Grand theory of state capacity - What determines the implementation of a public policy?

State capacity can be defined as the capacity to make rules or policies and implement them. It is argued that weak state capacity is the critical constraint in delivery of education but our bureaucracy also amuses us with miraculous feats of organising world’s largest democratic elections, which seems like a paradox. Often, we mistake the capability to conduct elections for capability to deliver education. Hence, it is useful to understand this phenomenon in more detail, which we call it elections vs. education paradox from now on.

Kurt Von Hammerstein Equord, is a famous German army general. He served in the army during World War I and is known for his rivalry with Hitler and his plots to overthrow Hitler. He once remarked, “I divide my officers into four groups. There are clever, diligent, stupid, and lazy officers. Usually two characteristics are combined. Some are clever and diligent—their place is the General Staff. The next lot is stupid and lazy—they make up 90% of every army and are suited to routine duties. Anyone who is both clever and lazy is qualified for the highest leadership duties, because he possesses the intellectual clarity and the composure necessary for difficult decisions. One must beware of anyone who is stupid and diligent—he must not be entrusted with any responsibility because he will always cause only mischief.”  His statement can be visualized in a two-dimensional framework as shown in Figure 3.4.

                                                                    Figure 3.4

Our policies can also be analyzed using this framework. Clever is analogous to policies which are good at design, stupid are those which are bad at design. Diligent is analogous to policies which are implemented well and lazy is analogous to policies which are not implemented well. Like people, policies also come in combinations: good in design but bad in implementation (clever and lazy); good in design and good in implementation (clever and diligent); bad in design and bad in implementation (stupid and lazy); and the most dangerous–bad in design and good in implementation (stupid and diligent).

We thus observe that policy design and implementation together determine outcomes and that design of policies is a factor that should be considered in our analysis of election vs. education paradox. However, this analogy doesn’t tell us much about the interaction between policy design and implementation.