bush signed into law the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. The Act is the most sweeping reform of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) since ESEA was enacted in 1965. It redefines the federal role in K-12 education and is intended to help close the achievement gap between disadvantaged and minority students and their peers. Because this legislation has already been passed and is currently being implemented, those of you choosing to evaluate it have an opportunity to focus more on the problems of implementation. In this analysis you will: (1) describe the various rationales for advocating a reform of the ESEA, (2) evaluate the motivations of various advocates/stakeholders for and against change in the system, (3) discuss alternatives considered before the enactment of No Child Left Behind, (4) assess its implementation in North Carolina (or another state of your choosing), and (5) recommend changes to the program to improve implementation and the probability that the program will achieve its goals successfully.
Oil Drilling in Alaska:
For the past 2 years, President Bush has supported a campaign to allow oil drilling in the Alaskan Wildlife Refuge (ANWR). This campaign has not yet been successful. In researching this issue you will: (1) identify the rationales for Alaskan oil drilling, (2) discuss the motivations of key stakeholders for and against the campaign to allow oil drilling in ANWR, (3) evaluate alternative ways of meeting the “goals” of oil drilling in Alaska, (4) assess the political feasibility of the proposal, and (5) develop an argument for the proposal to drill in Alaska or an alternative proposal that will meet the goals you’ve identified.
The Bush “Jr.” Tax Cut:
In 2001, Bush pushed Congress to pass the Economic Growth and Tax Relief Reconciliation Act, which reduced income tax rates and called for the elimination of the estate tax over a 10-year period. With some modifications, this effort was successful. In 2003, Bush has been trying to pass a second round of tax cuts. The president's new plan calls for 1) The elimination of taxes on stock dividends; 2) A speeding up of tax rate reductions Congress passed in 2001; and 3) An immediate end to the estate tax. Both rounds of tax cuts have been extremely controversial. After researching this topic, you should be able to: (1) describe the first and second tax cut proposals, (2) state Bush’s rationale for each set of tax cuts, (3) explain the controversy surrounding these tax cuts, (4) identify and critique alternatives to the Bush tax cut plans, and (5) argue for or against the most recent Bush tax cut proposal.
Organization of Your Policy Analysis
Part 1: Problem Definition and Stakeholder Interests
Define and describe a public policy problem of interest to you, including the size, scope and incidence of the problem and the affected groups. In this part of the analysis, you should:
Part 2: Alternative Solutions and Criteria for Evaluation
Consider the policy choices available to policy makers to address the problem, explicate the relevant criteria for choosing among policy alternatives, including appropriate weights for the criteria and tradeoffs among the criteria, and identify political and organizational constraints to implementing the policy. In developing your analysis, you should:
In the final part of the memo, you will recommend one of the alternatives that you discussed in part 2 to the senator and justify your recommendation.
By the time this part is due, we will have discussed the analytical tool of cost-benefit analysis in greater depth. To the extent your topic/information will allow, you should attempt a crude cost-benefit analysis, even if you can’t generate all of the numbers you need. You can estimate using the information at hand or summarize the cost-benefit estimations done by others. The Office of Management and the Budget and the Congressional Budget Office may have cost-benefit analyses available.
Most importantly, you should specify the tradeoffs (benefits and costs) to different stakeholder groups of your policy choice. You might also want to discuss the different factors on which successful implementation of your policy will hinge (i.e., the assumptions you are making about political feasibility and economic conditions that might affect costs).
The group presentations of case studies will be conducted at the end of each section. Each presentation should focus on analyzing the case study using the concepts introduced in the section. We will divide the class into 5 groups with about 6 students in each group. One group will lead each case study. The exact format of the debate – round-table discussion, Oprah style, or formal debate – will be determined by your group. This exercise is intended to promote sharp, critical thinking and lively debate using the tools of analysis developed throughout the course. It is also intended to develop your skills in working in teams and developing presentations. The topics for the case study presentations are as follows:
Class meetings will typically combine lecture by the instructor with class discussion. Your punctual class attendance will be critical, as there is a substantial amount of material to cover in this course. You will be expected to complete all reading assignments prior to the class meeting. Reading is essential both to understanding the lectures and participating in class discussions. At times, attendance will be taken and short practice questions to help you understand the material will be handed out. Your attendance, participation in class discussions, completion of homework assignments and discussions you engage in with me via e-mail or during office hours will influence your participation grade.
I am fully aware that speaking among a group of strangers is often an anxiety producing experience. However, each student WILL be called upon to contribute to the learning process through discussion. No one will be allowed the luxury of passive anonymity. I want to assure you, therefore, that your thoughts and opinions will always be treated with respect. You will primarily be asked to share your views and thoughts with other students on topics which you have had time to think about in advance or have had an opportunity to organize in writing.
If you wish clarification of anything that you read or hear in class but do not wish to publicly ask a question, write out your question, leave it on the desk at the end of class and I will respond to it the following class session. Alternatively, you may e-mail me the question and I will respond to you.
To help improve the quality of discussion in class, you should also form study groups and follow debates regarding current policy issues. To follow current policy debates:
I expect you to turn in all assignments on time. Assignments not turned in on time will be marked down by 5 points for each day they are late. You are welcome to turn papers in early if you expect to be absent on the due date. You should plan your schedules accordingly. This policy is based on fairness and learning. In fairness to other students who may have wanted extra time for their papers, no exceptions will be made.
Date Lecture topic
8/27 What is Policy
Handout: An Overview of Policy Analysis
Munger Ch 1: Policy Analysis as a Profession and a Process
9/1 LABOR DAY HOLIDAY
9/3 The Rational
Model of Policy Analysis
Weimer and Vining, Ch 10: Landing on Your Feet: How to Confront Policy Problems
#Weimer and Vining, Ch 1: The Canadian Salmon Fishery
DUE: Selection of topic for policy memos
DUE: Selection of topic for presentations
SECTION 1: ETHICAL FRAMEWORKS FOR ANALYSIS: DEFINING PUBLIC GOALS AND PROBLEMS
9/8 The Politics of Problem
Stone Ch 1: The Market and the Polis
KSG Case: The Battle over the Clinton Health Care Proposal
#Weiner and Vining, Ch 7: Rationales for Public Policy, Distributional and Other Goals
HANDOUT: Homework 1 (Defining Your Policy Problem)
9/10 Efficiency and Equity
Stone Ch 2: Equity
Stone Ch 3: Efficiency
*9/15 Case Study 1: Health Care Policy (Continued from 9/8)
Guest Speaker: Jonathan B. Oberlander
Hird and Reese: Ch 4, “Should Other States Follow the ‘Oregon Plan’ in Rationing Health Care under the Medicaid Program”
#Daniels, “Is the Oregon Rationing Plan Fair?”
#Eddy, “Cost-effectiveness analysis. A conversation with my father.”
#Eddy, “Cost-effectiveness analysis. Is it up to the task?”
#Eddy, “Cost-effectiveness analysis. Will it be accepted?”
DUE: Homework 1
9/17 Security and Liberty Tradeoffs
Stone Ch 4: Security
Stone Ch 5: Liberty
*9/22 Presentation by Group 1
KSG Case: Matters of Life and Death: Defunding Organ Transplants in the State of Arizona
SECTION 2: THE MARKET FAILURE FRAMEWORK
*9/24 What is a market?
Munger, Ch 3: A Benchmark for Performance
Munger, Case Study 1 (pp. 89): The Prison Camp Example
Guest Speaker: Michael Munger
9/29 Criteria for Evaluating Markets
Munger, Ch 4: pp. 100-113
Rosen, Ch 4: Tools for Normative Analysis
#Weimer and Vining, Ch 4: Efficiency and the Idealized Competitive Model
Handout: Homework 2 (Evaluating Markets)
10/1 Perfect Competition and Market Failures
Munger, Ch 4: pp 113-130
#Weimer and Vining, Ch 5: Rationales for Public Policy (pp. 94-115)
#Rosen, Ch 6: Externalities
10/6 Responses to Market Failure: Information
Problems and Externalities
Weiner and Vining, Ch 9: Correcting Market and Government Failures
DUE: Homework 2
*10/8 Group Presentation 2
Hird and Reese, Ch 12: Should the Sale of Handguns be Strictly Controlled?
Handout: Homework 3 (Annotated Bibliography of 10 references)
10/13 REVIEW/MAKE-UP SESSION
*10/15 MIDTERM EXAM
Proctored by: Valarie Cooley
*10/20 Group Presentation 3
KSG Case: The Urban League Youth Subminimum Wage
10/22 FALL BREAK
10/27 Responses to Market Failure: Fishbanks
1 – Simulation
Fishbanks Background Packet
10/29 Responses to Market Failure: Public Goods
and Collective Action Failure
Bickers and Williams, Ch 4. The Problem of Collective Action
Weimer and Vining, Ch 5 pp. 74-94.
#Rosen, Ch 5: Public Goods
DUE: Homework 3
*11/3 Responses to Market Failure: Natural Monopoly
No additional readings,
Weimer and Vining pp. 100-105
*11/5 Presentation by Group 4
KSG Case: Cable Wars
HANDOUT: Homework 4 ( Analyzing a Collective Action Problem)
SECTION 3: POLITICAL FEASIBLITY AND GOVERNMENT FAILURES FRAMEWORK
11/10 Government Failure: Problems in
Munger, Ch 6: Democratic Decisions and Government Failure
#Rosen, Ch 7: Public Choice
11/12 Government Failure: Problems of Bureaucratic
Incentives and Supply
Weimer and Vining, Ch 8: Limits to Public Intervention
HANDOUT: Government Failure
DUE: Homework 4
11/17 Government Failure: Problems in Implementation
and Political Feasibility
Weimer and Vining, Ch. 13: Thinking Strategically about Adoption and Implementation
#Goggin, Ch. 3: Federal Level Inducements and Constraints
#Meltsner: “Political Feasiblity and Policy Analysis”
*11/19 Presentation by Group 5
Munger, Case Study 3 (pp. 271): Social Security Crisis?
Hird and Reese, Ch 8: Should Social Security be Privatized?
#Browning and Browning, Ch 7: Social Security
DUE: Completed Draft of Policy Memo (if you want an initial review)
SECTION 5: COMPARING SOLUTIONS THROUGH RATIONAL ANALYSIS
11/24 Cost-Benefit Analysis
Munger, Ch 11
#Evans, “Principles Involved in Costing”
#Boardman, “An Introduction to Cost Benefit Analysis”
#Rosen, Ch 12
#Weimer and Vining, Ch 12 (pp. 331-351)
11/26 THANKSGIVING RECESS
Munger, Ch. 10
#Weimer and Vining, Ch 12 (pp. 351-361)
#Stokey and Zeckhauser, Ch 10: The Valuation of Future Consequences: Discounting
HANDOUT: Homework 5 (Doing CBA)
12/3 CBA: An Ethical Critique
Kelman, “Cost-Benefit Analysis: An Ethical Critique”
#Stone, Ch 10: “Decisions”
#Hardon, “Cost-Effectiveness Meets the Rule of Rescue”
12/8 Review and Summary
Handout: From Markets to Government and Back Again
DUE: Homework 5
DUE: Final Policy Memo
12/16 Final Exam 4:00 pm
Resources for Students
Main Page Research Interests C.V. Biosketch PLCY 74 PLCY 49 Teaching Philosophy Links