Recent Posts




Industrial restructuring, plant closure and public policy: 10 dying US industries

Posted: April 3rd, 2011, by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega

Firm death, plant closure and the geography of industry decline are all topics that may not be perceived as very interesting in some fields of academic inquiry. I have conducted empirical, on-the-ground research on how leather tanneries and footwear manufacturers deal with changes in their macroeconomic environment, shifts in consumer preferences and technological change, as well as rezoning and land use policies, and stricter environmental regulation.

Synchronous motor for reactive power compensation

Photo credit: LHOON on Flickr

Economic geography and public policy intersect at several stages. One of the most important, and often forgotten, is the design of policy options that counter negative societal impacts of industrial decline. I recently came across an article (thanks to Derek K. Miller for sharing it) on 10 dying US industries. I’ve been puzzled about the geography of plant closure for a solid decade now.

In the NPR article list, technological change is seen as the culprit of some of the listed industries’ decline. But there is really very little analytical work. Even in the actual report. I will admit I was minorly surprised to see that the report on which the NPR article is based lists ZERO academic references to any of the scholarly work that abounds on US industry decline. Not even citations or links to the more recent work published by Richard Florida (who is looking now at new types of non-traditional industry). This report gives me ‘a teachable moment’ – in my teaching, I demand from my students to cite scholarly work and not only journalistic accounts (which can be valuable). Moreover, when looking at public policy issues, they have to explore them for a multiplicity of disciplinary views and perspectives.

One of the groups in my Public Policy class is exploring the issue of industrial restructuring, plant decline and public policy. I am really looking forward to seeing what policy options they came up with. More importantly, because the often forgotten reality about scholarly research on the geography of industrial decline is that we may be able to learn from industry failure to strengthen other industries or change strategies and build better public policies for regional economic development.

Canada Water Week

Posted: March 14th, 2011, by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega

While not the entirety of POLI 350A Public Policy is devoted to environmental policy issues, water governance is one of those policy areas that crosses over many other issue areas. Plus, is one of the areas of research that I work on. Thus, it is fitting that I highlight the first-ever Canada Water Week, which takes place from March 14th through the 22nd. March 22nd is World Water Day, and the Canada Water Week website has a number of social networking outlets implemented so as to spread the word about good water use, consumption and management. Worth checking out.

Greenest City Camp March 5th, 2011

Posted: February 23rd, 2011, by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega

On Thursday February 24th, Olive Dempsey, Amanda Mitchell and Councillor Andrea Reimer from the City of Vancouver (and the Greenest City team) will talk to us about policy issues within the Greenest City file (but obviously we will be able to discuss the larger policy implications of these issues). Furthermore, I want to call your attention to Greenest City Camp which will take place on March 5th, 2011. If you have the time to attend you should consider doing so!

Evidence-based health policy in the United Kingdom

Posted: February 12th, 2011, by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega

I just read about how the UK’s ‘evidence-based’ health policy is coming under scrutiny and criticism. Check this post from Boing Boing. Given how much emphasis I have placed on empirical evidence, this post is particularly relevant to our in-class discussions.

Collective action in Canadian Public Policy through an evolutionary theory lens

Posted: February 8th, 2011, by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega

As indicated in today’s class, here is the text of the assignment for before class on Thursday, February 10th, 2011.

Pick a Canadian policy issue where you see the need for self-organization (examples):

  • Water management in the Fraser river basin
  • Policing and surveillance on buses in Metro Vancouver
  • Provision of health services for low-income folks
  • …. (your choice)

What kind of basic rules and norms would you try to enforce, and who would be both the target population and the responsible parties for enforcement? (according to evolutionary theory)

Post your reflections on this POLI 350A blog post (email me your pseudonym) before the beginning of next class.

Dr. Janni Aragon’s slides on Feminist Theories in Public Policy in Canada

Posted: January 29th, 2011, by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega

Dr. Janni Aragon has made her slides available for your perusal (I linked to them in my most recent blog post). Thank you!

Feminist Theories in Canadian Public Policy (Guest lecture by Dr. Janni Aragon)

Posted: January 28th, 2011, by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega

Dr. Janni Aragon (University of Victoria) recently guest lectured in my POLI 350A Public Policy class, on feminist theories in Canadian public policy (thank you for coming all the way to guest lecture!). I’m delighted with the infectious enthusiasm that you (my students) showed and how engaged you were with Dr. Aragon’s seminar. She will be making her slides available and I will upload them on to Vista as well as post a link to the PDF on here. What was your main take-away from Dr. Aragon’s guest lecture?

Should municipalities provide free counselling as a policy tool to address homelessness? (In-class Exercise)

Posted: January 28th, 2011, by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega

Homelessness is a complex public policy problem that encompasses a broad variety of elements. This past week I asked you to use Schneider and Ingram (1993) social constructions of target populations framework to evaluate the case study I posted on Vista for an in-class assignment – would providing free counselling sessions to homeless folks work as a policy tool (realistically speaking). How is homelessness socially constructed and how does this social construction affect policy choices? I asked you to email me your responses, and I will be doing a summary. But in the mean time, feel free to keep the discussion going on this blog entry.

Multi-causal, multi-theoretical explanations to policy change

Posted: January 24th, 2011, by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega

Last class, I asked you whether you could think of any situation in which only rational choice were the only explanatory variable. One of your colleagues asked me if there was any case of policy evolution where we could ONLY attribute the change using rational choice theory and NOT neo-institutionalism. I was a bit stumped because I have evolved from being primarily a rational-choice theorist to placing more importance in institutions (thus becoming a neo-institutionalist). So it was hard for me to think of any potential case study where ONLY rational choice can be used to explain.

My research work has always involved multiple and very diverse theoretical frameworks to explain policy change. I think there is enormous value to use a variety of explanatory frameworks and explore the same policy issue through different theoretical lenses. Chris’ question made me think about a good exercise for next lecture. In next class we will explore one case through THREE theoretical frameworks (neo-institutionalism, rational choice and constructivism).

Comments on Vancouver councillor Andrea Reimer’s assessment of the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy

Posted: January 15th, 2011, by Dr. Raul Pacheco-Vega

It’s only week 3, but we are beginning to explore the underlying theories of the policy process. As we move through the process, it’s important to remember that public policy has many facets. There are a myriad of policy objectives, fiscal constraints, power asymmetries and conflicting values in every public policy decision.

Decisions that affect us include urban growth and industrial expansion. Recently, Vancouver Councillor Andrea Reimer published her views on the Metro Vancouver Regional Growth Strategy. I urge you to read them, and then come back to this blog post and share your views.

I will be talking with Councillor Reimer about this and other public policy issues of interest to our course soon and will keep you posted.

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