Policy Change


 Consider one or more major policy challenges, such as reforming health care, reforming the major federal entitlement programs (Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid), redesigning the tax code, or developing a national energy or climate change policy.

What do you think are the major advantages or disadvantages of incremental policy change? Similarly, what do you think are the major advantages or disadvantages or perusing policy change the is more far-reaching or radical, whether the ideas are endorsed by the right or left side of the political spectrum?


Policy Change

Policy change is the process of modifying the goals of a particular policy and the means of achieving the goals. In changing a policy, the administrators evaluate a number of options, including whether to use a different approach altogether or whether to increase the scope of the current policy approach. Policymaking is a complex process. Similarly, there are various complexities involved in policy change. A common approach in policy change is incremental policy change. Incremental policy change involves making small and incremental changes to exist policy programs or approaches. This paper examines the benefits and drawbacks of incremental policy change.

Advantages of Incremental Policy Change

Various advantages arise through implementation of policy change in small incremental steps. One of the advantages is that this approach gives stakeholders time to internalize the changes, leading to reduced resistance to change (Seavey, Aytur, & McGrath, 2014). Stakeholders are more likely to oppose a major change or feel frustrated. It is possible to avoid facing resistance from stakeholders by making small changes to the existing policy. For instance, while developing a national energy or climate policy, the government can make small adjustments over a period. This would allow stakeholders time to make the necessary changes. Closely related to the above is the advantage of passive the legislative process. Incremental policy change ensures that less political tension (Seavey, Aytur, & McGrath, 2014). This promotes the chances of new policy proposal passing the legislative stages. If there is a lot of political tension, the policy proposal may not pass the legislative stages due to disagreements. Thus, incremental policy change ensures that there is agreement among major stakeholders and the possibility of passing the legislative stages.

Another advantage of incremental policy change is that it offers predictability to the major stakeholders (Seavey, Aytur, & McGrath, 2014). Policy changes tend to have different impacts on business organizations. While some business organizations may enjoy benefits from policy changes, others may experience negative consequences. Business organizations prefer operating in predictable environments (Seavey, Aytur, & McGrath, 2014). Incremental policy changes offers predictability to business organizations. This is because it offers the business organizations an opportunity to reorganize operations to meet the policy change requirements. Abrupt policy changes create uncertainties in the business environment. Such an environment can lead to business failure.

Related: Public Policy

Proponents of incremental policy change assert that this approach guarantees success of the policy implementation. There is less likelihood of failure when small changes occur to the existing approach (Seavey, Aytur, & McGrath, 2014). In addition, incremental policy changes provide an opportunity to administrators to reverse a policy if it has significant and unintended negative consequences. By implementing small changes at a time, the administrators can easily observe the adverse consequences and make appropriate decisions on whether to continue with the policy change process. Another benefit is that incremental policy changes are less costly in the short run (Seavey, Aytur, & McGrath, 2014). This is because the realization of costs occurs in piecemeal basis. In the long run, the costs may add up the same. Nevertheless, incremental policy change enables business organizations to budget for costs in the long run. It is worth noting that business organizations are better suited in adjusting operations to cater to small cost increases rather than adjusting to larger changes.

Disadvantages of Incremental Policy Change that is Radical

Notwithstanding the benefits, incremental policy change has certain disadvantages. One of the key weakness is that it emphasizes on influencing the stakeholders to come to an agreement rather than focusing on clearing the social problem (Seavey, Aytur, & McGrath, 2014). A key element of incremental policy change is that it focuses more on the stakeholders reaching a compromise to adopt new approaches, rather than focusing on how to solve the actual problem. Another disadvantage is that incremental policy change may fail to bring about the intended results. This may occur when the social problem spreads rapidly, but on the other hand, the incremental policy changes only realize a small effect on the social problem. This may lead to a widening gap between the intended goals and the actual results. A disadvantage closely linked to this is that incremental policy change leads to perpetuation of the status quo. In other words, those who disadvantaged by the current policy continue to suffer as the changes made are small and with a lesser impact.

Related: The Americans with Disability Act of 1990

Advantages of Pursuing Policy Change that is More Radical

One of the advantages of policy change that is more far-reaching is that it generates and sustains a lot of interest among various stakeholders. These stakeholders are responsible for policy development from the initial stages to the latter stages. In line with this, a policy change that is more far-reaching attracts a lot of attention meaning that there is thorough scrutiny before passing into law. This ensures that all issues or concerns arising from the implementation of the new policy are addressed. When developing a policy that is more far-reaching, there are higher chances that the public is involved in the development process. This ensures that the policy development process is fair and serves the interest of the larger public. For instance, the public may participate though a referendum process. Public involvement may also involve interactions through the internet, where the public provides opinion about various issues.

Another advantage of policy change that is more radical is that there is high awareness of the possible benefits and drawbacks of the policy change. The public is more informed about what to expect with the new policy change. There could also be formal and informal discussions on the topic. This leads to a better understanding of the social problem and the best ways of solving the problem.

Disadvantages of Pursuing Policy Change that is More Radical

A major disadvantage of pursuing policy change that is more radical is political influence. A policy change that is more radical attracts political commentary, which is often biased (Kraft & Furlong, 2013). Politicians may provide misleading information to the public for political mileage. This means there is no objectivity when deciding on the appropriateness of the public policy that is radical. The public’s opinion is largely subject to political commentary and manipulation. As such, there is a high risk of making a wrong decision due to political influence. Another disadvantage is the influence of large business organizations in making such policy decisions. Large business organizations may come together to influence voters for their own interests. For instance, they may spend resources to sway the voter’s opinion for their own interests. This is likely to arise when developing a national energy or climate policy. This happened in California where state oil companies influenced voters to support the ban on the state’s Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006 (Kraft & Furlong, 2013). Such influences may leading to inappropriate policy decisions.


Kraft, M. E., & Furlong, S. R. (2013). Public policy: Politics, analysis, and alternatives. Thousand Oaks, Calif. [u.a.: CQ Press.

Seavey, J. W., Aytur, S. A., & McGrath, R. J. (2014). Health policy analysis: Framework and tools for success. New York, NY: Springer Publishing Company.

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