Category Archives: Japan

The Art and Skill of Academic Translation: it’s harder when you move beyond English

I have been writing about the idea of ‘translation’ in terms of ‘knowledge transfer’ or ‘diffusion’, which often suggests that there is a linear process of knowledge production and dissemination: knowledge is held by one profession which has to find the right language to pass it on to another. This approach has often been reflected in the strategies of academic and government bodies. Yet, the process is two-way. Both groups offer knowledge and the potential to have a meaningful conversation that suits both parties. If so, ‘translation’ becomes a way for them to engage in a meaningful way, to produce a common language that they can both ‘own’ and use. Examples include: the need for scientists to speak with policymakers about how the policy process works; the need for ‘complexity’ theorists to understand the limits to policymaker action in Westminster systems; the separate languages of institutions which struggle to come together during public service integration (key to local partnership and ‘joined up government’); and, the difference in the language used by service providers and users. We might also worry about the language we use to maintain interdisciplinary discussion (such as when ‘first order change’ means something totally different in physics and politics).

It’s not the same thing, but translating into another language, such as when conversing in English and Japanese, reinforces the point in an immediately visible way. In both directions, English to Japanese, and vice versa, it is clear that the recipient only receives a version of the original statement – even when people use a highly skilled interpreter. Further, if the statement is quite technical, or designed to pass on knowledge, the gap between original intention and the relayed message is wider still.

This point can be made more strongly in a short lecture using interpretation. As academics, many of us have been to conferences in English, and witnessed a presenter trying to cram in too much information in 15 minutes. They give a long introduction for 10, then race through the slides without explaining them, simply say that they can’t explain what they hoped, or keep going until the chair insists they stop. You don’t really get a good sense of the key arguments.

In another language, you have to reduce your time to less than half, to speak slowly and account for translation (simultaneous translation is quicker, but you still have to speak very slowly). You have to minimise the jargon (and the idioms) to allow effective translation. Or, you need to find the time to explain each specialist word. For example, while I would often provide an 8000 word paper to accompany a lecture/ workshop, this one is 1500. There is no visible theory, although theory tends to underpin what you focus on and how you explain it. It took 40 minutes to present, largely because I left a lot of topics for Q&A. I still had a hard time explaining some things. I predicted some (such as the difference between ‘federalism’ and ‘federacy’, and the meaning of ‘poll tax’ and ‘bedroom tax’) but realised, late on, that I’d struggle to explain others (such as ‘fracking’, or the unconventional drilling used to access and extract shale gas).

This sort of exercise is fantastically useful, to force you to think about the essential points in an argument, keep it short without referring to shorthand jargon, and explain them without assuming much prior knowledge in the audience, in the knowledge that things will just mean different things to different audiences. It is a skill like any other, and it forces on you a sense of discipline (one might develop a comparable skill when explaining complex issues to pre-University students).

Indeed, I have now done it so much, alongside writing short blog posts, that I find it hard to go back from Tokyo to jargon city. Each time I read something dense (on, for example, ‘meta-governance’), I ask myself if I could explain it to an audience whose first language is not English. If not, I wonder how useful it is, or if it is ever translated outside of a very small group.

This is increasingly important in the field of policy theory, when we consider the use of theories, developed in English and applied to places such as the US and UK, and applied to countries around the globe (see Using Traditional Policy Theories and Concepts in Untraditional Ways). If you can’t explain them well, how can you work out if the same basic concepts are being used to explain things in different countries?

Further, we don’t know, until we listen to our audience, what they want to know and how they will understand what we say. Let me give you simple examples from my Hokkaido lecture. One panellist was a journalist from Okinawa. He used what I said to argue that we should learn from the Scots; to develop a national identity-based social movement, and to be like Adam Smith (persevering with a regional accent, and a specific view of the world, in the face of snobbishness and initial scepticism; note that I hadn’t mentioned Adam Smith). Another panelist, a journalist from Hokkaido, argued that the main lesson from Scotland is that you have to be tenacious; the Scots faced many obstacles to self-determination, but they persevered and saw the results, and still persevere despite the setback (for some) of the referendum result (I pointed out that ‘the 45%’ are not always described as tenacious!). Another contributor wondered why Thatcherism was so unpopular in Scotland when we can see that, for example, it couldn’t have saved Scottish manufacturing and was perhaps proved correct after not trying to do so. Others use the Scottish experience to highlight a similar sense of central government imposition or aloofness in Japan (from the perspective of the periphery).

In general, this problem of academic translation is difficult enough when you share a common language, but the need to translate, in two ways, brings it to the top of the agenda. In short, if we take the idea of translation seriously, it is not just about a technical process in which words are turned into a direct equivalent in another language and you expect the audience to be informed or do the work to become informed. It is about thinking again about what we think we know, and how much of that knowledge we can share with other people.

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The result of the Scottish independence referendum and the future of British politics

Paul Cairney, Professor of Politics and Public Policy, University of Stirling, p.a.cairney@stir.ac.uk

Tokyo University of Foreign Studies, Tokyo 4.12.14 and Hokkaido University, Sapporo, 6.12.14

The result of the Scottish independence referendum and the future of British politics

In part one, I provide historical background to the referendum debate, identify the importance of the Scottish National Party, outline the process for further devolution, and explain why further devolution might not produce a ‘settlement’ or prevent a second independence referendum.[i]

In part two, I outline a list of topics which we might discuss further in the question and answer session.

At the heart of the ‘future of British politics’ issue is the question: will Scotland remain a part of it? In the short term, the answer is ‘yes’. On the 18th of September 2014, 55% of the voting population voted No to the question, ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’.

In the long term, it is impossible to tell. The referendum was often described as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to vote for independence. Yet, it is realistic to expect another referendum in 10 years. This event would form part of a longer term trend, in which the constitutional changes, designed to represent a devolved settlement in Scotland, have not solved the problem – partly because the problem changes or is articulated in new ways.

The background to the initial ‘devolution settlement’ and the spectre of ‘Thatcherism’

In the 1990s, devolution was often described as a way to solve the ‘democratic deficit’. The charge was that people in Scotland voted for one party in a UK general election (Labour) but received another (Conservative) on many occasions. This occurred from 1979-97, and the problem was exacerbated by a long spell of Thatcher-led government (1979-1990). ‘Thatcherism’ had a profound and enduring effect on Scottish politics, and it can refer to several alleged developments:

  • the pursuit of ‘neoliberal’ policies that challenged a ‘social democratic consensus’ in Scotland
  • the ‘top down’ imposition of unpopular policies in Scotland by the UK central government, often before they are introduced in the rest of the UK (such as the ‘poll tax’).
  • the pursuit of economic policies to grow the economy in the south-east at the expense of the north (including the manufacturing industries)
  • the promotion of British policies without sufficiently distinctive Scottish arrangements.

Devolution represented ‘unfinished business’ (since a referendum in 1979 produced a small Yes majority which did not meet a required threshold) and subsequent opposition to Conservatism helps explain a rise in support for devolution. A frequent argument is that devolution could have ‘defended Scotland from Thatcherism’, and allowed the maintenance of Scottish traditions of participative democracy and social democracy. Yet, as we saw in the independence debate, devolution was often described as a poor solution to the democratic deficit.

Devolution became a platform for the Scottish National Party

Devolution was described famously by former Labour Shadow Scottish Secretary, George Robertson, in 1995, as the opportunity to ‘kill nationalism stone dead’. Ironically, it is more accurate to say that the independence referendum could not have happened without devolution.

The introduction of the Scottish Parliament gave an in important new platform to the Scottish National Party (SNP). In 1999 and 2003 it was the second largest party (behind Scottish Labour). In 2007 it became the largest party (47 of 129 seats – Labour had 46) and formed a minority government. From 2007-11, it had insufficient support to pass a bill to hold an independence referendum. Yet, 4 years of government allowed it to develop a strong image of governing competence, which became one of the most important explanations for its major election victory in 2011 (the other is that the Scottish Parliament’s electoral system is not fully proportional – it combines plurality and proportional elements). It secured approximately 45% of the vote, which allowed it to gain a small majority of Scottish Parliament seats (53%, or 69 of 129).

The formation of a majority SNP government in the Scottish Parliament gave it enough support to pass a referendum bill, while the appearance of a ‘landslide’ (a major electoral victory which signals a strong momentum) allowed the SNP’s leader, Alex Salmond, to argue successfully that it gave the SNP a mandate to pursue the referendum. This event became an important way to secure the UK Government’s agreement to support the process (note that this support does not exist in, for example, Catalonia/ Spain).

Further constitutional change may never produce a devolution ‘settlement’ or solve the ‘democratic deficit’

The independence agenda has prompted Scotland’s other main parties (Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat – all of which are part of British parties) and the UK Government to consider further devolution; to try to produce a devolved solution that will settle the matter once and for all.

The Calman Commission recommended further devolution in 2009. It prompted the Scotland Act 2012, to introduce further tax devolution (part of income, land and landfill taxes), the ability of the Scottish Government to borrow to invest in capital projects, and new powers in areas such as Scottish Parliament elections, air weapons, driving and drug treatment. The Scotland Act 2012 was designed to be implemented after the referendum, giving opposition parties the opportunity to guarantee further devolution after a No vote.

Yet, this promise of further devolution proved to be insufficient and, during the referendum period, each party produced separate plans to extend devolution further. The parties then came together, in the lead up to the referendum to make what is now called ‘The Vow’ of ‘extensive new powers’ for a devolved Scotland. The Smith Commission was set up to take this agenda forward. It reported on the 27th November 2014, and its recommendations include to:

  • make the Scottish Parliament ‘permanent’.
  • devolve some fiscal powers, including the power to: set income tax rates and bands (higher earnings are taxed at a higher rate) but not the ‘personal allowance’ (the amount to be earned before income tax applies); set air passenger duty; and to receive a share of sales tax (VAT).
  • increase the Scottish Government’s borrowing powers.
  • devolve some aspects of social security, including those which relate to disability, personal care, housing and ‘council tax’ benefits (council tax is a property tax charged by local authorities to home owners/ renters and based on the value of homes).
  • devolve policies designed to encourage a return to employment.
  • devolve the ability to license onshore oil and gas extraction (which includes hydraulic fracturing, ‘fracking’, for shale gas).
  • control the contract to run the Scottish rail network.
  • encourage greater intergovernmental relations and a more formal Scottish Government role in aspects of UK policymaking.

The UK Government now aims to produce draft legislation to take these plans forward, although the bill will not be passed before the general election in May 2015.

To a large extent, the proposals reflect the plans of the three main British parties, rather than the SNP (which requested ‘devo max’), although they go further than those parties would have proposed in the absence of the referendum agenda. Again, they are designed to represent a devolved ‘settlement’, reinforced by the knowledge that 55% voted against Scottish independence in 2014 (the turnout was 84.6%).

Yet, this sense of a ‘settled will’ is not yet apparent. Indeed, it seems just as likely that the proposals will merely postpone a second referendum, for these reasons:

  1. The new plan may represent the largest amount of devolution that is possible if Scotland is to remain in the UK. However, it does not address all of the charges associated with the ‘democratic deficit’.

The ‘spectre of Thatcherism’ is still used by proponents of independence, and a period of Conservative-led government has been used to identify the potential for the ‘top down imposition’ of ‘neoliberal’ policies to continue in some areas, and for economic policy to remain focused on the south-east. It is still used to suggest that only independence could secure a Scottish consensus democracy. This narrative has only been addressed to some extent with the devolution of symbolically important responsibilities – including the ability to remove the so-called ‘bedroom tax’ (an unpopular policy associated strongly with Conservative-led welfare reform), reform local taxes (associated first with the ‘poll tax’, then the difficulty of the SNP to abolish the ‘council tax’ in favour of a local income tax), and administer benefits related to personal social care (associated with a longstanding dispute between the Scottish and UK Governments on ‘attendance allowance’).

  1. The SNP remains remarkably popular. Its membership has risen dramatically since the referendum, from 25,000 to over 92,000 and it is now the third biggest party in the whole of the UK despite Scotland having only 8% of the UK population. Its leader, new First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, is one of the few to maintain a positive popularity rating in opinion polls. Current polls also suggest that the SNP will gain ground in the UK election in 2015 and maintain a strong position in the Scottish Parliament in 2016.
  2. There is majority support for a referendum in the future.
  3. A second referendum would have a clearer sense of what people are voting for. In 2014, the ‘Vow’ allowed people to vote No and expect further devolution. In the future, the debate would be more simply about Yes or No to independence (albeit an independence that does not mean what it used to mean).

Part two – possible Q&A topics

  • What were the most important debating points? Examples include: the use of the pound as the Scottish currency, the future economic health of Scotland, and the future of important public services such as the National Health Service.
  • What are the limits to further devolution? ‘Devo max’ is the idea of devolving everything except foreign and defence affairs. It is not possible to devolve all tax and spending responsibilities (partly because European Union rules prevent it), and was never going to happen (at least while people support the idea of a United Kingdom which keeps the pound as its currency).
  • Should we try to explain why the Yes campaign lost or why it did so well?
  • Why is the Barnett formula so controversial and important to the debate?
  • Is the referendum debate about securing powers in principle or using them for particular purposes such as social democratic?
  • Would independence have produced a new system producing policy in a different way?
  • Is the Scottish population more left wing and does this produce more demand for independence or different parties?
  • Does national identity drive support for independence?

We could also discuss how Scottish politics relates to debates in the rest of the UK, including:

[i] I have written this document in essay form to keep it short and easier to translate into Japanese. I draw on a series of posts on my blog – https://paulcairney.wordpress.com/indyref/- and books such as Cairney, P. and McGarvey, N. (2013) Scottish Politics (Basingstoke: Palgrave). My points may look descriptive and factual, but it is impossible to summarise this debate in a non-political way.

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The World is Watching the Scottish Independence Debate

This appears on the ESRC website: http://www.futureukandscotland.ac.uk/blog/world-watching-scottish-independence-debate

The Scottish independence debate may, at times, seem parochial, but its reach is global. We often seem to focus on narrow Scottish issues but the big questions travel well: what should be the size of a nation state? Should large countries have central, regional and local governments? If so, how should we share those responsibilities and coordinate policymaking between levels of government? Which policy areas should be centralized and which devolved? Should regions have taxation and spending powers?

I was struck by this global interest when invited to speak about regionalism in the UK, and Scottish devolution in particular, to a Japanese audience (in meetings with policymakers, parliamentary researchers and the general public) at the National Diet Library last month. This type of exchange shows you how the big questions matter, because a large part of the Scottish experience does not apply to Japan at all: proponents of ‘doshu-sei’ want to use it to foster economic policymaking powers in regions and to help reduce the national debt by slimming down central government. There is almost no equivalent in Japan to something that we generally take for granted in the UK – the groundswell of popular support for a degree of Scottish self-government. Instead, the lessons are about regional policymaking:

  • Scotland has shown that regional governments can make policy differently and introduce different policies. They can foster meaningful networks between governments, business, professional and voluntary groups, and they can use those networks to gather knowledge to inform the production of policies more suited to a specific region.
  • The Scottish experience shows that central and regional governments can work well together. Although the UK and Scottish governments do not learn from each other very much, they have a remarkably smooth relationship. Adding a new layer of government does not cause a confusing or crowded policymaking environment.

The UK is also a potential source for broad inspiration. In Japan, the devolution of powers from central government has been piecemeal and difficult for the public to see. Some observers from Japan saw UK devolution as a major high profile event (even though we often call it a ‘process’) and see Scotland in particular as a hub for regional policy and economic innovation. This experience may be used to sell regionalism in Japan as a necessarily ‘bold’ step, to engage the public imagination and address political crisis.

So, the next time you see what looks to be a parochial and inward looking argument in Scotland, remember that the world is watching too. What we often take for granted and treat as humdrum may be viewed very differently elsewhere.

This is where the role of the ESRC Future of the UK and Scotland programme is crucial. External observers need a way to condense a huge amount of information and experience into a set of ‘take-home’ messages. We have shown that research is as much about external engagement as knowledge gathering – and that, even at this early stage, we are well placed to provide it.

See also The International Image of Scottish Devolution: a view from Japan

What Can Japan Learn from Devolution in the UK?

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It’s bad weather, isn’t it?

I’m learning some basic Japanese phrases and, in Scotland just now, this seems the most useful:

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Gift Giving

I suppose that gift giving looks simple enough, but I’ve received enough gifts from Japanese colleagues (and seen them exchange gifts with each other in a particular way) to know that there is a system to it. For example, you might give the best gift to the most senior person in an organisation, then other gifts to key members of staff. I’m a poor gift giver at the best of times, so I played it safe on my recent trip to the National Diet Library by asking who, how and when? Even then, I didn’t get it quite right. Still, we look quite happy, don’t we?

Mr Otaki, the National Diet Library ‘Librarian’ (the head of this organisation, which is like the House of Commons Library combined with the British Library, or modelled on the Library of Congress) got a University of Stirling tie:

SONY DSC

Mr Ikemoto, the Deputy Librarian got a fancy pen (not pictured, because I messed up the presentation). Mr Amino, the Director General of the Research and Legislative Reference Bureau, also got a fancy pen

SONY DSC

Then, the leader of the project and ‘Senior Specialist’ Mr Yoshimoto, sub-leader and ‘Specialist’ Mr Kato, and Senior Researcher Mr Yamaguchi all got fancy pens:

SONY DSCSONY DSC SONY DSC

Everyone else did a great job of looking appreciative when I brought some Scottish shortbread – including Mr Tanaka (Director, Public Administration and Judicial Affairs Division) and Ms Matsuda (Researcher, Public Administration and Judicial Affairs Division), who took me on a tour round the National Diet (plus Mr Ashida, Ms Hagiwara and Ms Nishikawa, in the penultimate and very bottom pictures, who coordinated some of the events, showed me round the library and helped interpret some discussions) :

2013-11-25 14.53.50

Of course, as it turns out, they gave me much better gifts – and senior staff themselves paid for me to go sightseeing, at the end of the seminars, with Ms Matsuda and Ms Uehara (Researcher, Parliamentary Documents and Official Publications Division) – apologies for the picture, taken (at the base of the Tokyo Skytree) by me at arms length:

2013-11-28 15.45.33

My fancy tie/ pens ended up looking a bit second-best.  Still, we look quite happy, don’t we?  More importantly, the welcome that I got was inspirational. This trip has inspired me to begin to learn Japanese and to try to study Japan in much more detail. I don’t think I’ll ever get to the point of being able to present complex ideas without an interpreter (speaking into my ear, at three different sessions, below), but I’d like to think that, the next time I visit Tokyo, I can maintain a basic conversation with the great people I met in Tokyo.

SONY DSC 13 SONY DSC

At the very least, I’d like to be able to say, ‘my flash isn’t working, but I think it still looks good’:

2013-11-26 21.22.05

See also: What Can Japan Learn from Devolution in the UK?

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The International Image of Scottish Devolution: a view from Japan

When I gave my talk on the lessons that UK regionalism might provide for Japan , it was followed by commentary by my co-author Professor Mikine Yamazaki and some questions from the audience. I know that a few people are not representative, but the comments are still interesting, since they reveal an image of the UK and Scottish devolution based on a very different and sometimes surprising perspective. Some highlights (based on my notes from interpreted Japanese) include:

1.Others May See Scotland in a Very Positive Light

  • Scottish devolution is one of the most successful in the world (a point made before two main qualifications: it is only one of many regional outcomes in the UK and Europe; it was not inevitable – rather, there is a long history of devolution movements).
  • Scotland seeks to be globally competitive by pursuing innovation in scientific research and energy. It is one of the world leading countries in life sciences (remember Dolly the Sheep?) and has many world class Universities. Many of its medical schools are world class. It invests extensively in R&D and its companies are often acquired when they become successful (sometimes by Japanese firms).
  • Scotland is capitalising on its renewable energy potential (making good use of its bad weather) and has some of the most ambitious targets on the proportion of electricity produced via renewable sources (including the aim to produce 100% of its energy needs from renewables by 2020).
  • Overall, the Scottish Government is capitalising on its regional characteristics and developing a unique policymaking style in a ‘new era of globalisation’ (note Japan’s focus on regionalism and fiscal devolution as a way to address trends in economic globalisation).

2.Others May See Scotland as a Source of Inspiration for Regionalism

There is a recognition that Scotland’s history and particular circumstances cannot be replicated in Japanese regions, which lack: high levels of regional identity; popular demands for a degree of self-government; the pre-devolution sense of a ‘democratic deficit’ (voting in Scotland for one government, Labour, but receiving another, Conservative); and, the perception that a Conservative government imposed unpopular policies in Scotland and exacerbated the democratic deficit. However, some of the language about Scotland was revealing since, for some, it provided a broad source of inspiration:

  • The UK experience shows us that people have to be able to feel that devolution has taken place, which requires a comprehensive devolution of legislative powers from central to local (the context is piecemeal devolution to local government in Japan).
  • The Scottish experience can inspire regions to be bold and to make a leap.
  • Even if some regions might be worse off economically, regionalism requires the courage to act.

Overall, the Scottish experience and attitude has become, for some, a beacon of hope (as opposed to a source of detailed reforms). This is an image that you might struggle to find within Scotland.

See also: The World is Watching the Scottish Independence Debate http://www.futureukandscotland.ac.uk/blog/world-watching-scottish-independence-debate

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Policy Concepts in 1000 Words: Policy Transfer and Learning

(podcast download)

‘Policy learning’ describes the use of knowledge to inform policy decisions. That knowledge can be based on information regarding the current problem, lessons from the past or lessons from the experience of others. This is a political, not technical or objective, process (for example, see the ACF post). ‘Policy transfer’ describes the transfer of policy solutions or ideas from one place to another, such as by one government importing the policy in another country (note related terms such as ‘lesson-drawing’, ‘policy diffusion’ and ‘policy convergence’ – transfer is a catch-all, umbrella, term). Although these terms can be very closely related (one would hope that a government learns from the experiences of another before transferring policy) they can also operate relatively independently. For example, a government may decide not to transfer policy after learning from the experience of another, or it may transfer (or ‘emulate’) without really understanding why the exporting country had a successful experience (see the post on bounded rationality). Here are some major examples:

BOX 12.1

It is a topic that lends itself well to practical advice; the ‘how to’ of policymaking. For example, Richard Rose’s ‘practical guide’ explores 10 steps:

Rose 10 lessons rotated

The descriptive/ empirical side asks these sorts of questions:

From where are lessons drawn? In the US, the diffusion literature examines which states tend to innovate or emulate. Some countries are also known as innovators in certain fields – such as Sweden and the social democratic state, Germany on inflation control and the UK on privatization. The US (or its states) tends to be a major exporter of ideas. Some countries often learn consistently from the same source (such as the UK from the US). Studies tend to highlight the reasons for borrowing from certain countries – for example, they share an ideology, common problems or policy conditions. ‘Globalization’ has also reduced practical barriers to learning between countries.

Who is involved? Apart from the usual suspects (elected officials, civil servants, interest groups), we can identify the role of federal governments (for states), international organizations (for countries), ‘policy entrepreneurs’ (who use their experience in one country to sell that policy to another – such as the Harvard Business School professor travelling the world selling ‘new public management’), international networks of experts (who feed up ideas to their national governments), multinational corporations (who encourage the ‘race to the bottom’, or the reduction of taxes and regulations in many countries), and other countries (such as the US).

Why transfer? Is transfer voluntary? The Dolowitz/ Marsh continuum sums up the idea that some forms of transfer are more voluntary than others. ‘Lesson-drawing’ is about learning from another country’s experience without much pressure (see the book to explain why I scribbled out some of the text!). At the other end is coercion. They place ‘conditionality’ near that end of the spectrum, since the idea is that countries who are so desperate to borrow money from the International Monetary Fund will feel they have no choice but to accept the IMF’s conditions – which usually involves reducing the role/ size of the state (although note the difference between agreeing to those conditions and meeting them). ‘Obligated transfer’ is further to the left because, for example, member states sign up to be influenced by EU institutions. Indirect coercion describes countries who feel they have to follow the lead of others, simply to ‘keep up’ or to respond to the ‘externalities’ or ‘spillovers’ of the policies of the other country (they are often felt most by small countries which share a border with larger countries).

figure 12.1 DM continuum

What is transferred? How much is transferred? Transfer can range from the decision to completely duplicate the substantive aims and institutions associated with a major policy change, taking decades to complete, to the vague inspiration (or the very quick decision not to emulate and, instead, to learn ‘negative lessons’).  It can also be a cover for something you planned to do anyway – ‘international experience’ is a great selling point.

What determines the likelihood and success of policy transfer? For an importing government to be successful, it should study the exporting country’s policy – and political system – enough to know what made it a success and if that success is transferable. Often, this is not done (governments may emulate without being particularly diligent) or it is not possible, since the policy may only work under particular circumstances (and we may not always know what those circumstances are). Much also depends on the implementation of policy, particularly when the transfer is encouraged by one organization and accepted reluctantly by another (such as when the EU, with limited enforcement powers, puts pressure on recalcitrant member states).

These questions are best asked alongside the general questions we explore in policymaking studies, including:

  • Bounded rationality and Incrementalism – do governments engage in trial-and-error and learn from their own mistakes first?  Is learning and transfer restricted to the ‘most similar’ regions because there is no point in learning from countries radically different from our own?  Do some governments emulate without learning? Is transfer from another, more innovative, government a common rule of thumb?
  • Multi-level Governance – does the existence of more policymaking arenas produce more innovation and a greater demand for learning? Or, does the diffusion of power undermine the ability of a central government to adopt policies from others?
  • Punctuated equilibrium – is transfer a rare opportunity produced by the sudden and unpredictable attention to new ideas?

Further Reading:

I explore these issues (and Rose’s advice) in a paper examining what Japan can learn from the UK’s experience of regionalism. It includes a discussion (summarised from Keating et al – Paywall Green) of the extent to which policy converges in a devolved UK and how much of that we can attribute to transfer and/ or learning:

Keating et al 2012 summary from japan paper

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