The features of Rational Choice theory The Rational Model (Policy as a Maximum Social Gain) Rationality and rationalism are words too often used in the literature of social science, but they are more widely espoused than practiced in policymaking. However, rationality is considered to be the ‘yardstick’ of wisdom in policymaking (Sapru, 2004:65). There are different terminologies that stand to denote the same meaning to the Rational Theory, which include “Rational Choice Theory”, “Social Choice Theory”, and “Formal Theory”. 2
The rational choice theory was originated with economists, and the earliest use of the rational choice theory to study the political process is Anthony Down’s (1957) “Economic Theory of Democracy”. The theory involves the application of microeconomic theory to the analysis and explanation of political behavior of decision-making. A rational policy is one that achieves “maximum social gain”; i.e. gains to society that exceeds costs by the greatest amount. There are two important guidelines in the definition of maximum social choice: i. First, no policy should be adopted if its costs exceed the benefits derived from it, ii. Second, among a variety of available policy alternatives, decision makers should choose the policy that produces the greatest benefit over cost. A policy is “rational” when the difference between the values it achieves and the values it sacrifices is positive and greater than any other policy alternative. Thomas Dye equates rationality with efficiency. He further says that the idea of rationalism involves the calculation of all social, political and economic values sacrificed or achieved by a public policy, not in narrow context that can be measured in dollars, birrs or cents, in which basic social values are sacrificed for monetary savings. The rationality principle emphasizes that policymaking is making a choice among policy alternatives on rational grounds, choosing the “one best option” (Dror, 1973). But, to be rational for policymakers is not easy; in order to be rational, it is desirable that there should be: i. Identification and determination of goals, ii. The ranking of goals in order of importance, iii. The identification of possible policy alternatives for achieving those goals, and iv. The cost-benefit analysis of policy. 3
3.1 Certain requirements to policymakers in selecting a rational policy (Thomas Dye (1995:28) Which they must: i. Knowing all values preferences of society and their relative weights, ii. Knowing all the policy alternatives available, iii. Knowing all the consequence of each policy alternative, iv.Calculate the ratio of achieved to sacrificed social values for each policy alternative, v. Select the most efficient alternative, which brings the greatest benefits and the least disadvantages.
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