Incrementalism in Policy Making

Select a policy analysis model of your own choosing. Chapter 4 discusses analysis models; however, you will need to do a little digging and find an analysis model for this paper. Your paper must be 4 to 6 typed pages, double-spaced, using the APA writing style. The paper should demonstrate outside research and sources.  In 1959, Charles Lindblom published an article in which he attempted to explain how public policy is developed. He was responding to the prevailing theory that public policy decisions were made in a rational way, with policy makers considering all available options and then choosing the best course of action. In his article entitled “The Science of Muddling Through,” he introduced the theory of incrementalism, which states that public policy is developed through small changes to existing policies. The theory of incrementalism suggests that there is never enough time to consider all the information, that information on all possible choices is not readily available, and that it is easier to make small changes to existing policies than to create something entirely new. Often, great investments have been made in current programs, and it is extremely difficult to dislodge systems that have been in existence for a long time. Consider the attempts to downsize the U.S. Defense Department. Immediately following the fall of the Berlin Wall in the late 1980s and the “end of the Cold War,” proclamations were made about the anticipated savings from the newfound peace (often referred to as the peace dividend). Several years passed, and only small changes were made in the Defense Department. Attempting to close some military bases throughout the country caused tremendous political disagreement. The return to increased military involvement in recent years has reinforced the belief in incremental change: If the nation’s military had been dramatically downsized, it might not have been ready for the increased U.S. military involvement overseas after the 9/11 attacks. The incremental approach allows for adaptation to occur over time. The Social Security Act is another example of incrementalist policy making. It took 20 years of legislative activity before the act became law in 1935. Through incremental change, the program gradually expanded. Initially it was designed to provide income for workers after retirement and coverage for family members whose main breadwinner had died. In 1956, disability coverage was added. In 1965, health insurance was added through the Medicare program. In 1972, the Supplemental Security Income program was developed to consolidate and expand services for low-income seniors and low-income people with disabilities. In 1996, the control of the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program was shifted from the federal government to the state governments, and the program was changed to the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. In 2003, the Medicare program was expanded to include prescription drug benefits. In addition to these major programs, hundreds of amendments have been passed and legislative changes made since passage of the Social Security Act more than 80 years ago.

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