JPP Issue 34.2: Letter from the Editors

By Anthony Bertelli (@tonybertelli), University of Southern California and Peter John (@peterjohn10), University College London

We are now about halfway through our five-year term of office as editors of JPP. It is good moment to reflect on our achievements so far and to consider what is to come next. We hope you think it is fair to say that we have firmly put our stamp on the journal, not least by its new, striking design and changes to its editorial style. The journal has expanded, too. Though we still publish three issues per year, we have increased the number of articles in each issue to between six and eight. There is more throughput overall, which reflects the greater number of submissions, particularly from younger scholars. Further, we are able to quickly disseminate author manuscripts online well before print production using FirstView. We are quite pleased about the high quality of the papers we are getting and seeing them improve during the editorial process until they are released to our readers.

We trust scholars in the public policy community now know more about who we are and the nature of the journal and can observe our presence at conferences and other academic gatherings. We also use Twitter and have a blog to augment our digital presence and real-time engagement with our readers and experts in the field regarding current issues of JPP, policy topic matter in academia and current events relevant to public policy. We are now defining our strategic plan so that the next steps we take will support our success in future years. A strong part of this involves drawing upon the members of our expanded editorial board, who have a great deal of expertise from which we have regularly drawn to guide our work. Continue reading

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Ties That Count: Explaining Interest Group Access to Policymakers


By Jan Beyers (@JanBeyers2), University of Antwerp & Caelesta Braun, Vu University Amsterdam

Why coalition positions matter for access to policymakers

Getting a foot in the government’s door is one of the core challenges for interest groups to successfully influence public policy. While outside lobbying and media strategies are certainly important, direct access to policymakers seems to count most in the exercise of influence. The access interest groups enjoy is often conceptualized as a mutually beneficial exchange between public officials and interest groups in which the transmission of policy relevant information has a central place. Interest groups exchange technical expertise and political information about their constituencies’ support in return for access to the policy process, be it control over policy outcomes or the ability to monitor information on the policy process. Policy officials are open to the information interest groups supply, because they face limited capabilities in terms of time, resources and agenda space. Yet, because of their limited capabilities and the transaction costs associated with interactions with interest groups, policymakers cannot exchange resources with every individual interest group. A large number of interest groups will rarely, if ever, gain direct access to policymakers. This creates a strong incentive for interest groups to strategize their attempts to access policymakers as efficiently and effectively as possible. More to the point, when transaction costs are high, joining forces and collectively aiming to impact policy may have strong added value. It is, indeed, well-established in the literature that forging coalitions is fundamentally geared to achieve lobby success. In the end, joining forces should yield substantial benefits compared to individual lobbying, including most notably gaining direct access to policymakers and the realizing favorable policy outcomes. Continue reading

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With Nearly 1 Million Unemployed Youths in the UK, New Policy Proposals Aimed at Tackling the Issue Are Necessary

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Source: Scriptonite Daily

By Nye Cominetti, Socio-Economic Centre

Cross-post from LSE, Originally Published March 12, 2014

The government’s policies aimed at tackling youth unemployment in the UK have so far been disappointing: wage incentive payments have had little impact, and there has been less uptake of the government’s apprenticeship scheme than targeted. Thankfully, Nick Clegg has recently come out with new proposals that will contribute to tackling some of the structural issues behind stubbornly high youth unemployment. But, bolder action could be taken, and it is a problem worth spending money on, writes Nye Cominetti.

Tackling the UK’s youth unemployment crisis is one of the most pressing issues facing the coalition government. Given their first response had little impact, it’s worth considering whether the latest announcements will fare any better.

With youth unemployment at over a million in April 2012, ‘The Youth Contract’ was the centre-piece of the government’s response. This included wage subsidies for employers taking on young people, as well as increased funding for apprenticeships, work experience placements and internships. Collectively, the schemes included under The Youth Contract banner were worth £1 billion over three years. Continue reading

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Designing Social Policy with the Ballot


By Craig Burnett, University of North Carolina at Wilmington

Direct democracy offers voters a unique opportunity to effect policy change. Through initiatives, citizens are able to modify their state’s statutes and constitution without relying on — or, in some cases, without interference from — a legislative body. For referendums, voters have the chance to weigh in on policies that the legislature has proposed; sometimes the law requires voter consent while, at other times, the legislature voluntarily seeks voters’ approval.

As is the case with all democratic institutions, direct democracy is imperfect. Ballot measures are typically low-information events, which raises important questions about the viability of the institution itself. There are, of course, exceptions to this portrayal. California’s Proposition 8, for example, saw over $83 million spent by proponents and opponents — a number that approached eight times the average spending in a U.S. Senate contest. In European states, the infrequent use of referendums to decide constitutional matters (e.g., the United Kingdom’s alternative vote referendum of 2011) can elevate a ballot measure’s status in political discourse. Continue reading

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Health Care Reform: A Bipartisan Issue

Image Credit: Walt Handelsman

By Rebecca Pizzitola, University of Southern California

In the United States, we’ve been talking a lot about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or “Obamacare”. We have heard President Obama and health policy experts claim that it will be a safety net not only for the poor but also for the middle class by expanding coverage to those who have previously been unable to get health insurance for a variety of reasons. Some did not qualify for coverage through their employers and found the individual insurance market too costly without their employer subsidizing the premium and too confusing to understand without assistance. Others may have been unable to afford coverage from any source because they were low income but were earning just above the income limits for public options like Medicaid or the State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP). For example, before the ACA, a low income male would only qualify for Medicaid if 1) he had income under a specific level and 2) he met a “categorical” requirement, such as having children or being elderly or disabled. Continue reading

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Adjusting Public Finances By Cutting Welfare is Too Simplistic

Cuts protest

Photo Credit: Fibonacci Blue (Creative Commons BY)

By Georg Wenzelburger, Albert-Ludwigs-Universität Freiburg

Cross-post from LSE, Originally Published February 12, 2014

The argument that cutting social spending is an essential part of necessary fiscal adjustments is pervasive. That slashing welfare does not harm economic growth while tax hikes do is treated as received wisdom by many academics and policymakers. Georg Wenzelburger deconstructs the argument in favour of welfare cuts, writing that we need a much more nuanced understanding of the underlying mechanisms which distinguish successful from unsuccessful adjustments. 

“Any fiscal adjustment hoping to be successful cannot avoid dealing with cuts in the welfare state and in government wages and employment”. This statement by economists Alberto Alesina and Roberto Perotti (see p.227 here) is just one example of the advice commonly given to policy-makers that budget consolidations are only successful (i.e. lead to economic growth) if welfare benefits are slashed. Continue reading

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JPP Issue 34.1: Letter from the Editors


By Anthony Bertelli (@tonybertelli), University of Southern California and Peter John (@peterjohn10), University College London

Issue 34.1 of the Journal of Public Policy goes to print this coming April. But, given that all the articles published in this issue are already available online via FirstView, we thought it wise to share our letter from the editors here with you in advance of the printed issue.

With a host of interesting articles, this issue welcomes a large new group of exceptional scholars to our editorial board. We are delighted to be able to draw on their wealth of experience in public policy processes, policy analysis, bureaucratic politics and public management, American and comparative political institutions, political economy, democratic theory, regulation, taxation, governance, social networks and research methods, as well as substantive domains such as education, social welfare, urban, and health policy.  The new board members are as follows: Continue reading

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Regaining Political Control Over the British Quango State: The Public Bodies Reform

By Haram Lee, University of Southern California

Image Credit: Wikipedia

In Britain, quangos (quasi-autonomous non-governmental organisations) have been an integral part of the British government. The history of these special-purpose agencies working at an arm’s length distance from the ministers goes as far as the 17th century. Before the current Coalition Government came into power, Britain was in a state of ‘quango explosion’, as the previous Conservative governments (1979-1997) and especially the Labour governments (1997-2010) were keen on delegating specific policy authorities and tasks to the quangos.

Before the Public Bodies Reform, it could be argued that there were over 800 quangos in government, using a broader definition of what quangos are. These quangos are ubiquitous in all areas of public policy, to name a few, the Defence Nuclear Safety Committee in defence, the BritishMuseum in culture, and the Medical Education England in health.  Continue reading

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Appropriate Responses to Natural Disasters

By Martin Livermore (@scialliance), The Scientific Alliance


Photo credit: Wally Santana/AP

Typhoon Haiyan has been a personal tragedy for many Filipinos. The pictures of destruction, the heartrending stories of loss and the inability to get aid delivered quickly because of damage to infrastructure highlighted once again the terrible forces that Nature can unleash. This coincided with the latest round of climate change negotiations in Warsaw, at which the head of the Philippines delegation made an impassioned and tearful plea for mitigation action to reduce the chance of future catastrophes. While it may seem uncaring to criticise someone in his position, he was wrong.

The first reason he was wrong is that there is nothing in the record to suggest that tropical storms are getting either more frequent (a claim which used to be made but which has now been quietly dropped) or more intense (the current focus of attention). Continue reading

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What Can Reversion Points Teach Us About Public Policy?

By Giacomo Benedetto (@ggbenedetto), University of London

EU Money

Resort to reversion points is what happens in politics and policy where a failure to reach a decision has a consequence other than continuing the status quo. If there is no agreement and a reversion point takes effect, the political actor that can influence the reversion point has significant power. In determining what happens if there is no agreement, that actor has a strong negotiating hand before any failure in agreement happens. One of the most common examples of where reversion points take effect is in the politics of budgets, which require annual approval or re-approval. They could also apply to other areas of policy and could provide useful focus in policy analysis.  Continue reading

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