Discussion Question - Finding Success

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What lessons from this week's readings can policymakers learn and apply to policy issues currently being debated (e.g. immigration, gun control, others)?

3 Comments

I think Patashnik offers the best lessons for policymakers to apply to policy issues today to ensure their effectiveness and success in the future. As far as sustaining policy, I think the immigration issue is an interesting one to focus on through Patashnik's lenses. There really seems to be a tipping point in this round of immigration policy reform, one driven by the political and electoral gains to be had more than anything. This leaves open the possibility for sloppy policy making meant to simply impress potential voters, and not provide a comprehensive and effective policy.

Several of Patashnik's "Practical Implications" may help ensure sustained success. With the majority of Republicans now on board with immigration reform, there is no doubt that the game has changed, bringing new conversations and actors into the debate. As jaded as it sounds, the next thing to do is likely to instill sunk costs (either create or restructure existing agencies to deal particularly with the reformed policy) or harness the power of the market to make sure we're not having the same conversation in 10 years about poor immigration policy. I'm not sure exactly how to achieve the latter, but the former seems easy enough to hypothesize about.

It seems to me that Patashnik offers the most insightful view on how to sustain policy change—that for reforms to endure, they must re-configure the political dynamic. He uses the TRA of Reagan years to explain how interest groups, bureaucrats and politicians had the same incentives and abilities to influence the process for their own benefit—which also included the erosion of the reform. If the political dynamic had been changed, however, Patashnik’s argument would be that either 1) the reforms would be protected from this type of special interest or 2) some portion of the reform would change incentives so that it would be in the interest group’s best interest to support the policy changes.

Obviously this is much easier said than done, both in policy design and passage through the political process. Nonetheless, in my mind, the idea is lost on elected officials who, because of the set up and current state of our political system, do not have the ability to think in such long-term ways. I do agree with Anders that this is important to consider with immigration, but perhaps even more so with gun control; there are polar opposites to the sides of the gun issue and without a lasting satisfaction or incentive change for opponents of gun control, especially the powerful NRA lobby, any reform that passes today will surely be unraveled in due time.

I think that the Patashnik was dead on when addressing the concern that failed implementation hurts government's ability to gain the popular trust moving forward on the next initiative. I also think that this is done deliberately by some politicians to create a self fulfilling prophecy scenario. But to address the question, one of the best examples of a failed implementation (admittedly of a weak law to begin with) was the assault weapons ban of the 1990's. This policy failure has come back to haunt the current gun control efforts. For policy makers to make headway on gun control now, they need to admit to their past errors and work around them, not ignore them.

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