Rational Choice Theory and the Policy Process


  1. Critically assess the value of rational choice theory in the policy process and it’s place in policy analysis. Please take care to consider alterative theories of the policy process and examine each overarching method of policy analysis that corresponds to a specific stage of the policy process.


First Part 2

Defining Rational Choice Theory in Terms of the Policy Process 2

Alternative Theories 4

Second Part 5

Policy Analysis Methods 5

Garbage Can Model 6

Third Part 7

Stages Heuristic Model and Wicked Policy Problems 7

Conclusion 10

References 12

First Part

Defining Rational Choice Theory in Terms of the Policy Process

According to rational choice theory, individuals attempt to achieve their objectives and make decisions after careful consideration. These results are additionally associated with ensuring an individual gets what they need. Using rational choice theory means deciding based on the options available to people what will bring them the most benefit and satisfaction (Tversky & Kahneman, 1988). Like all theories, rational choice theory has the advantage of being useful in explaining both individual and collective behaviors. Every theory tries to explain the things we see in the world. Objective decision hypothesis can make sense of why individuals, gatherings, and society in general go with specific decisions, in light of explicit expenses and rewards (Fischer & Miller, 2017).

Rational choice theory additionally assists with making sense of conduct that appears to be silly. Any action can be examined for its rational motivations because a central premise of rational choice theory is that all behavior is rational (Zahariadis, 2014). Rational choice hypothesis depends on the possibility that individuals go with choices in light of their thought process is the most ideal choice (Lindblom, 2018). Rational choice theory posits that individuals attempt to settle on the best decisions to help themselves and abstain from missing out (Fischer & Miller, 2017). Walker (2000, p. 12) asserts that, “Policy analysis is not meant to replace the judgment of the policymakers (any more than an X-ray or a blood test is meant to replace the judgment of medical doctors). Rather, the goal is to provide a better basis for the exercise of that judgment by helping to clarify the problem, presenting the alternatives and comparing their consequences in terms of the relevant costs and benefits.” Rational choice theory posits that individuals settle on decisions in view of reason. Normal entertainers are individuals a brilliant in an economy decisions in light of reasoning and the data they have.

The invisible hand hypothesis says that when individuals pursue choices in view of what’s best for them, it can likewise turn out to be great for the entire economy. By allowing individuals to make and purchase things unreservedly, one can ensure society’s necessities are met (Fischer & Miller, 2017). Prices fluctuate and trade takes place when there is a balance between what people want to buy and what is available for purchase. Financial specialists who support the invisible hand hypothesis maintain that the public authority should be less involved and for individuals to have more opportunity to exchange the market (Ecola et al., 2015). Also, the financial expert Richard Thaler called attention to additional impediments of the presumption that people work as reasonable entertainers (Zahariadis, 2014). What Thaler would consider mental bookkeeping shows how individuals put more prominent worth on certain dollars than others, despite the fact that all dollars have the equivalent value. They could head to one more store to save $10 on a $20 buy yet they wouldn’t head to one more store to save $10 on a $1,000 buy.

Alternative Theories

As per rational choice theory, individuals are risk opposed. Prospect theory, conversely, says that individuals will face challenges relying upon the circumstance. Individuals are risk-opposed assuming that the choices are benefit arranged; Faces challenges in the event that choices are misfortune driven (Ecola et al., 2015). Kahneman and Tversky developed the Prospect Theory in opposition to the Rational Choice Theory (Fischer & Miller, 2017). One of the points of the hypothesis is to offer numerical options in contrast to the sane suppositions in financial matters with mentally demonstrated establishments. Contends that one individual cannot be totally objective, not all individuals can be judicious (Tversky & Kahneman, 1988). With the Possibility Hypothesis, the impact of the conduct approach on dynamic has been exhibited by tests. In contrast to rational choice theory, it places more emphasis on the idea of “perceived risk” as opposed to “expected risk” (Walters et al., 2015). Individuals do not necessarily pursue decisions that suit their drawn out interests. Individuals can dismiss their own advantages for other people. Furthermore, the aggravation of losing is considerably more than the delight of winning (Walters et al., 2015).

According to Choice Theory, which was developed by psychiatrist William Glasser, people are driven by an insatiable need to fulfill the five basic wants that are ingrained in our DNA: the need for love and belonging, power, freedom, enjoyment, and survival. In particular: power, freedom, enjoyment, survival, and belonging (Zahariadis, 2014).

Second Part

Policy Analysis Methods

On the off chance that one accepts that individuals are free in a fundamental manner, we can say that individuals can go with decisions regardless of what the decisions are about. In this way, individuals contemplate decision in an extremely broad way. People wonder whether they can devise a straightforward logical framework to explain this kind of decision (Tversky & Kahneman, 1988). Scholars, mathematicians, and financial specialists have accomplished significant work around here, particularly in microeconomic hypothesis (Fischer & Miller, 2017). Morgenstern and Von Neumann in 1953, and Samuelson in 1948, made significant commitments to this field (Zahariadis, 2014).

Insightfully talking, when one pursues a decision in light of a consistent structure, it tends to be viewed as instrumental discernment. In essence, what matters is what one does after someone has chosen their goal, rather than what they should choose. In rational choice theory, this system is generally founded on rules about what individuals like or like. Walker (2000, p. 12) asserts that, “Public policy analysis is a rational, systematic approach to making policy choices in the public sector. It is a process that generates information on the consequences that would follow the adoption of various policies.” Many individuals scrutinize reasonable decision hypothesis since they figure it doesn’t make sense of why individuals adhere to guidelines. It is interesting to note that those critiquing this theory come from the same background. For instance, Vanberg argues in his book Rules and Choice in Economics that the assumption that people always make decisions to maximize their benefit in a given circumstance is untrue in real life (Walters et al., 2015). Despite the fact that individuals some of the time go with choices in view of rational choice hypothesis, most circumstances are more muddled and do not necessarily follow the hypothesis (Fischer & Miller, 2017).

Most legitimate decision specialists would concur that individuals in these circumstances utilize unique, direct principles while simply deciding. According to Peters (2005, p. 356),

“The first, and perhaps most basic, issue to be addressed in looking at policy problems is whether they can be ‘solved’ or not. That is no simple question, given both the number of problems that are addressed by government and the difficulty of some of those problems.” Yes, the rational choice theory does not always explain how people make decisions. Normal decision scholars accept that there’s really no need to focus on individuals’ thought process to them (Zahariadis, 2014). It simply indicates that, regardless of how individuals make their decisions, it can predict how they will act in particular circumstances. In this way, rational choice thoery is not about how individuals simply decide, yet it is for the most part about what occurs after humans settle on those choices, similar to races or different decisions. It is essentially a hypothesis about deciding.

Garbage Can Model

The garbage can model shows that when we want to go with a choice, various issues and arrangements are completely combined as one and we pick one at irregular. The decision opportunity resembles a trash bin where issues and arrangements are put inside (Zahariadis, 2014). The garbage can model works best when there are issues that should be tackled, and there are decisions accessible to fix those issues (Fischer & Miller, 2017). Members ought to likewise be looking for errands to do during the spare energy. Businesses that operate in a chaotic environment with no clear rules frequently employ the garbage can model (Zahariadis, 2014).

The garbage can model is an exceptional approach to settling on choices that has become more famous in business since it was concocted. The dynamic model realizes that each association has issues (Zahariadis, 2014). The excessive number of non-necessary solutions designed to resolve ambiguous issues is to blame for many of these issues. According to Peters (2005, p. 357), “the absence of durability in a particular set of solutions may be a function either of the politics surrounding the issue or of the more programmatic nature of the issues.” Whenever there are various choices or opportunities to settle on an issue, the trash bin model shows how heaps of issues and arrangements are completely combined as one, similar to waste in a trash bin.

Third Part

Stages Heuristic Model and Wicked Policy Problems

Concentrating on open strategies needs a ton of examination and an arrangement to see every one of the subtleties of the arrangements. The study of how policies are created and implemented in various areas makes use of numerous different models (Coase, 1960). The stages model is a popular and old perspective on. Numerous arrangement experts, educators, and specialists all around the world have utilized it. Laswell (1956) made a model with seven phases, which is quite possibly of the most seasoned model utilized in open strategy examination (Walters et al., 2015). One more model by David Easton in 1957, called the framework model, is likewise still utilized today (Coase, 1960). When researching public policy, the stages model plays a crucial role.

The most significant and pivotal speculations or studies that have characterized, outlined, and showed the stages model are recorded as generally huge and broadly referred to. Concentrating on open strategy is significant for understanding what it means for society and governmental issues. It assists with sorting out what approaches are had and their effect (Zahariadis, 2014). Policy actors want to be involved in decisions that have an impact on society, the economy, and a variety of other areas. This makes the most common way of making public approach troublesome (McConnell, 2010). By dividing public policy into distinct stages, the stages model aids in our comprehension. This makes the investigation more coordinated and simpler to follow.

Policy analysts and researchers can learn a lot from public policy outcomes and outputs. Subsequently taking into account these elements offer a chance to strategy producers to reconsider the arrangements. In the Stages model, especially in the evaluation stage, the goals set in the formulation stage are compared to the results and outputs of the policies (Fischer & Miller, 2017). In this unique situation, strategy producers settle on a choice regardless of whether the arrangement ought to be upgraded. When contrasted with other public arrangement examination models, in stages model everything about the strategy is more examined (McConnell, 2010). In other examination models/approaches and structures like world class, accentuated harmony, institutional and different streams a few explicit variables and for the most part relations are tended to. Subsequently it very well may be unrealistic to have a complete examination for all intents and purposes in the stages model.

The Stages model glances at how various gatherings, both authority and informal, as well as those from different nations, impact and influence arrangements. Different people have different effects and contribute in different ways at different times (McConnell, 2010). Think tanks are truly significant in molding the choices of government pioneers in a wide range of nations. In both developed and developing nations, they have a significant impact on policy areas (Coase, 1960). As a result, in order to comprehend how the policies are implemented, it is essential to pay attention to the beliefs and conduct of those who formulate the policies. Additionally, it is essential to keep up with great associations with individuals associated with simply deciding, to figure out the central matters of the strategies. Public strategies have significant outcomes and results that are important to individuals who concentrate on arrangements and do investigate on them (McConnell, 2010). Thus, by contemplating these things, policymakers get an opportunity to change the strategies. In the stages model, particularly in the assessment stage, we verify whether the consequences of the strategies match the objectives people set toward the start (Le Grand, 1990). In this present circumstance, individuals who cause rules to choose if the standard ought to be changed or not. The Stages model, in contrast to other approaches to analyzing public policies, carefully examines every aspect.

In addition, wicked policy problems frequently include clashing qualities and various sentiments, vulnerability about how things are associated, and contention about the impacts of various strategy decisions. On the one hand, simple issues are easy to solve and comprehend. Thus, the smart activities can be checked and changed in light of cautious review and informed conversation (Le Grand, 1990). Then again, some strategy issues can be truly challenging and difficult to tackle. These issues include contrasts in conclusions and values, vulnerability about the reasons for the issues, and conversations about what to do about them (McConnell, 2010). The strategy examination puzzle is tied in with sorting out where every approach issue is on the range, and understanding what is making it continue to change. The test for making arrangements is to think about every one of the muddled elements (Coase, 1960).

Individuals frequently propose cooperating and being coordinated while managing wicked policy problems. Nonetheless, it is commonly realized that it is not difficult to incorporate these techniques effectively (Le Grand, 1990). Farrell (2011, p. 342) mentions that, “Similarly, human societies are confronted with ‘‘the impossibility to define in absolute terms the optimal way to sustainability, not only because adequacy criteria concerning what is ecologically optimal are unclear but also because sustainability cannot be viewed as a purely technical problem but must be addressed as a politically charged, complex social issue, where value criteria are also unclear.” When legislators pick a quick and simple fix for a convoluted issue, it does not necessarily in every case work and can really exacerbate the situation (Le Grand, 1990).

Assuming that cooperation is required, it must be done such that works competently. Joint effort can occur in various ways. Every project must be carefully planned to address the major issues and involve all parties (Coase, 1960). According to Farrell (2011, p. 342), “Funtowicz and Ravetz propose that a new picture of the social role of scientific knowledge production is needed, in order to correctly understand and effectively engage with the empirical problems at hand.” One really wants to have a more pragmatic thought of what achievement resembles with regards to tackling truly difficult issues, such as halting abusive behavior at home or managing environmental change. Requesting a last answer for these issues is preposterous. Although complex issues cannot be completely resolved, they can be managed more effectively, and one can make significant advancements.


People’s decision-making processes are not always explained by the rational choice theory. Scholars of normal decision-making agree that it’s actually unnecessary to concentrate on people’s mental processes (Zahariadis, 2014). It only means that it can forecast people’s behavior in specific situations, independent of the choices they make. Thus, rational choice theory is not so much about how people just decide as it is about what happens, like races or various decisions, once humans make such judgments. It is simply a decision-making theory. There are no right responses to wicked policy problems. A few different ways of deciding and affecting individuals are superior to other people (Coase, 1960). They are better at getting backing and gaining ground towards objectives. For example, it is smarter to ponder the issues and ways of improving them together, instead of having the public authority force an answer on everybody.

Normally, there is not only one individual who decides. Likewise, arriving at a settlement on a solitary arrangement of inclinations for the outcomes is far-fetched. Then, there is no certain method for advising the most ideal way to follow through with something (McConnell, 2010). Taking everything into account, technique examination utilizes various apparatuses to think of pertinent data. Improve on the data and offer it with individuals engaged with making strategies so they can make better approaches. A methodology does not expect a particular model for doing overviews (Le Grand, 1990). The public procedure assessment is a daily practice and precise cycle. This data is made and displayed to individuals engaged with making strategy utilizing various instruments to assist them with settling on a decision. It is more similar to making something by hand than observing a bunch of guidelines since it depends on regular senses as well as cautious preparation.

System arrangement includes getting models of why things going, how to gauge them, and how to assess them. From that point forward, tracking down ways of interfacing them. As the composition on course of action design has been creating, the arrangement is being made. The spotlight has been placed on instruments or ‘gadgets’ for methodology. Besides, about the governmental issues of interfacing devices and assessing system. That implies, researchers and specialists have accumulated a lot of data about the impacts of picking a particular kind of hardware, and they are starting to grasp the upsides and downsides.


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Ecola, L., Batorsky, B., & Ringel, J. S. (2015). Using cost-effectiveness analysis to prioritize spending on traffic safety. Rand Corporation.

Farrell, K. N. (2011). Snow white and the wicked problems of the west: A look at the lines between empirical description and normative prescription. Science, Technology, & Human Values36(3), 334-361.

Fischer, F., & Miller, G. J. (Eds.). (2017). Handbook of public policy analysis: Theory, politics, and methods. Routledge.

Le Grand, J. (1990). Equity versus efficiency: the elusive trade-off. Ethics100(3), 554-568.

Lindblom, C. (2018). The science of “muddling through”. In Classic Readings in Urban Planning (pp. 31-40). Routledge.

McConnell, A. (2010). Policy success, policy failure and grey areas in-between. Journal of Public Policy30(3), 345-362.

Peters, G. B. (2005): The Problem of policy problems. Journal of Comparative Policy Analysis: Research and Practice, 7(4), 349-370.

Tversky, A., & Kahneman, D. (1988). Rational choice and the framing of decisions. Decision Making: Descriptive, Normative, and Prescriptive Interactions, 167-192.

Walker, W. E. (2000). Policy analysis: A systematic approach to supporting policymaking in the public sector. Journal of MultiCriteria Decision Analysis9(1‐3), 11-27.

Walters, L. C., Aydelotte, J., & Miller, J. (2015). Putting more public in policy analysis. In The Age of Direct Citizen Participation (pp. 458-472). Routledge.

Zahariadis, N. (2014). Ambiguity and multiple streams. Theories of the Policy Process3(1), 25-59.

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