The Nature of Policymaking

  • Rodney Lowe


The historical analysis of the welfare state benefits from theoretical insights into the distribution of power in society and the ultimate objectives of state intervention. It can also benefit from similar insights into the formulation of policy and the criteria for its effectiveness. This requires a change of focus from the general theories to the more technical aspects of political science and economics which are concerned with how political decisions are taken and implemented, and how policy objectives (once determined) can best be achieved. For instance, does state intervention — as its early proponents (such as Keynes and Beveridge) seemed to assume but as its opponents (the New Right) would dispute — really entail the taking of decisions by disinterested experts in command of the full range of relevant information? Are these decisions then automatically implemented in such a way that all citizens benefit, and only benefit, from them in the manner intended? Similarly, in a specific policy area, what are the criteria for determining whether the use of scarce resources will be maximised, in general, by state intervention or the market and, in particular, by a given policy? Such theoretical questions as these have spawned a vast empirical literature, from which examples will again be largely selected from the history of the NHS.


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Notes and References

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Copyright information

© Rodney Lowe 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rodney Lowe
    • 1
  1. 1.University of BristolUK

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