Complexity and the policy process, Public Economics

There has been a long history of research on ‘the policy process' which is ‘closely connected to efforts to examine the nature of power in society and to specify the necessary conditions for democratic government. In a context where claims made upon complexity science are hard to exaggerate in terms of what authors propose the implications are for changing the way we think and act (Capra 1996, Prigogine and Stengers 1984) what does this new ‘world view' propose for our understanding - or indeed vision - of the policy process?

Identifying complexity as a problem for policy means identifying the relationship of policy and ignorance. Ignorance is entirely necessary to policy for policy cannot have a one to one temporal correspondence with its environment. First, asking what ignorance is assumed in policy means acknowledging the limits of ‘inclusion' in decision making for complexity necessitates the need to exclude in decision-making processes.

Different claims about the dynamics of policy processes attribute different assumptions about where choices are made, which in turn has assumptions about who is responsible, what the possibilities are, as well as what the implications might be. The ‘ecology of ignorance' is one in which we need to recognize that our solutions will cause problems and different ignorance leads to different possibilities.

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