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Part 3 Policy Choices - Essay Example

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Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould first proposed the concept of punctuated equilibrium (PE) to explain the evolutionary speciation patterns of organisms observed in the fossil record. In their original work, Eldredge and Gould (1972) described the process of speciation as rapid, episodic, and best represented by a PE process instead of a gradual process (p…
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Part 3 Policy Choices
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Download file to see previous pages Third, these new environmental conditions favor the further development of genetic variations within the isolated group. Over a short amount of time, which can last thousands of years in evolutionary paleontology terms, the descendants of the isolated group become a new species morphologically different from the original population (Eldredge & Gould, 1972, p. 94-95; Gould 2002, p. 766-768). As a result, organisms rarely show any gradual evolutionary change throughout their phylogeny. Instead, new species appear quite suddenly in the fossil record.
Working from the theoretical insights of Eldredge and Gould, Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones used PE to explain their observations on public policy. Baumgartner and Jones (1 993) found that for long periods of observations on different policy subsystems, policy change rarely occurred (p. 17- 18). However, on rare occasions certain policy conditions fluctuated such as the venue for a policy debate or the public's image of a specific policy problem. Fluctuations in venue and image often led to a quick policy change that was immediately followed by additional long periods of policy stasis (Baumgartner & Jones, 1993, p. 38). As a result, Baumgartner and Jones concluded that the evolution of any public policy followed a PE pattern rather than a gradual, incremental pattern.
While Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones owed much of their insights on PE to Eldredge and Gould, they also used previous research from agenda-setting studies, the policy subsystems literature, and social choice theory to help configure the idea of PE to existing research on public policy. By using these three concepts from social science research, Baumgartner and Jones brought a theory from evolutionary paleontology to political science. This made PE a viable model of the policy process.
With the incorporation of agenda-setting, the PE model had its basic political science foundation. Political scientists classify agenda-setting as a debate among advocacy groups, agencies, policymakers, the public, the media, and any other interested organizations over the problems that should be on the active policy agenda of policymakers (Baumgartner & Jones, 1993, p. 10; Kingdon, 1995, p. 3). Once on the agenda, governmental debates over a policy problem occur and the probability of policy change increases. Therefore, agenda-setting becomes important in the PE model because it helps to describe the most fundamental part of policy change. Bringing a policy problem to the agenda is a tough process. Successful agenda-setting usually happens when the public directs the right mix of attention to policymakers on a policy problem that already has various solutions advocated by organized interests (Hunt, 2002, p. 75-76). This helps to change the image of the policy problem from the perspective of policymakers. Such a change in image also causes more policymakers to consider solving the problem with new legislation.
When more policymakers know more about a specific policy problem, a change in venue for debates over the problem often occurs. By moving the policy discussion from its usual venue, such as a particular Congressional committee, policy change is more likely to occur. With the interaction of changing images and venues, more people become involved in the policy process and it becomes more open and more susceptible to change. This is an important ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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