Policy formation is a complex and sophisticated process as it is related to varying political issues with various groups or coalitions. Different theories of policy formation were put forward by scholars to explain the process of policy making, such as Advocacy Coalition Framework and Multiple Streams Theory. These theories are used to analyze policymaking in different areas from different angles, all of which have advantages and disadvantages. Among these theories, Social Construction of Target Populations and Policy Design Theory, Rational Choice Theory of Collective Action and Advocacy Coalition Framework Theory, these three theories will be addressed and evaluated by applying into LGBT policy in Australia and international trade policy especially between China and America. The structure of evaluating each theory is divided into three subsections: the brief of theory, application in example, and strengths and weaknesses. In the conclusion, the most compelling theory will be analyzed by comparing these three theories.
2. Social construction of target populations and Policy design
2.1 Brief of theory
This theory indicates that policy makers distribute benefits and burdens to target groups by considering their positive or negative social constructions and their political powers. Social construction, as a world-shaping exercise generates the social “realities” including but not at least images, stereotypes, values and events which have influences on the policy and politics. Except benefits and burdens, the elements of policy design also include policy tools, rules, goals, rationales, and legitimation. Advantaged, contenders, dependents and deviants are four typical target groups, among whom advantaged groups are distributed most benefits, while most burdens and punishments are allocated to deviants with negative images and powerless in society. Policy design has the ability to create politics and perpetuate original constructions because it can influence political orientation and participation pattern of target groups through affecting social elites’ opinions, sending positive or negative messages to target groups, and other ways. Although this theory strongly maintain and perpetuate original constructions, social constructions are changeable by policy design and outside forces, such as scientific authority, social movements and media advocacy. This theory generated propositions that are related to democracy, justices and equal citizenship, for example, designing positive terms on negative groups. But, these propositions are not testable and lack the attention to history and to the power of institutions, and what forces the transitions of target groups from one cell to another cell is also unclear (Ingram and Schneider, 2007).
2.2 LGBT policy in Australia
LGBT that refers to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and also named as LGBTQI and LGBT+, will be analyzed as a target group to explain why negative, unequal policy and punishments are distributed to them by applying social construction and policy design theory. Winsor (2017) provided a timeline of LGBT+ rights in Australia from 1533 to 2017, which showed substantial burdens and inequality in polices, for instance same-sex marriage was not legislated until 2017, and LGBT anti-discrimination laws does not work in religious schools and hospitals, even LGBTs were arrested by police in 1970s. These unfair policies and actions to LGBTs who are identified as deviant in the social construction are caused by negative social constructions and political powerless. Negative images and stereotypes, like social exclusion, isolation, stigmas and subordination have been constructing all the time. Emslie (2002) pointed that the understandings of sexual emotions and behaviors as heterosexual are accepted by various institutions, but those thought as homosexual or bisexual are discriminated and isolated. In addition, LGBTI young people are suffering from verbal and physical homophobic abuse, cyberbullying, graffiti, and humiliation (Australian Human Rights Commission, 2013). These evidences show that LGBTs are harmed and discriminated by dominant society, which they have no power to change. The subordination and negative constructions and the view of discrimination held in dominant people result in that LGBT group is treated as deviants during policymaking. Moreover, as social construction and policy design have the function of perpetuating original constructions, they are now still under the disadvantaged status in society even through policy and social construction are more positive than ever before due to long-term struggle for changing policy from 1533.
2.3 Strengths and weaknesses
This theory is helpful to explain why most burdens are unequally distributed to LGBT groups, but it fails to clearly clarify the positive changes from 1533 to 2017, such as the legitimation of same-sex marriage in 2017. Based on the theory, serious burdens lead to the emerging of social movements which are unintended outcome of original policy. Furthermore, the positive images and discourses are emerging that is also unable to be explained by social construction theory. However, Advocacy coalition framework is beneficial to explain those changes from the angle of negotiation between different coalitions, which will be exploring below.
3. Advocacy Coalition Framework
3.1 brief of theory
The aim of Advocacy coalition framework (ACF) is to solve complex social dilemmas that are involved with various actors, serious conflicts and disputes. The ACF is built on three “foundation stones” in different levels that are policy subsystem, model of individual and advocacy coalitions. First, policy subsystem is identified by substantive issues, geographic scope to the institutions, and policy participants including legislators, researchers, journalists, interest group leaders and judicial officials. The process of policy making is determined by those participants, but their behaviors can be changed by stable and dynamic external factors, for example, socioeconomic conditions and governing coalition. In second, policy actors hold on three different individual beliefs that are deep core beliefs relevant to general normative about human nature, policy core beliefs such as the relative seriousness and causes of policy problems in the subsystem, and secondary beliefs in a narrow scope like detailed rules. Both deep core beliefs and policy core beliefs are difficult to changed, while secondary beliefs are easy to change during the competitions and interactions with other advocacy coalitions. Third, advocacy coalitions gathering actors with similar policy core beliefs prefers to transfer their beliefs to policy before their opponents do the same thing, and to maintain their cooperation with allies through devil shift. The policy is resulted from competition, negotiation and compromise of different advocacy coalitions. During the negotiation, policy-relevant resources can also influence public policy making that include formal legal authority and public opinion. Moreover, policy-oriented learning at secondary beliefs by studying from scientific and technical information and external perturbations or shocks such as the regime change are two major factors that affect the policy changes. As for the weakness, the ACF can not be used to analyze the collective action problems (Sabatier and Weible, 2007).
3.2 LGBT policy in Australia
As shown in the below figure of LGBT+ rights timeline (2017), the rights of LGTB group is becoming to generate more benefits and reduce the unequal policies and treatments. This change is associated with the negotiation and competition between supporting advocacy coalition and opposition coalition. The supporting coalition includes LGBT researchers, non-profit organizations like the Equality Project, public people, politicians and Australian Human Rights Commission department built on 1986 by federal parliament, and media groups, those of whom are bounded with deep core beliefs such as equality and freedom. On the contrary, the opposition coalition consists of religious, mass public people, media and politicians. Those people are gathered by normal values. Politicians and media journalists also take the role of policy brokers. The support coalition adopted actions to influence public and politics through social movements mobilized by LGBT and other cooperate organizations, researches of inequality and discrimination by academic researchers and media releases by journalists. For example, the first Gay and Lesbian Madrid Gras Parade happed in 1978 aroused widespread sentiment of gay communities because 53 people were arrested by police ( Cubis, 2017). The situations and conditions of LGBT were changed due to the efforts of struggles. ABS news (2017) reported the supporting people across all of the subgroups are increased from 2005 to 2015. 15.6% of not religious and 25.7% of religious supported for equal rights for same-sex couples, and the rates increased to 76.6% of not religious and 47% of religious. as LGBT is conflict with religious especially in beliefs. As the reflection to support coalition, the opposition coalition also mobilized people to affect public opinions. But they were failed because the social conditions were changed. For example, religious have ever dominate the politics son publics in history, and Christianity is the dominant religion in Australia. But now the power of influencing publics by churches is decrease. Patrick (2017) stated that during the referendum of same-sex marriage legitimation, even though church leaders of Catholics and Anglicans advocated people to against the legitimation, majority of Australians still believed same-sex couples should be allowed. These changes could be understood in two ways, which are expanding influence on publics by using their social resources that helps publics to learning new information and understand LGBT, and the external factors changes.
3.3 Strengths and Weaknesses
As the ACF assumes that the policy is the negation, which means different coalitions stand on the different sides already. This feature determines it can not be used to deal with social dilemmas in collective actions based on the foundation of cooperation, like international trade policy between different nations. The theory of rational choice in collective action is beneficial to deal with those social dilemmas.
4. Rational Choice Theory in Collective action
4.1 brief of theory
Social dilemmas that are occurred when individuals seek the maximization of short-term self-interest outcomes can be solved by applying rational choice theory in collective actions. Building the reciprocity norms in an environment is a way to overcome the strong desire of short-run self-interest. Reciprocity norms represent that individuals prefer to respond to the positive actions of others in positive ways or reflect to negative actions with negative ways. As the figure (p. 116?) shown, because trust determines whether individuals are willing to cooperate with others, it becomes the important base of reciprocity norms, and it also can be strengthened through repeated face to face communications. Once the initial levels of cooperation encourage more individuals to use this norms, reputation for being trustworthy will be produced, which is able to reinforce and improve the levels of trust, reciprocity and reputations. Thus, plenty of net benefits are generated from this positive cycle. On the contrary, in case of downward spiral resulted from negative actions, contingent agreement need to be formatted to distribute punishments and sanctions to those who do not cooperate and do not keep their commitment (Ostrom, 1998).
4.2 International trade policy
Global economy is an example of using collective action to deal with social dilemmas such shortage of resources, lack of talents and goods. WTO established in 1995 is aimed at solving the international trade rules and protecting the trade flows as smoothly, predictably and freely with 164 members from the world (WTO, 2018). From the time when China joined into the WTO in 2001, the norms of free and reciprocal trade became the rule between china and America, and other members. In this way, America an China can exchange goods, resources, talents and knowledge which will promote to produce more benefits. As Amedeo (2018) said that American can buy good made in china in lowest price due to the lower standard of living and exchange rate of china. At the same time, the cost of American companies entering into china market is transferring technology to Chinese firms. This allowed China had the chance to learn knowledge and technology of modern industries and open their eyes to the world. As a rebate, American people can enjoy high welfares and various goods made in china. This is a kind of reciprocity, which helps them to build high level trust, reputation and more reciprocity. The high level of cooperation results in the economic booming that would also led to the global economic prosperity due to global economy in nowadays. However, recently, this positive circle is breaking, which started at American deficit and trade friction. Smh (2018) stated that American companies are banned to sell components to Chinese telecom equipment company ZTE for seven years. In the same year, Shields (2018) reported that Huawei and ZTE were banned by Federal Communications Commission because of the potential threats of national security. Furthermore, according to Amode (2018), Trump increased the tariffs of imported steel, which mainly are imported from China. As reaction to US, china also adopted protectionist policy by increase tariff. That indicates that the cooperation will goes to the negative circle which stops the exchange of goods and technologies and also affects global economy and the free trade rules.
4.3 Strengths and weaknesses
This theory is suitable to solve the problems when individuals’ interests contract with collection interests. But it can not explain how to distribute benefits produced together, which will affect on the future cooperation. How to distributed benefits more equally can be addressed by social construction theory. Once the member disobey the norms or rules for more self-interest, the trust will be decreased. The reason of why members tends to break norms and rules even though they understand their behaviors is seeking for short-term self interest should be explored.
All these three theories are useful in some different policy areas due to their analysis angles and they can be used together to explain same policy from different angles, but comparing with other two theories, ACF is the most compelling one because it is applicable to explain majority policy areas. LGBT policy could be analyzed specifically and deeply from the angel of ACF. Besides, international trade policy also can be addressed as the negotiation and competition by using ACF. In the process of policy making, actors and participants are the core, important and unnecessary elements. This feature allows that ACF can be used to explain them. Moreover, it is the model of dynamic change between several different coalitions.
1. Ingram and Schneider. (2007). In Theory of policy process. pp. 93-128
2. Sabatier and Weible. (2007). In Theory of policy process. pp. 189-222
3. Ostrom, E. (1998). A Behavioral Approach to the Rational Choice Theory of Collective Action: Presidential Address, American Political Science Association, 1997. pp. 1-22
4. LGBTIQ policy guide 2018. https://www.theequalityproject.org.au/policy/
5. A definitive timeline of LGBT+ rights in Australia. (2017). https://www.sbs.com.au/topics/sexuality/agenda/article/2016/08/12/definitive-timeline-lgbt-rights-australia
6. (data show violence and stereotype) Face the facts: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex People. https://www.humanrights.gov.au/education/face-facts/face-facts-lesbian-gay-bisexual-trans-and-intersex-people
9. Emslie, M. (2002). Marginalised by the mainstream: the construction of sexuality and representations of lesbians, gay men and bisexuals in Australian youth policy. https://researchbank.rmit.edu.au/view/rmit:11436
10. Flood and Hamilton. (2005). Mapping Homophobia in Australia. https://www.glhv.org.au/sites/default/files/aust_inst_homophobia_paper.pdf
11. Patrick. (2017). https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/asia_pacific/as-australia-votes-on-same-sex-marriage-church-leaders-fight-back/2017/10/28/bd442722-b82c-11e7-9e58-e6288544af98_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.d367becae0ae
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13. US bans sales to Chinese phone-maker ZTE. (2018). https://www.smh.com.au/world/north-america/us-bans-sales-to-chinese-phone-maker-zte-20180417-p4za33.html
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