ìpolicy

ìpolicy is a dynamic course in the liberal approach to public policy.

The course involves a variety of interactive learning methods including dynamic games, talks, dialogues, and documentaries, designed to provide participants with opportunities to explore and share ideas about policy-based solutions to social problems from a liberal perspective.



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Goals of ìpolicy:

  • To create a fun, open, and respectful environment where everyone is encouraged to think critically about social, economic, and political issues.
  • To evoke in participants a passionate inquiry into their own values and role in creating a good society.
  • To equip participants with fundamental concepts of political economy and sound public policy to enable them understand the root cause of current challenges and effectively advocate for policy solutions through their current work and future professions.
  • To plug participants into a global network of opportunities to propel their intellectual growth, make personal connections and access resources to help them advance their vision of a free society.

What You Should Expect from ìpolicy:

ìpolicy is an introduction to Comparative Institutional Analysis, in other words, ìpolicy won't tell you how to solve people's specific day‐to‐day problems; as a course on public policy, it will discuss how to think about the general framework within which people solve problems in society—our motto is to look beyond the obvious, think beyond good intentions, act beyond activism.

By institutional framework we mean the "rules of the game" within which people act. "Institutions" are the formal rules, informal norms, and cultural meanings that shape individual and organizational behaviour. Some institutions are "devised," planned, and agreed upon. Others have evolved without any plan and have been learned and perpetuated by individuals who live in a social setting—people who perpetuate these institutions may not even be consciously aware that they are doing so.

The important thing about institutions is that they change the structure of costs and benefits individuals face and thus create incentives to act one way or another. How do the rules of the game affect the way people behave and interact and thus shape the outcomes of people's actions and interactions in society?

We will discuss how to COMPARE and EVALUATE institutional frameworks according to how they enable people to solve problems. We will examine the appropriateness of planned vs. spontaneously evolved institutions and governmental vs. civil society institutions in addressing different kinds of social‐problems.


CCS champions a liberal approach to public policy, which means that we think a system of individual rights, freedom of exchange, the rule of law, and limited government provide the best overall framework for people to solve social problems. However, there is lots of room for debate about the proper role of government, markets, and non‐profits.



We will address these issues from two different points of view:

  • First,from a practical point of view: we think good policies and good institutional frameworks :
    • Harness self interest and dispersed knowledge, and
    • Minimize the potential harm of ignorance and opportunism.
  • Second,from a moral point of view. What are the moral standards we use to decide what policy should be?

By the end, you should have an idea of what institutions are, how they influence behaviour and outcomes, and greater ability to evaluate what governments, nonprofits and markets should do and WHY.


Structure & Sample Sessions

Part I: How to think about problems
This section will set the context for the course—in terms of the approach we take to social problems and public policy. We want to instill the practice of critical thinking, getting to root causes of problems and going beyond what is immediately obvious, to a deeper understanding of the issue.
Session Description
Why is India Poor The session debunks popular myths about the causes of wealth and poverty and  demonstrates the importance of institutions and incentives. It lays emphasis on how the rules of the game influence incentives & thus behaviour and how public policy is the FRAMEWORK within which people choose & act.
Socratic Reading:
What is Seen and What is Unseen
This reading will bring to fore the seen and unseen effects of public policy, and how it is important to look at both short-term effects and long-term consequences of political action.
Part II: How do institutions influence behaviour and outcomes?
This section will focus on applying economic principles to political decision-making as well as the market place. It will explore concepts of public choice—to show how institutions and their incentive structure influence behaviour of stakeholders in the political process. It will also explore concepts of spontaneous order and prices, to demonstrate how institutions and incentives influence behaviour of stakeholders in the economic and social process.
Session Description
Public Choice:
Costs and Benefits of Collective Action
This session introduces the field of Public Choice Economics which uses the insights of economics to explain political processes such as elections and bureaucracy. It explains that the probability of "market failure" must be compared with the probability of "government failure" in order to make rational choices about what should be done by governments and markets.
Environmental Challenges:
Tragedy of the Collective
This session will visit Garret Hardin's Tragedy of the Commons, exploring why environmental issues arise, how incentive structures impact behaviour, and potential solutions to these problems.
Part III: Policy
This section will apply the principles examined so far, to concrete examples. This will include an understanding of why good public policy is crucial to effecting social change, what constitutes a ‘good’ policy, sector-specific policy analysis, and alternatives to the status quo that move us in the direction of better governance and a more liberal society.
Session Description
New Public Management This session presents alternatives to current political functioning. Applying principles of business management to public administration, it highlights principles that will make delivery of public services efficient, transparent and more accountable.
Stakeholder Mapping in Policy:
Voice, Choice and Incentives
This session will take a popular policy, most pertinent to the target audience being addressed. It will identify who the various stakeholders are in that policy in terms of its creation and its implementation. It will then analyse the degree of voice, choice and incentive each of these stakeholders has in influencing or changing the state of affairs.

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