JPP Issue 35.1: FREE to Read Until the End of April

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The first issue of the year is now out in print! This means you have a little time to read and download it free here–until the end of April. This issue includes:

Gendered diffusion on gendered issues: the case of human traffickingBy Vanessa Bouché and Dana E. Wittmer

High profile rape trials and policy advocacyBy Kristine Coulter and David S. Meyer

Who saw it coming? The UK’s great financial crisisBy Andrew Hindmoor and Allan McConnell

Intergovernmental climate change mitigation policies: theory and outcomesBy Hal T. Nelson, Adam Rose, Dan Wei, Thomas Peterson, and Jeffrey Wennberg

Policy beyond politics? Public opinion, party politics and the French pro-nuclear energy policyBy Sylvain Brouard and Isabelle Guinaudeau

Happy reading!

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The Implications of Behavioral Economics for Pension Plan Design

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Source: shutterstock.com

By David Hollanders, University of Amsterdam

For all their varieties, a common feature of pension reforms in the last decades has been the shifting of risks from employers to employees. Closely accompanying this shift is a discussion of the desirability to shift control to employees as well, that is, to increase individual choice in pension plans at the possible expense of collective solidarity and risk sharing. This discussion would better be informed by behavioral economic research that has focused on pension plan participants’ choice behavior. Three main conclusions are presented here. Together, they suggest that a majority of people are unable or unmotivated, or both, to choose. The implication for pension plan design is that a well-designed default option should be available.

(1) CHOICES ARE INFLUENCED BY FRAMING

Often people react to a choice-problem differently depending on how it is presented. This is called a framing effect if non-essential changes in presentation—not affecting the underlying choice in substance—leads to substantial differences in outcomes. Recent empirical research has focused on framing effects in the pension domain. It could be argued a priori that framing effects do not occur in those domains that involve large monetary stakes and that consequently ‘penalize’ framing effects dearly. This assumption is however not confirmed by recent research. The main outcome, on the contrary, is that framing effects abound in the pension domain. Continue reading

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A discussion on the Lessons of Education Reform in Singapore and its Relevance to Better Policy

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Source: gceolevel.com

 

By Jian Feng (@1instathink), Instathink 

Education in Singapore has traditionally been focused on excellence, with an emphasis on mathematics and science and students performing well on international tests. Having a focus on excellence based on Confucian1 ethics like hard work is desirable in a country that has to rely on developing its human capital to maintain competitiveness. However, it should be asked: Is there an unforeseen and undesirable cost to it? According to a news report,2 total household expenditures on private tuition rose to S$1.1 billion in 2014. It might be asked if the notion of inequalities might be compounded by the differences in time and type of education students receive outside of the formal education system. For those who can afford it, more individualised education is available, which helps those receiving it do better academically than they might have otherwise. But, for those who cannot afford it, the opportunity to do better may be lost, which may play a role in perpetuating inequalities and uneven starting grounds. Also, unnecessary burdens may be placed on students to do better.

Fortunately, changes are being made in the education system based on feedback from the wider discourse that may reduce burdens on students. These include removing precise scoring for students in primary levels, focusing more on developing students’ curiosity and love for learning,3 creating the opportunities for students to develop their talents in holistic areas such as art and music, and supporting them socio-emotionally to allow them to develop their potential. This reflects a balance between the capitalistic goals of educational excellence and more holistic goals. Continue reading

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Budgeting and Implementing Fiscal Policy in Italy

By Alessandra Cepparulo, Francesca Gastaldi, Luisa Giuriato, & Agnese Sacchi of IDEAS

The importance of fiscal forecasting

The importance of public finance control has increased over time, as many developed countries are currently facing record debt and deficit levels associated with structural economic imbalances. These circumstances enhance the necessity of sound institutional system growth and highlight the need to reinforce budgetary procedures. But, no procedure is effective without reliable fiscal forecasts. Fiscal forecasts are, in fact, the main signals relied upon by forward-looking private agents, forecasters and analysts and for implementing fiscal discipline under domestic and supranational fiscal rules, such as the Stability and Growth Pact for Economic and Monetary Union countries.

Unfortunately, forecast errors in budgetary variables are frequent. When systematic, they are a source of concern, as they signal misconduct in fiscal policymaking, undermine the government’s credibility and compromise long-term fiscal sustainability. In this respect, Italy shows a tendency towards biased forecasts: since 2000, the country’s actual deficit has systematically deviated from its planned value, with average variations of about 10% of the target value (Figure 1). Even though a large and growing literature has analysed the nature and the causes of errors in fiscal forecasting – mainly by comparing aggregate revenues, expenditures and budget balances in different countries – little attention has been paid to the forecasts of single budgetary lines and the detailed modelling of the different stages of the budget process. Continue reading

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Measuring Corruption

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By Paul M. Heywood (@pmheywood)Jonathan Rose, University of Nottingham

The World Economic Forum estimates the cost of corruption to be more than 5% of global GDP (US $2.6 trillion), and the World Bank believes over $1 trillion is paid in bribes each year. Of course, given the secretive nature of corrupt exchanges, we cannot know the true value of how much is actually lost, but there can be little doubt that corruption represents a major cost to the public. Given such staggering numbers, it is understandable that both academics and policymakers would want to develop measures of corruption. These measures aim to show how much corruption exists in the world and where it occurs, and ultimately provide guidance about how to stop it. Unfortunately, currently available measures of corruption are beset by conceptual, methodological, or political problems (or a combination of all three) that constrain their utility as a guide to developing effective anti-corruption policies. Continue reading

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The Human Capacity for Transformational Change: Harnessing the Collective Mind

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Book Review By Jackie Ohlin, University of Technology, Sydney

This is a vitally important book for social scientists and all concerned with being open to new ways of addressing complex issues within our communities. It examines our capacity, as individuals and together, to bring about transformational change – not any change, mind you, but the kind that is required to deal with truly ‘wicked’ problems – the kind that, by definition, have no solution. In modelling transformational change, authors Valerie A. Brown and John A. Harris suggest that we need to be encouraged to see how small changes can lead to large, unpredictable effects across a whole system (including human and natural systems). They also propose that we need to recognize that, through transformational change, the future is not going to be the same as the past. This seems to me to be a critical realization, because we might desire our brand of change to be controlled, supportive (of our actions), and predictable, and we should acknowledge that notion is absurd. On reading this book, one sense I have is that envisioning the scope of some transformational change may require a long lens. In social terms, for example, we could consider how transformational change has wrought the role and contribution of people with a disability now compared with their invisibility in society only a few years ago. Continue reading

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The New Regulatory Space: Reframing Democratic Governance

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Book Review By Gergana Yankova-Dimova, University of Cambridge

The book “The New Regulatory Space” delivers a masterfully well-reasoned defense of regulation. The regulatory space is analyzed with regard to four systems of authority–the market, democratic politics, the law, and social norms. The book outlines and defends the contributions of the regulatory space to each of them. The market and the regulatory space embrace, because the regulator represents missing interests and voices in the market and promulgates societal goals that extend beyond the market. The regulatory space corrects democratic politics in the cases where the electors are incompetent, the issues are not contentious and voices do not count equally. Societal goals might be better achieved through regulation rather than the law, because regulation offers more opportunities for amicable settlement against the more adversarial legal settlements and because regulators are better equipped to adjudicate over complex issues grounded in the natural sciences. Finally, regulation offers a remedy for the cases when societal norms are weakened and society becomes less coordinated and predictable.

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JPP Issue 34.3: Free 10/15/14

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We now have First View to help us publish the manuscripts we have accepted well in advance of their print date. Further, oftentimes these manuscripts are available online individually well before the issue as a whole is available. But, in favor of supporting a cohesive approach to reading JPP, we will begin to publish each issue’s table of contents here on our blog. See below for what the December issue has to offer. Better yet, you can read the issue online now or wait with bated breath until October 15th, at which point the whole issue will be free to view for two months. Mark your calendars, and alert your friends… because sharing is caring.

The December issue includes:  Continue reading

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What is the Future of Water Governance Scholarship?

water

Source: upsidedownworld.org

By Raul Pacheco-Vega (@raulpacheco), Centre for Economic Research and Training

Governance is such an elusive concept to define, even though public policy scholars have been drawn to it almost naturally. My first exposure to the literature on governance occurred while I was studying for my PhD comprehensive exams. I became obsessed with the work of British scholar R.A.W. Rhodes, perhaps the best known proponent of governance as a scholarly subject. Rhodes’ 1997 book, Understanding Governance, has been cited more than 5,100 times (at least by the counts of Google Scholar). Nevertheless, defining governance remains an interesting challenge for public policy scholars, and continues to be debated. Even Francis Fukuyama has recently chimed in on what we should understand as governance.

 

The mere idea that the act of governing can occur and improve through devolution (i.e., through a change in institutional architecture that transforms a hierarchical governing structure into a policy network) sounds appealing in and of itself. Governance thus becomes an act of citizen empowerment. We begin to talk about networked governance, or governing by networks. At the same time though, the current structure of states and societies doesn’t lend itself easily to a generalized shift in governing architectures. We can live in federalist systems, where many governing responsibilities are devolved to states and municipalities/cities. But, in many sector-specific cases, the ultimate decision-making body will undoubtedly be the federation. This is certainly the case in the Mexican water policy sector.

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Why the War on Poverty Failed

By Nicolas Duquette, University of Southern California

Fifty years ago this year, the central piece of Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty — the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (EOA) — was passed. This law was unusual both in its ambition to eliminate US poverty and in its implementation. Instead of directing funds to state anti-poverty programs, the Johnson administration had the power and discretion to make grants directly to community organizations with minimal oversight from state or local governments or from Congress. The outgrowth of this federal-local collaboration, the Community Action Program, engendered several enduring and popular anti-poverty programs, including Head Start and Community Health Centers. Yet, the popular memory of Johnson’s efforts is one of overwhelming failure. President Reagan joked in his 1988 State of the Union Address, to hearty laughter, that, “the federal government fought the war on poverty, and poverty won,” a feeling shared by critics of Johnson on the political left and the right.

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