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Policy Paradox: The Art of Political Decision Making (Revised Edition) 3rd Edition

4.3 out of 5 stars 24 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0393976250
ISBN-10: 0393976254
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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Deborah Stone holds appointments as Research Professor of Government at Dartmouth College and Honorary Professor of Political Science at Aarhus University in Denmark. She has taught in undergraduate and graduate programs at Brandeis, MIT, Yale, Tulane, and Duke, as well as in universities worldwide where Policy Paradox is used.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; 3rd edition (July 20, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393976254
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393976250
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (24 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #48,963 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Steven Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 15, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Deborah Stone's "Policy Paradox" is an important work in the field of policy analysis. The subtitle is illuminating: "The Art of Political Decision Making." Her takeoff point is the following statement (pages x-xi): "This new field of policy analysis supposedly devoted to improving governance, was based on a profound disgust for the ambiguities and paradoxes of politics. . . . In rational analysis, everything has one and only one meaning." In her own words, she (page xi) ". . .wrote this book to critique the field and to capture, I hope, a more inspiring and humane kind of policy analysis."

Her basic point is that the rational models drawn from economics do not explain very well how policy analysis works. Nor, in her view, should it be the actual model for decision making. She contends that economic rationality often gives way to political reality, to accommodation to conflicting interests, to compromise, to values other than economic efficiency (such as liberty, fairness, and so on).

The introduction opens the book strongly, with Stone noting policy paradoxes, where the economic rational model does not prevail and explain how things work. She argues (page 13) that "each type of policy instrument [e.g., inducements, rules, rights, for example] is a kind of sports arena, each with its peculiar ground rules, within which political conflicts are continued." The first chapter continues the theme, by speaking of the market (economics) and the polis (politics), with a nice table summarizing key points on page 33). She concludes that (page 34) "Problems in the polis are never `solved' in the way that economic needs are met in the market model." Two different realms, and what works in the market may or may not work in the polis.
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Very stimulating reading and very applicable in many kinds of negotiations & meetings, not just "policy making" as in government. Her thesis is the "most books" assume policy should be rational and analyze when it is not. She argues that policy is INTRINSICALLY a paradoxical, conflicting process where (to greatly simplify) some people see A and others see B and others see C no matter how much data and rationality are tossed about, and that is HER starting point for discussing "policy making." I found it very stimulating and see wide ranging applications in my work and even outside work for these ideas. It's a fairly long book and not to be skimmed so it defies easy summary.
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Deborah Stone's Policy Paradox is an exercise in analyzing and describing how and why public policy is made in the United States. Her book is an invaluable contribution to political science and public administration.

Stone presents us with the paradox of two apparently contradictory models of policy-making: a rational-analytic model and a polis model. The two models seem to exclude each other, yet we can observe the processes of both in policy making. Stone examines and attempts to resolve the paradox by analyzing public policy through the perspectives of both models.

The rational-analytic model is the perspective and methodology of the professional policy analyst. The policy analyst examines a problem and then generates and evaluates possible solutions. He weighs the costs, benefits, and feasibility of each option. He selects and recommends a solution which he expects (or hopes) lawmakers and officials will implement. Stone describes the rational-analytic model as a "market model" because it mirrors the decision-making process made by individual consumers and business people. In the idealized marketplace, buyers and sellers carefully compare costs and benefits before agreeing to a trade.

Stone offers the polis model as the other perspective on how policy is made. In the polis model, different interest groups compete and cooperate to define problems and decide on solutions. As a society, we acknowledge common values, needs, and wants. Collectively, we recognize problems and crises when they arise. Unfortunately, individuals often hold different definitions of those supposedly "common" values, needs, and wants. The polis model recognizes that values, wants, and needs are abstract. A crisis or problem may be ill-defined. Groups (e.g.
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This one book explains why it's so difficult to establish policy. You don't just sit down and write policy, normally. Policy comes as a result of a political process.

I recommend this book wholeheartedly.
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Stone identifies four reasons for writing this book: 1) Rationality is a narrow conception of how humans think and feel; 2) the field of policy analysis is dominated by economics and its model of society as a market; 3) political science hasn't found a very convincing or satisfying explanation of how policy gets made; and 4) public policy and policy analysis worship objectivity and determinate rules (pp. xi, xii). With these observations, Stone sets out to unearth and describe the underlying assumptions and biases within analytic standards used to set goals, define problems, and judge solutions.

An excellent introduction to policy making!
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