Working Papers

Strategic Policy Overreaction as Risky Policy Investment
August 2018

Policy overreaction is defined as “policy that imposes objective and/or perceived social costs without producing offsetting objective and/or perceived benefits.” It is therefore an objective fact and, at the same time, a matter of interpretation. Scholars operating in the strongly normative subfields of policy analysis and evaluation, which place efficient goal attainment center stage, view this duality as a problematic ontological issue, thereby categorizing policies that prioritize policy effectiveness over policy efficiency (e.g., policy success “at all costs”) as policy mistakes or errors. Building precisely on the aforementioned duality, this paper assigns specific policy overreaction responses to two empirically distinct categories: namely, the scale of policy in terms of objective costs and benefits and the public perceptions of policy. The derived policy taxonomy highlights four types of overreaction alternatives, which are elaborated and exemplified here, as well as a set of hypotheses about differing patterns of politics and governance associated with the design of these policy choices. These distinctions should facilitate a more systematic empirical test of strategic policy overreaction as risky policy investment.
Key Words: Disproportionate policy, overreaction, rhetoric, doctrine, zero-tolerance policy, President Trump

A social Network Perspective on the Interaction Between Policy Bubbles
July 2018

The socio-psychological phenomenon of the policy bubble occurs when policy overinvestment or overproduction, itself the result of distorted policy valuation, is sustained by positive feedback processes and contagion over an extended period of time. Studies of policy bubbles have so far focused on the policy domain as the unit of analysis, thus allowing scholars to analyze the inflation or deflation of standalone bubbles following changes in self-reinforcing processes and contagion within the policy domain at hand. Little attention has been devoted to the fact that while the phenomenon of policy bubbles captures the efficiency of policymakers in matching the intensity of the policy tool to the intensity of the policy problem in the long run, policy efficiency itself can only be defined relative to an information set. Scholars have therefore ignored the possibility that a policy bubble in a given policy domain or jurisdiction may constitute an information event for another policy bubble which has inflated elsewhere. Given that diffusion processes are closely related to the basic architecture of a population’s network, and that social networks are primarily carriers of information and shapers of policy beliefs, opinions, and choices, this paper imposes multiple policy domains on bubbly policy processes. Drawing on the distinction between technical/factual information and experience-based (e.g., expert) judgement, as well as on the consequences of social-network structure for information diffusion, the paper develops a theoretical framework and methodological toolbox for explaining the potential impact of interbubble dynamics on the sustainment of policy bubbles. The main contribution of the paper lies in expanding political scientists’ analytical toolkit for elucidating policy overproduction in the long term. This is achieved by unpacking the potential causal mechanisms through which a policy bubble can be sustained, even if positive feedback processes and contagion in the jurisdiction within which it developed no longer bolster its support bases.

Key Words: Interbubble dynamics, bubble connectivity information, social networks, network segregation, ‘alternative facts’, policy overinvestment

Disproportionate Policy Response by Design: Towards a Conceptual Turn
March 2018

Since the U.S. response to 9/11 and the federal response to Hurricane Katrina, there has been increasing interest in the concept of disproportionate policy response and its two component concepts—policy over- and underreaction. These concepts are viewed by traditional policy theory as unintentional policy mistakes. This paper highlights a conceptual turn whereby these concepts are re-entering the policy lexicon as types of intentional policy choices. This turn forces policy scholars and policymakers to ignore the negative connotations associated with these concepts and to recognize instead the repertoire of disproportionate policy response and, at times, its success in achieving policy goals. The paper elaborates on this theoretical advancement and concludes by identifying five areas that offer promising possibilities for future research in this subfield: definitional foundations, micro-foundations, levels of analysis, temporality and dynamism, and process research.

Key Words: Disproportionate policy, Overreaction, Underreaction, Crises, Rhetoric, Doctrine

Why a Policy Bubble is Sustainable: The Role of Institutional Context
November 2016

This conceptual paper suggests a crucial revision to the policy bubble agenda, wherein some bubbles may emerge within institutional settings which support efforts by policy entrepreneurs to advance and correct distorted policy valuations (I have termed them preference-driven policy bubbles), whereas others emerge in settings which inhibit efforts to advance and/or correct the distortion (I have termed them institution--driven policy bubbles). Institutional restrictions on the visibility of the policy domain and on the voicing of dissent may lead to stronger and more sustainable distorted policy valuations, and thereby, to relatively stable and self-sustaining policy bubbles. The lack of such restrictions may lead to weaker and less sustainable distorted policy valuations and, thereby, to relatively fragile policy bubbles.

Key Words: policy bubbles, comparison, valuation, accountability, transparency

Emotion Regulation by Emotional Entrepreneurs: Implications for Political Science and International Relations
June 2015

Despite robust evidence that emotions can have a powerful impact on public opinion, political behavior, and foreign policy, few studies have directly addressed the possibility that emotions may be strategically regulated by political and policy actors. To systematically examine the role of emotion regulation in domestic and global political domains, what is needed is a framework for organizing the large number of regulatory strategies available to actors who wish to influence others’ emotions in pursuit of their goals. One such framework is Gross’s (2014) process model of emotion regulation, which previously has been used primarily to examine psychological processes at the individual level in healthy and clinical populations. We use this framework to present an overview of the emerging field of emotion regulation by emotional entrepreneurs at the local, state, national and global levels, to identify gaps in the relevant literatures in political science and international relations, and to propose a research agenda which revolves around whether different emotion regulation strategies and implementation tactics have different political consequences, both immediately and over the long term.

Key Words: Emotion Regulation, Emotional Entrepreneurs, Opinion Formation, Political Behavior, Social Movements, Public Policy