Discussion Question - Feasibility

| 13 Comments

At what point in the policymaking process, and by whom, should feasibility analysis be conducted?

13 Comments

I liked Meltsner’s idea about introducing politics at each stage of a policy analysis. I think that political feasibility has to be a continual consideration in all stages of the policy making process. However, I think it would be a disservice to the science of policy research if the best policies are ignored because they are not politically feasible. As Dror warned, a good policy might be worth fighting for, even if it is not feasible. With this in mind it might better to introduce political feasibility analysis after policies have been conceived, but before they are pushed for adoption. I really do not think there should be specific assignment as to who should conduct political feasibility analyses, as long as it is done with consideration of quantitative, human, and political impacts of policy.

I agree that Meltsner made an excellent case for introducing political feasibility analysis throughout each stage of the policy-making process. Determining political feasibility of any issue is not absolute; rather, it is an on-going, iterative process requiring modification as new information becomes available. Political feasibility analysis should not be left up to one particular individual or organization. Instead, in many situations, it is helpful for several actors to engage in the analytic process in order to provide more prospective “decision-tress.” As Meltsner stated, a scenario with multiple “decision-trees can indicate a path by which success may be achieved” and it also allows politicians to choose among several pathways, and thus, reduces liability of a single analyst making the wrong recommendation. Feasibility analysts could be formally trained through education institutions, and may also be current politicians or lobbyists to name a few examples.

I agree with Dror in that feasibility analysis should be conducted by those that are closely related to and in government positions (elected officials, legislative staff members, etc.), seeing as their influence is integral to passing legislation. Additionally, interest groups are a viable option for conducting feasibility memorandums because of their tremendous stake in ensuring that Congress and the President accept their policy requests of their members.

In terms of what point in the policymaking process should feasibility analysis be conducted, in a general sense, all stages are important. The most critical stage of feasibility analysis, however, would be before the measure is introduced. At this point in time, little or few resources have been directly spent towards the new initiative and it is easier to change or modify it for improvements before its introduction and passage.

I agree with Dror as well in believing feasibility analysis should be performed by those in government/elected positions, but somewhat disagree with Dror as to why government/elected officials should be involved. Obviously, Matthew's post highlights the important premise that these individuals should be involved because they are integral in passing legislation, but I would go a step further with this argument and propose that involving those closest to the process in feasibility analysis will reduce overall error in policy making. Meltsner argues that error is inherent in the feasibility process. To reduce error, or at least mitigate the destructive impact of it on policy, it is important to discuss possible errors/shortcomings to the client, provide alternative decision trees that allow for adapting to circumstances, and having staffers/analysts who understand specific policy areas best perform feasibility studies. Each of these elements can be ensured if there is a certain level of trust between an analyst and an individual who is in position to make a legislative decision.

I would also agree with Meltsner that feasibility analysis should be conducted throughout the process to ensure potential issues are not being either overlooked or overvalued.

I agree with Dror's on his three layers' analysis: political feasibility should be related to an actor;related to a policy-alternative and related to a policy-area. Also, the relationship among this three areas provides readers with clear and integrated understandings of how these three factors interact in the political analysis frame.In Dror's view,for a policy alternative to be politically feasible , it must be within the political feasibility domain of the relevant policy area. Also, the shape and dynamics of a political leverages of the actors active in respect to the involved policy area.
When I was analyzing the power dynamics for my political feasibility memo, I found this method very helpful.

This question left me wondering about how feasibility analysis incorporates the workings of Congress. First, and what has been mentioned above, is that feasibility analysis is important to incorporate at each stage of policy analysis. Certainly this can be broken down to a micro-level, as in the different stages of a bill's life through Congress. Feasibility analysis could be helpful but also complicated and unpredictable-- for example, what certain types of compromises might have to be made to gain passage through a particular committee. Where this might ultimately be most important is in how designing a bill may be different than designing a policy-- and how decisions on certain provisions or thresholds may not hold through Congress. It is up to the policy analysts and decision makers, then, to ensure they have an absolutely firm grip on what is most important for the policy to succeed so that future compromises from political feasibility do not marginalize the design of the initial policy. What this points to is how feasibility analysis isnjust one more helpful tool & how complicated the life of a policy really is.

As the readings pointed out, political feasibility should be more mainstream and an integral part of the policy making process. As Anders pointed out, error is inherent in the process and therefore involving those closest to it reduces the chances of error. Furthermore,mainstreaming political feasibility in to the policy making process creates an environment that provides different alternatives rather than pursuing few options and helps more closely reach goals that the policy or legislation is attempting to reach. As we've discussed earlier, party polarization and power of interest groups definitely influences the policy making process and therefore taking action to analyse the role of actors, organization, the interest areas provides a clearer map as to how to reach policy goals.

In addition to what the previous commenters have discussed, I think everyone invested in a particular problem or particular solution could benefit from a political feasibility analysis. The danger of political feasibility analysis, if conducted by people with vested interest or strong partisan positions (which is essentially everyone) is the danger of not conducting a thorough analysis of the motivations and principles upon which other actors make their decisions. Meltsner calls out understanding the motivations of other actors, but I think it can be easy to make assumptions of the actions of other stakeholders based on a few observations. The analyst conducting a political feasibility needs to keep an open mind and try their best to understand others in order for a political feasibility analysis to be most useful; especially in today’s political climate when extreme partisanship and strong emotions seems to result in groups disregarding the motivations of others and the validity of opinions counter to your own.

I would have to agree with the others about Meltsner’s idea of using policy analysis at each stage. By continuously analyzing all possibly outcomes at each stage of the process it provides you with information on how actors will behave and the constraints associated with the feasibility analysis. As who should be conducting the feasibility analysis, like some of the other posts have mentioned, those who are closest to the government should be conducting or involved with the analysis. While Dror was referring to all actors (individuals, group, organizations, etc), those individuals closest to the government will have more political leverage and probably greater ability “to influence (among other phenomena) policies and their implementations.” Having influential actors is only one aspect of a well thought feasibility analysis and only by analyzing the other stages will good alternatives make themselves present.

There are two main points in the policymaking process where feasibility analysis should be conducted: at the agenda setting, in order to rule out unrealistic options, and at the formulation in order to tune the implementation process. Primarily an analyst should do this type of analysis; he/she should have knowledge on both the process and the context where the policy is being considered.

I think policy should be considered at the beginning of policy deliberation and somewhere in the middle, depending on the inevitable variation in the policy environment. This being said, I think they should have different levels of analysis at each point. In the beginning, an analysis should focus more on the broader policy environment, but as the process develops, it has to focus on the issue, the policy itself and the changing perspectives of the actors involved. Most importantly on those that are fighting for it to emerge.

I agree with many of the points made thus far about the importance of policy analysis prior to policy decisions being made and also as the policies are initially implemented. I would add that there is also an important post hoc policy analysis function. Post hoc policy analysis is not often conducted by the same groups as those who would conduct the policy analysis prior to implementation, but it is important to monitor the effects of the policy to understand the actual results in comparison to the intended outcomes. Further, post hoc policy analysis allows analysts to better understand possible faulty assumptions or poor predictions previously made and how to prevent similar projection errors in the future.

I agree with the comments posted before mine on this thread about the consideration of political feasibility happening at every stage. Where I may diverge from popular opinion is that I do not think that it should be considered at the outset. I think that great ideas should be initially developed (not reduced due to political necessities) and then run through a feasibility analysis. If an idea is put through the feasibility process too early, many of the truly revolutionary or socially fulfilling alternative parts may be left out because of their difficult nature.

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