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Evaluating public policies : Normative models beyond cost benefit analysis


  • Tsoukiàs, Alexis
  • D'Alpaos, Chiara


  • Lucertini, Giulia


The subject of the thesis: “Evaluating Public Policies - Normative Models Beyond Cost Benefit Analysis” arise from the interest in the public policies and their construction, and in particular from the problem of how to evaluate them. The thesis, after a preliminary study of tools and mechanisms for European Public Policy founds distributions, has dealt with the Evidence-Based Policy-Making (EBPM). Thus, studying EBPM’s objectives and concepts, we studied the characteristics that make legitimate policies, but also those features that make public policies “unique” investment decisions, or better that make such decisions different from all other types of decisions. These feature were then analyzed and summarized in four points: ² medium or long-term time horizon; ² several different source of uncertainty related with the policy-maker; ² great importance of the economic aspect; ² great importance of the flexibility. The study of these has pushed the research and our thesis towards the study of the tools and the mechanisms necessary for the public policies creation, management and monitoring. Therefore, from this broad framework the thesis is focused on the study of the normative tools currently available to the policy-maker, that are: ² Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA); ² Decision Theory (DT); ² Real Options Theory (ROT). In the first part of the thesis we presented these three tools in relation to public policies and policy-makers decision. From that it became clear the inadequacy of the existent tools in addressing the different aspects that characterize public policies. The CBA, despite being the tool in absolute more used and recognized as legitimate, fails to take account and manage one of the four fundamental policies features, namely the policy-maker flexibility to manage the policy in all its time horizon. On the other hand, the study of DT has high- lighted the inadequacy of the decision tree analysis to consider and manage public policies in real time horizons. Finally, the ROT study has made clear that despite such tool represents an important evolution from the CBA, since it is closely related to finance, it fails to take into account the policy-makers subjectivity. In the second part of the thesis, starting from the conclusions about the relevance of the use of CBA, DT and ROT in the field of public policies, we propose a "new instrument". Such tool could be considered an evolution of the decision tree, because although it is built like a normal decision tree it take into account the time in practical terms: not only through a policy construction and decision-making over the time, but also through the inclusion of a subjective discount rate. The subjective discount rate, derived by the utility function of the policy-makers, is able to take account their personal time and uncertainty preferences. The thesis ends with a critical comparison between the new temporal decision tree proposed and the real options theory. The critical comparison show that the two tools are different in two main aspects: 1. The real options are based on the existence of an underlying asset, which allows many simplification. Assuming that the underlying asset perfectly replicate the investment and the investment decision, it is legitimate to use the risk-free discount rate and the risk neutral probabilities, then it is always on the existence of the underlying asset that it is based the probability conditioning. 2. Temporal decision trees on the contrary do not make any of these hypothesis. There is nothing that can replicate the investment, the decision and the policy-maker. The conditional probabilities depend only on the oracle choose, and all formal construction revolve around the subjectivity and preferences of policy-makers. In conclusion we can say that, starting from the study of public policies and their characteristics, the assessment tools currently available to the policy-makers (CBA, DT, and ROT) are incomplete. In other words, they are not able to adequately considered and man- aged the four key characteristics. Overcoming this problem is essential to give at the policy- makers a comprehensive assess and decision aiding tool, thus we decide to build a decision tree ad hoc for the public policies. Such decision tree was constructed following the traditional model, but it is adding both the temporal dimension and the economic concept of costs and benefits. Moreover, we have also revised and integrated some ideas related to managerial flexibility arising from the ROT. In this way, the resulting “temporal decision tree” is able to consider and manage the specific needs of the public decision-making, remaining both in the normative rationality field through the economic evaluation concepts, and in the constructive rationality field, because the tool incorporates and revolves around the subjective preference of the policy-makers and those who legitimately represent.

Suggested Citation

  • Lucertini, Giulia, 2012. "Evaluating public policies : Normative models beyond cost benefit analysis," Economics Thesis from University Paris Dauphine, Paris Dauphine University, number 123456789/9265 edited by Tsoukiàs, Alexis & D'Alpaos, Chiara.
  • Handle: RePEc:dau:thesis:123456789/9265
    Note: dissertation

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    Cited by:

    1. Eva Palinko & Agnes Svoob & Marta Szabo, 2013. "Enhancing the Financial Absorption Capacity of EU Member States Through the Reconsideration of Current Allocation Rules," Transition Studies Review, Springer;Central Eastern European University Network (CEEUN), vol. 20(3), pages 351-366, November.

    More about this item


    Politique publique; Options réelles; Système d'aide à la décision;

    JEL classification:

    • G12 - Financial Economics - - General Financial Markets - - - Asset Pricing; Trading Volume; Bond Interest Rates


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