Wikis > Patterns and trends in policy designs
Patterns of tool use in contemporary policy designs are much more varied than simply involving a cross-sectoral, government-wide shift towards policy mixes associated with enhanced market and network governance.

In the case of organizational tools there has been noticeable movement in many sectors away from the use of direct government instruments and public enterprises and towards the use of more indirect means of goods and service delivery such as partnerships, special operating agencies and quangos. However, this movement should not lead us to underestimate the resilience and continued presence of traditional direct government tools, especially line departments, which remain the backbone of most policy sectors. In the case of organization-based procedural tools, there has been a simultaneous movement towards the use of government organizational resources to involve larger components of the public or affected ‘stakeholders’ in policy deliberations. These moves, again while certainly not new, do reflect a shift in some policy sectors from state-led towards more societally driven modes of organization as efforts have been made in many countries to implement some aspects of network governance.

With respect to authoritative substantive instruments, this same pattern appears once again as traditional direct and indirect regulatory mechanisms which are a feature of implementation in legal and corporatist modes of from environmental protection to food safety. This deregulatory movement has been offset in many jurisdictions and sectors, however, by the return to direct or indirect regulation through re-regulation of areas such as telecommunications and energy in many countries (Majone 1997). The relative stasis in this category of tool choice is also visible in its procedural components, as traditional mechanisms such as advisory committee creation continue to be used extensively, whether the context is regulation, deregulation or re-regulation.

In the area of financial tools, however, changes in policy designs have been more unidirectional, with most countries seeing a cross-sectoral government-wide shift in recent years from an emphasis on the use of more visible subsidies to a preference in many sectors for less visible forms of taxand royalty-based expenditures. On the procedural front, there is not a great deal of information available from which to judge, but it appears that, in many countries, more or less covert efforts to correct collective action problems through the use of tools such as interest group creation have been attempted in many sectors, but this is a policy design which is compatible with already existing corporatist modes of governance as well as the development of new network ones.

Finally, in the area of information-based tools, the propensity for governments to undertake large-scale public information campaigns has accelerated, as has their use of devices such as surveys and other techniques for monitoring their populations. On the procedural side, however, an earlier generation’s efforts at enhancing information access for the public has been somewhat curtailed in the post-9/11 environment of enhanced security and state secrecy.

The general picture this provides, in terms of measures of government involvement in specific tool choices and policy designs, is of a number of shifts, but much less between governance modes, as suggested by the globalization and ‘government to governance’ thesis, than within them. In some cases some efforts have been made to shift designs toward more market- or network-based ones, but not with a lot of success. In others, as Hood et al. and Majone have argued in the European case, ‘modern states are placing more emphasis on the use of authority, rules and standard-setting, partially displacing an earlier emphasis on public ownership, public subsidies, and directly provided services’ (Hood et al. 1999; see also Majone 1997). However, even here, most sectors in Europe remain firmly entrenched in corporatist governance modes.

These trends, therefore, are much less dramatic than those suggested by the network-globalization hypothesis and suggest a much greater resilience and continued high capacity of the state in the face of these two macro-level trends than is often alleged (Aucoin 1997; Lynn 2001; Hill and Lynn 2004; Hamelin 2010). It suggests, among other things, that governance modes are more difficult to change in many sectors than is often argued and provides additional evidence for the contention that policy designs must be compatible with previously existing governance modes if they are to survive the formulation process and be implemented successfully.7