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Chapter 6

Decision Making in the

Administration of Public Policy

Public Administration
Chapter outline
 Models of decision making in administration
 Rational-comprehensive model
 Bargaining model
 Incremental model
 Participative model
 Public choice model
 The ethical dimensions of decision making
 Institutional ethics
 Personal ethics
 The limits of decision making
 Decision making is central to PA
 It is complex, collective, & involve many actors
 Goals of decisions may be vague, while
bureaucrats cannot deal with vagueness
 information maybe unavailable all the time for
decision making
 Decisions maybe programmed or un-
 Values and ethics are important
 Models of decision making follows:
Rational-comprehensive model
 Assume decision makers as rational people
 An economic model that suggest five steps
that maximize outputs of a decision
1. Identify a public problem
2. Clarify goals and objectives of public policy
3. Identify alternatives to reach goals
4. Calculate consequences of each alternative
5. Select the best alternative
 Model assumptions: efficiency & reduction of
externality (effect on others) problems as cost
benefit analysis is conducted for alternatives
Rational model problems …
 Generally problems come from…
 Pure rationality is impossible in real world
 Time limit people abilities to explore options & info
 Cost of acquiring info & communications among
the many levels & individuals in the government
involved in decisions
 Bias towards one option & one problem
 The nearest easiest alternative
 Clash among actors about values, & ends &
 Sunk cost & commitment to previous decisions

Six problems of rational model
1. Individual barriers
2. Organizational barriers
3. The inputs from outside the organization
4. Time frame can limit decision making
5. The civil service system impose values & limits
6. Problems in securing & processing the
information needed
 The near impossibility to the comprehensive
model led to alternative models as follows

Bargaining model
 involves conflict, negotiation, & persuasion
 A rational decision should bargain out to attract
sufficient political support to become acceptable
 The “means-ends” /consequences of the
rational model is impossible if they’re confused
by the many actors involved in the decision
 Many worthy public policy goals are so broad
they often conflict with one another.
 This require a ”muddling-through” decision
making process
Incremental model
 Making a series of limited, successive
comparisons-”continuing incremental adjustments”
rather than comparing all possible options
 It focus on short term effects; looks at the most
crucial consequences; uses less formal ways to
evaluate them. it has two main steps
 Redefining ends & means. Treating them as not distinct
 Arriving at consensus. Measuring acceptance to interests
 The model help administrators to be responsive &
representative to their political communities

Incremental & bargaining models

 decision makers try to satisfice or find a good

enough solution which maybe not the “best”
 Acknowledging subjectivity as it can never be
eliminated. So has to be openly included
 These models lack creativity and bold changes
 Decisions become cautious and low risk
 They may overlook larger needs & demands

Participative model
 Assumes rationality depend on the inclusion of
all those who are affected by the decision
 It often involves consultation & may have voting
 Using committees, interest groups, boards …
 It emphasize the value of representativeness
 This may bring better information & knowledge
 But it may bring too much information
 Mixed unbalanced interests may brought in the
participation process
 Also it may result in less rational decisions
Public choice model
 Values efficiency & free market-mechanism
 As public officials will be motivated by their
own interests (power, security, income),
 They will then avoid risks & promote growth of
their agencies’ programs, which will produce
bigger but usually less efficient government
 So it better to turn over to private sector
 By contracting out for services or by privatization
 The model is very simple: privatize & deregulate

Public choice model problems …
 Efficiency come on the expense of equality
 Also, some services cannot be privatized
 Besides the self-regulating effect of the
market does not always work
 In free market, monopoly may strike the idea
of efficiency as it eliminate competition
 Free market effect does not work unless
information are available sufficiently
 In contracting out, vendors may manipulate
local government
Decision models & Org schools
Org school Decision making model

Classical Rational comprehensive

Centralized, orderly. Values: efficiency & effectiveness

Humanist Participative
Decentralized, ad hoc,
Values: flexibility, randomness, responsiveness
Neoclassical Bureaucratic
Less centralized, reliance on rules, procedural rationality, Values:
incrementalism, stability, fairness, predictability
Systems Political power or bargaining
Consistent with social actors, pluralists in organizations
Values: participation, incrementalism, conflict, interplay of interests
New Mgt Public choice
Free market, information mgt
Values: efficiency, maximizing self interest

The ethics of decision making
 Ethics: the right & wrong about goals, tactics,
or decisions dealing with public problems
 Institutional ethics: principles & values
pursued by governments & agencies.
 Many government actions are ethically debatable:
ex Hiroshima bombing
 Issuing ethics codes are used for declaring ethical
values adapted by institutions
 Personal ethics: moral values for public
officials such as honesty, fairness, & integrity

The limits of decision making

 Time

 Uncertainty

 Distortion of information

 Crisis