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Article reviewed: deLeon, Peter, and Ralph C. Longobardi. "Policy Analysis in the Good Society." The Good Society

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Introduction

PAD 5005 Critical Essay #1 Jim Beck PO Box 508 Palmer, AK 99645 jimbeck@alaska.net Article reviewed: deLeon, Peter, and Ralph C. Longobardi. "Policy Analysis in the Good Society." The Good Society 11:1 (2002). This article argues that policy analysis holds a very real utility for the "good society," and that, more specifically, participatory policy analysis is a very effective and important vehicle for achieving the good society. The authors outline a logical approach, including a list of perceived problems, the goals they propose to pursue, the disciplinary perspective(s) that gave birth to their goals, and how those goals may be met. The article begins with a quick examination of some of the current problems that stymie the development of the good society. These include a certain backlash against civility, characterized by a quote from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who states that there is "...an overemphasis of civility..." One cannot help but wonder if the Justice was confused with the pop-culture concept of "political correctness," which is certainly not enjoying strong approval in many circles. The concept of "good society" as outlined by the authors is hardly something anyone could legitimately argue against. Other problems include the detachment, cynicism, and in many cases, contempt, Americans have for their government, including a widely held belief that capitalism is trumping community at every turn. Likewise, citizens feel the bureaucracy is not representative of them, yet is assuming an expanded role in their lives. This feeling has also bled into the arena of elected officials. Symptomatic of these concerns are feelings that the policy sciences and academia are detached from the "real world," and are not contributing to new directions and new answers. Interestingly enough, while the authors detail these problems, they also provide data from a Pew study that shows that 75% of a sample of Americans "express optimism over their immediate community." Americans don't seem to trust their government, but do trust their community. ...read more.

Middle

The result would be an enhanced (maybe even a good) society." Ingram (2000) posits a hypothetical model that citizens "... should view their role as citizens as important, as involving obligations as well as rights, and they must be convinced that government has the interest and capacity to solve public problems." Ingram provides two examples, one involving water rights, and the other Superfund legislation. The water rights example provides an excellent concrete look at a poorly constructed policy arena that was reconstructed to follow a participatory model, and is now thought to be far more successful, both in its intended (water policy decisions) and unintended outcomes. The Superfund example paints a less positive picture, as the current situation is symptomatic of poor policy design and perpetuates citizen cynicism. She makes a fairly compelling case that citizen participation could have avoided these results in this case. deLeon and Longobardi establish three primary obstacles to achieving the realization of the potential of the policy sciences in relation to democracy. These are citizen willingness to participate, educating them to participate, and constructing a feasible format. The authors represent the first as a "serious impediment." I agree; this is perhaps the most serious impediment, and is a recurring theme throughout this article and in countless others as well. An important consanguine issue that I see is one of lack of leadership. Leadership can be a magic ingredient such that it can motivate participation, while lack of leadership can fire cynicism. Without leadership, participation may be squandered. More than good facilitation, the intangible qualities that combine to create good leadership are necessary to reach the lofty goals of participatory policy analysis - achievement of the good society. Education is clearly important to engaging citizens in the policy process. Without some sense of their place in the civil society, people do not even know where to begin. At the most basic level, people need to know how government functions, and where in the policy process they may insert themselves. ...read more.

Conclusion

Real civic engagement has the possibility to reduce crime, increase economic prosperity across classes, and increase national productivity across all sectors, such that we are more competitive globally. The authors conclude by recognizing some additional hurdles to the full realization of participatory policy analysis. The authors note one, though assign less importance to it - the fact that today's academic policy programs do not train future policy analysts in the participatory model. I tend to assign greater importance to this than the authors seem to. This relates to my belief that lack of leadership is a pervasive, prevailing problem in terms of engaging the citizenry in the policy process. In my view, universities should combine leadership excellence training with the policy sciences to turn out a new breed of policy analysts whose mission would be to inspire the masses and lead them through the policy processes. Certainly not a short order, but I believe one worthy of our aspirations. I absolutely agree with the authors in terms of the role of participatory policy analysis in achieving the good society. In fact, I see this type of exercise as necessary to the achievement of the ideal. A final note which I have not seen discussed in this article or any others I reviewed is how the policy analyst "closes the loop" with citizens who do participate. In some ways, this is the other side of the coin of participation. Citizens do want to be heard, but more than that, they want to see their ideas in practice. A challenge to all policymakers is to feedback to participants what happened after the ad hoc group was disbanded. Where did their ideas end up; how were the recommendations narrowed down to policy? How will the policy be evaluated, and who will participate in the evaluation? This level of participation requires a whole knew open-ness to the process. This will require not just good policy skills, but also leadership and communication, and a real commitment on the part of the bureaucracies, as well as the academic institutions that train up and coming policy analysts. ...read more.

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