A Voice of Reason: Sane Views for a Crazy World

April 22, 2007

Your Ideal Candidate and Policy Paradox

This is from a presentation I attended this weekend for a course on Implementation of Public Policy.

Decision Analysis Strategies of Problem Definition

Rational Model

1. State goals objectives explicitly and precisely.

2. Adhere to the same goal throughout the process. .

3. Try to imagine and consider many alternatives.

4. Define each alternative as a clear course of action

5. Evaluate the costs and benefits of each course of action as accurately as possible.

6. Choose the course of action that will maximise total welfare as defined by objectives.

Political Model
1. State goals ambiguously, and if possible keep hidden.

2. Be prepared to shift and redefine as needed

3. Keep undeireable alternatives off the agenda. Make your preferred alternative only feasible one.

4. Use rhetoric to blend alternatives; don’t appear to make a clear decision that could trigger opposition.

5. Select from the infinite range of consequences only those whose costs and benefits make your alternative look best.

6. Choose the course of action that hurts powerful constituents the least, but portray your decision as creating maximum social good for a broad public.

It is amazing how true this model is when you analyze government. Typically, many are elected because they are “outsiders”. Consider the last elections, Bush (43), Clinton, Reagan, Carter were all “outsiders” who felt they could change Washington because they were outside the loop. Only Bush (41) could be considered an insider who was familiar with the Washington political process. However, in order to be effective policy makers, each of these leaders, with the possible exception of Reagan struggled when they adopted the second model. Clinton actually mastered the political model, and it may be argued that he was of that mindframe although he claimed to be an “outsider”.

It makes you wonder about how the current candidates frame themselves with regard to making policy decisions. What model do you want “your” ideal candidate to follow.

Your thoughts?



  1. Great post. More of the irony of democracy. My favorite candidate, John McCain, follows the Rational Model as closely as any politician in the country. Yet, in the past few months, he’s been consistently villified for his straightforwardness. Just as often, his policy alternatives are taken out of context and misrepresented. Because the Rational Model grounds itself in reality, accepting requires thoughtfulness and reflection. The Political Model, on the other hand, capitalizes on the human propensity for simple and quick solutions. Can we do better? Over time, I think we have…but far more progress is required.

    Comment by lorraine — April 23, 2007 @ 3:11 pm | Reply

  2. Thanks Lorraine. I wished that more had commented on this one, as I thought it would bring about more general interest.
    I really stand by my Reagan analogy! I also think that most politicians do much better off when they follow the rational mode. That’s why they are elected, to lead, and not always caucas!

    Comment by avoiceofreason — April 23, 2007 @ 9:00 pm | Reply

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