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Policy

A crisis can create a sense of urgency that allows for unusually rapid acceptance of reform proposals intended to resolve the crisis. Even President Jimmy Carter once noted that crises lead predictably to “ever more massive government bureaucracy and regulations, and ill-considered last minute crash programs”,” a cogent analysis, which he subsequently ignored. (Grossman, 2015) Scholarly literatures give various definitions of crisis generally. Garrison (1981, 315) paraphrases one dictionary definition as “an acute turning point usually involving some disruption or disorder”, a definition not far from one that scholars have used. (Grossman, 2015) Coyne (2011) for example, defines a crisis as an unexpected event that creates uncertainty and poses a direct or perceived threat to the goals and norm of an organisation or society (Busia & Akong, 2017). In general, a shock brings public attention to an issue, and if the impacts are acute and/or persistent the situation may be deemed a crisis. Shocks may be sudden and dramatic socioeconomic surprises, or they may start as mere glitches that mushroom into conditions that take on societal importance and entail potential economic and more importantly from the policy maker’s perspective, political costs if left alone. (Grossman, 2015) It is often unclear which events should actually qualify as a crisis. Some issues lead to a crisis because progress on a policy requires a crisis, this is the case of energy policy in the United States. Intuitively, a crisis would appear an ideal circumstance to initiate major policy changes. As Rosenthal and Kouzmin note, “one’s crisis may well be perceived as another’s opportunity” because a crisis is characterised by the necessity to make critical choices. (Rosenthal & Kouzmin, 1997) With respect to energy policy in the U.S., in the face of a crisis radical policy changes have always been proposed. But for the most part, they do not occur; more often than not, energy crisis, politically go to waste. (Grossman, 2015) A similar example , the Arab oil embargo did not lead to the kind of radical legislation President Richard or leading members of congress sought at the height of the crisis. However, it did create a new narrative about energy and the role of policy. It has been argued that a fully developed theory to explain the crisis-policy change linkage is not available. In the absence of such a theory, the most well-known theoretical contributions on crisis and policy change include John Kingdon’s Multiple Streams model, Frank Baumgartner and Bryan Jones Punctuated Equilibrium model and Sabatier’s Advocacy Coalition Framework. Policy change as defined by Jones and Baumgartner 2005, is an alternation in the commitment of a government to an objective, changes in the way government addresses and manages problems, usually manifested in legislative and/or regulatory change. (Grossman, 2015) Policy change occurs through interactions between wide external changes or shocks to the political system and the success of the ideas in the coalitions, which may cause actors in the advocacy coalition to shift coalitions. (Cerna, 2013) The models and theories this essay discusses attempts to explain why the process of crisis policymaking may lead at time to significant policy change, but at other times, to no changes, incremental change or change that rove to be short lived. Efforts to explain this variance present a number of challenges, not least because it is often unclear which events should actually qualify as crises.

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