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VI.

ASSESSMENT: IMPACT OF NATIONAL POLICY STYLES

Contrary to partial equilibrium analysis in which economic instruments are viewed as single po- licy instruments, political scientists have tried to generate theories of a broader array of policy instru- ments. Yet the results achieved so far are hardly promising. The focus has been, since Kirschen’s classical article, on developing taxonomies and classifications of policy-instruments, and on generating hypotheses about the use and properties of certain groups of instruments (Kirschen, 1964). The taxonomy proposals vary predominantly with the national background of researchers, and no authoritative taxonomy has evolved yet. As Michael Howlett has accurately expressed it, the literature on policy instruments has thus unintentionally contributed to the discussion of ’national policy styles’. It seems to be difficult to understand the working of policy instruments when these are separated from their context -- the national policy style (Howlett, 1991).

This study of water pollution control policies shows indeed that the choice and implementation of specific policy instruments depends to a considerable degree on the national context, or what we have more accurately classified as the national policy style. Strategies for pollution control reflect deeply- rooted traditions of government intervention, and in particular, of the relationship between government and industry. As Vogel has put it: "Each nation regulates the environment in much the same way as it regulates a wide variety of other areas of corporate conduct" (Vogel and Kun, 1987).

Policy styles are the ‘standard-operating-procedures’that nations have developed for making and implementing policies8 (Richardson, 1981: 22). Each nation’s regulatory style is thus a function of its unique political heritage (Vogel, 1988: 128). It requires comprehensive knowledge of constitutional, administrative, historical and cultural institutions to understand the opportunities and limitations arising from a particular policy style.

Institutions may be either formal or informal, and may affect policy-making as well as implementation (North, 1990). They do not determine policies, because it is individuals rather than institutions who make policies. Individuals act as rationally as they can on the basis of their surroundings, previous experiences and perceived interests.

However, policies are shaped through the interaction of many individuals with different interests and perceptions. Institutionalised patterns of policy-making may serve to reduce transaction costs associated with bargaining on policies. Such patterns facilitate decision-making by allowing individuals to follow standard-operating-procedures for policy-making and implementation, instead of bargaining on everything each time a new regulation is needed. Patterns of public administration are taken for granted and basic regulatory philosophies implemented. A constituent assembly is essentially a script writer, because it determines the institutional framework for policy-making for many decades or perhaps even centuries, when it settles the basic powers between national and local authorities, or between parliaments and presidents.

8.

Richardson, 1981: According to Richardson’s definition, national policy styles are: "...the interaction between (a) the government’s approach to problem solving and (b) the

relationship between government and other actors makes a distinction between policy styles according

in the policy process".

to

a

consensual/imposing

Richardson

dimension

and an active/reactive but fails to develop the

dimension, thus creating four categories of national policy styles, concept into a broader and more sophisticated classification.

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