Policy Alteration: Rethinking Diffusion Processes when Policies have Alternatives

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Authors Federica Genovese, Florian Kern, Christian Martín
Paper Category
Paper Abstract Most analyses of policy interdependence operate under the assumption that international policy networks can be observed by focusing on the diffusion of one policy across countries. Consequently, if a focal policy is not adopted from one country to the next, researchers usually claim that interdependence is weak and diffusion may have not occurred. In this article we take issue with this argument and challenge the notion that diffusion processes and interdependence entail the same policy diffusing. We posit that national governments, which are usually confronted by a bundle of diffusing policies instead of one unique policy, are often pressed to implement the policy adopted in neighboring countries. At the same time, the decision makers? incentive to implement this instrument may rely on whether the domestic government is more or less dependent on foreign resources and, thus, the policy preferences of foreign constituents. We hold that, conditional on a neighbor?s pressure to adopt a policy, choosing an alternative policy is more likely to occur in countries that are relatively less dependent on economic flows, where governments have more political leeway to model policy diffusion into their strategic advantage. We trace this alteration mechanism using two studies of environmental policy diffusion across space and time. Our analyses suggest that considering only one diffusing policy although alternatives are implemented risks underestimating policy interdependence, as well as biasing inference on the scope of policy diffusion.
Date of publication 2017
Code Programming Language R

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