Public Policy 511: Policy Analysis I

Course Syllabus
Fall 2000
MWF [New Time!] 1:00-1:50 p.m. in 2245 SFLC

Instructor: Jay Goodliffe
Office: 752 SWKT
Phone: 378-9136


Office Hours
Computer Classes
Academic Honesty and Plagiarism
Other Notes
Tentative Schedule

Office Hours

I will hold office hours on Monday and Wednesday [new time!] mornings 9:00-11:00. I am also available at most other times if you make arrangements with me. I encourage you to come by for any reason whatsoever.

You should check your email regularly (as well as this syllabus web page) for updates, announcements, corrections, etc. You are responsible for any announcements made in class even if you did not attend. I suggest that you exchange phone numbers and/or e-mail addresses with other students in the class.


This course provides an introduction to the study of public policy and the professional practice of policy analysis. We consider a number of fundamental questions: What are the rationales for collective interference in private affairs? What are the limitations to collective action? What are the generic instruments of public policy? How can we measure social costs and benefits? What are the appropriate roles for policy analysts in democratic societies? We also seek to improve our basic skills in analytical thinking, information gathering, and writing as we attempt to answer these questions.

Given the small class size, this will not be a rigidly structured course. I welcome your input in determining what subjects we discuss, and how and when we cover them. There are some topics that we must cover, but others are flexible.

The course will be run primarily as a seminar. I actively encourage questions, interruptions, cries for help, protests of disbelief, etc. You will never be penalized for participating--even when this takes the form of vague complaints like, "I've got no clue why we are doing this stuff!" I urge--indeed, I expect--you to take advantage of the chance to talk with me during office hours.


I presume that you have taken the first-year public policy course, and the prerequisites for those courses.




Midterm Exam


Policy Analysis Project


All assignments are due at the beginning of class on the day designated in the course schedule. If you cannot make it to class, please leave the assignment with the department secretaries (in the Political Science office--745 SWKT) before class begins. I will deduct 20 points per day (including weekends) for late assignments (on a 100 point scale). That said, I am a reasonable person; if you anticipate a problem with submitting an assignment when it is due, speak to me before the assignment is due so that we can try to work out an alternative arrangement.

Because most of the assignments (and project report) are designed to imitate the assignments given in the workplace, I will consider presentation in the assignments.

Weekly Assignments

The assignments will include memorandum exercises and problem solving.

You may work together on these assignments (in groups of two or at most three), but you must write up your answers separately. However, if you use other persons' work, or make changes to your own work without inquiring or understanding what you did incorrectly, then you are trying to get a grade using someone else's knowledge. Giving or receiving answers in this manner is not permitted in this course. If you do not learn how to analyze or solve problems on your own, you will have difficulty on the exams and research project. Generally, weekly assignments will be distributed on Mondays at the end of class.


There is a midterm exam that will test your mastery of the basic rationales for, and limits to, public policy. You are not allowed to consult with anyone on these take-home exams (except the instructor). The exams may be picked up in the Political Science office (745 SWKT) after they are graded. The exams will be discarded at the end of the Winter 2001 semester.

Policy Analysis Project

Students will work on a project on a randomly assigned topic. The project provides an opportunity to apply the concepts and craft skills introduced in the course. This will consist of writing a project report, and giving a project presentation.

I strongly recommend that you consult with me through all phases of your project.


There is one required book that is available for purchase at the bookstore (or any number of on-line bookstores, see or for a listing of bookstores and comparison of prices):

There may be other readings available to photocopy in the Department of Political Science office (745 SWKT) mailboxes in a box marked "PPol 511 Readings." All readings should be read before class for full understanding of the subject material.

Computer Classes

I expect that some Fridays will be spent in the FHSS Computer Lab on the 1st floor. I expect all students to have a working knowledge of the Windows operating system (i.e., what backslashes mean, how to use a mouse, how to use pull-down menus, etc.). If you do not have such knowledge, take some time to get familiar as soon as possible. It will not only benefit you in this class, but other classes and jobs. Of course, if you are already familiar with spreadsheets and statistical programs, this will also help you.

Please arrive in the Computer Lab before class starts to start up the computer and have everything ready to go when class starts.

Academic Honesty and Plagiarism

From the Academic Honesty section of the BYU Honor Code: "The first injunction of the BYU Honor Code is the call to `be honest.' Students come to the university not only to improve their minds, gain knowledge, and develop skills that will assist them in their life's work, but also to build character. `President David O. McKay taught that character is the highest aim of education' (The Aims of a BYU Education, p. 6). It is the purpose of the BYU Academic Honesty Policy to assist in fulfilling that aim.

"BYU students should seek to be totally honest in their dealings with others. They should complete their own work and be evaluated based upon that work. They should avoid academic dishonesty and misconduct in all its forms, including but not limited to plagiarism, fabrication or falsification, cheating, and other academic misconduct." Read the full version here (parts attached to the original syllabus).

A colleague (Professor Mitch Sanders of Florida State University) has already explicated these issues specifically for political science. Please read here (also attached to the original syllabus).

If you write a paper for another course (past or present) that uses the same topic as a paper for this course, you need to approve it with me first, and then you must turn in to me a copy of the paper from your other course.

Other Notes

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex discrimination against any participant in an educational program or activity that receives federal funds. The act is intended to eliminate sex discrimination in education. Title IX covers discrimination in programs, admissions, activities, and student-to-student sexual harassment. BYU’s policy against sexual harassment extends not only to employees of the university but to students as well. If you encounter unlawful sexual harassment or gender based discrimination, please talk to your professor; contact the Equal Employment Office at 378-5895 or 367-5689 (24-hours); or contact the Honor Code Office at 378-2847.

Brigham Young University is committed to providing a working and learning atmosphere which reasonably accommodates qualified persons with disabilities. If you have any disability which may impair your ability to complete this course successfully, please contact the Services for Students with Disabilities Office (378-2767). Reasonable academic accommodations are reviewed for all students who have qualified documented disabilities. Services are coordinated with the student and instructor by the SSD office. If you need assistance or if you feel you have been unlawfully discriminated against on the basis of disability, you may seek resolution through established grievance policy and procedures. You should contact the Equal Employment Office at 378-5895, D-282 ASB.

Tentative Schedule

Note: WV=Weimer and Vining.

Introduction (August 28 - September 6)

We begin by considering two important questions that we will revisit throughout the course: What roles does policy analysis play in democratic societies? What roles should it play?

Reading: WV, Chapters 1-3

Projects Assigned (September 8)

Projects randomly assigned and briefly discussed. We introduce the goals/alternatives matrix as general guide to structuring analysis.

Reading: WV, Chapter 11

Market Failures as Rationales for Collective Action (September 11 - 22)

Welfare economics specifies the assumptions under which market equilibria are Pareto efficient. Certain violations of these assumptions are commonly identified as market failures: public goods, externalities, natural monopolies, and information asymmetries. Market failures provide important rationales for collective interference with individual choices. Our goal is to understand these basic market failures for purposes of framing and modeling policy problems.

Reading: WV, Chapter 4-5

Congressional Budget Office, Where Do We Go From Here? The FCC Auctions and the Future of Radio Spectrum Management (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, April 1997). Read Summary and Chapter 1. Available at

Other Limitations to the Competitive Framework (September 25 - 27)

Not all violations of the assumptions of the competitive market can be as easily handled as the traditional market failures. We consider such violations as additional rationales for public policy based on the goal of increasing efficiency.

Reading: WV, Chapter 6

Goals Other Than Efficiency as Rationales for Public Policy (September 29 - October 4)

Though efficiency is almost always one of the relevant goals in policy analysis, it is rarely the only one. It is useful to develop conceptual foundations for thinking about distributional and other goals that commonly arise in policy analysis.

Reading: WV, Chapter 7

Government Failure as Limitation and Rationale (October 6 - 11)

Just as markets fail in systematic ways, so too does collective action. Such generic government failures interfere with the effective correction of market failures and produce public policies that themselves are policy problems.

Reading: WV, Chapter 8

Generic Policies (October 13-18)

Generic policies can serve as a source of proto-alternatives for dealing with specific policy problems. We consider one possible classification and relate its categories to various market and government failures.

Reading: WV, Chapter 9

Midterm Examination (October 23)

Test covering the concepts developed in the first half of the course.

Structuring Analysis (October 20 - November 1)

An overview of the steps in the rationalist mode of policy analysis. We consider how to frame and model policy problems, select appropriate goals and criteria, specify policy alternatives, predict and value consequences, identify tradeoffs among alternatives, and effectively communicate recommendations.

Readings: WV, Chapters 10-11

Congressional Budget Office, Where Do We Go From Here? The FCC Auctions and the Future of Radio Spectrum Management (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, April 1997). Read Chapter 4. Available at

Congressional Budget Office, Structuring the Active and Reserve Army for the 21st Century (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, December 1997). Read Summary. Available at

(Congressional Budget Office, Water Use Conflicts in the West: Implications of Reforming the Bureau of Reclamation's Water Supply Policies (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, August 1997). Read Summary. Available at

More on Policy Design (November 3 - 8)

Reading: David L. Weimer, "The Current State of Design Craft: Borrowing, Tinkering, and Problem Solving," Public Administration Review 53:2 (1993), pp. 110-120.

Thinking Strategically: Adoption and Implementation (November 10 - 15)

A realistic assessment of policy alternatives almost always requires consideration of the feasibility of their adoption and implementation. How can we make predictions about feasibility? How can we alter policy alternatives to improve their feasibility?

Reading: WV, Chapter 13

Cost-Benefit Analysis (November 20 - 29)

Though cost-benefit analysis (CBA) is rarely appropriate as a decision rule, it provides useful protocols for valuing the efficiency impacts of policy alternatives. We review basic concepts underlying CBA such as willingness-to-pay, opportunity cost, discounting for time, and the treatment of risk. We also consider the conceptual and practical limitations to its application.

Readings: WV, Chapter 12

Anthony Boardman, et al., Cost -Benefit Analysis: Concepts and Practice (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1996), Chapter 2.

Congressional Budget Office, Water Use Conflicts in the West: Implications for Reforming the Bureau of Reclamation's Water Supply Policies (Washington, D.C.: Congress of the United States, August 1997). Summary, Chapters 1 through 5. Available at

Project Wrap-Up (December 1 - 6; NOTE!: December 5 is a class day)

December 1 is set aside for revisiting topics of interest and discussing successful completion of projects.

On December 4, hand in two copies of your project report at the beginning of class. One copy goes to me and the other goes to a classmate as the basis for a three- to five-page constructive critique of a project report. Please budget your time so that you will have your copies available at the beginning of class.

On December 6, hand in two copies of the critique, one to me and the other to the report's author. Also, be prepared to discuss the strengths and weaknesses of the report you reviewed.

Source: Most of this syllabus is from Dave Weimer's PPA/PSC 430 Public Policy Methods syllabus.

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