Michael D. McGinnis

Indiana University
Political Science

Woodburn Hall 210
1100 E 7th St
Bloomington, IN
mcginnis@indiana.edu |  Visit Personal Website

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I am primarily interested in how institutions (ranging from formal organizations to rules to norms to strategies to shared mental models) shape public policy, especially in the areas of U.S. health policy and national intelligence policy. I have published on general topics in in public policy, institutional analysis, humanitarian aid, arms control, game theory, and faith-based organizations. My current research applies principles of commons governance to prospective reforms of regional systems of health care delivery in the United States. I also have continuing interests in the analysis of environmental policy settings, especially through application of the Social-Ecological System framework.

Michael D. McGinnis. 2013. "Caring for the Health Commons: What It Is and Who's Responsible For It." Working Paper W13-5, The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University, Bloomington.
Abstract: This paper investigates the potential relevance to health care reform of the Nobel Prize-winning research of Elinor Ostrom on community-based management of natural resource commons. Two related interpretations of the concept of a “health commons” are considered, the first (a micro-commons) consisting of specific programs of quality improvement or health promotion, and the second encompassing the entire system of physical, financial, human, and social resources relevant to the delivery of health care in a region. The proliferation of micro-commons has deepened the fragmentation of health care delivery systems, and rising costs of health care threaten the long-term sustainability of this mode of delivery. Cross-stakeholder collaborations can serve as “stewards” of either of these health commons, under conditions analogous to the Design Principles identified by Ostrom. Examples from the case of Grand Junction, Colorado, are used to illustrate the relevance of these principles to shared stewardship of a regional health commons. The paper concludes with a set of questions that can help assess a community’s ability to more effectively manage their own system of health care delivery.
URL: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2221413
Michael D. McGinnis. 2010. "Religion Policy and the Faith-Based Initiative: Navigating the Shifting Boundaries between Church and State." Forum on Public Policy 4.
Abstract: Despite widespread presumption of a wall of separation between church and state, boundaries between the activities of religious and policy organizations in the United States are fluid and endlessly renegotiated. Faith-based organizations (FBOs) are full participants in complex policy networks in some policy areas (health, education, and social services), while in other issue areas FBOs have minimal if any impact. Government policies at national, state, and local levels directly or indirectly manipulate the incentives and disincentives of believers’ participation in policy-relevant activities. Religion policy encompasses a wide array of policy instruments (or policy tools), and this paper identifies the key determinants of diverse patterns of relationships among the leaders of religious and political organizations. The Bush-era faith-based initiative illustrates religion policy in action, revealing both its potential and its inherent limitations. This paper concludes with an examination of criteria by which the positive and negative consequences of increased FBO participation, for those involved in specific policy areas and for society as a whole, might be evaluated.
URL: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1762689
McGinnis, Michael D. 2011. "Costs and Challenges of Polycentric Governance: An Equilibrium Concept and Examples from U.S. Health Care." The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University: Bloomington.
Abstract: The inherent complexity of polycentric systems of governance brings both benefits and costs. Institutional diversity facilitates collective action by diverse groups within a community, but at the cost of losing any clear sense of the responsibilities and accountability of public officials. Such systems are built up piece by piece over long periods of time, making it difficult to use analytical tools of political economy based on equilibrium concepts. This paper introduces an S-core equilibrium concept, based on the minimal costs of transactions (S, for subsidiarity costs) involved in the establishment of new formal organizations or informal mechanisms for collective action by specific groups. After surveying the factors affecting the relative costs and benefits of expanding existing arenas for collective action, this paper concludes with a brief overview of collaborative structures found in the U.S. healthcare system. This is definitely a complex, polycentric system, but one which too often lacks effective mechanisms for collective action at the community level.
URL: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2206980 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2206980
McGinnis, M. D. and Ostrom, E. 2012. "Reflections on Vincent Ostrom, Public Administration, and Polycentricity." Public Administration Review 72:15–25.
Abstract: Among Vincent Ostrom's many contributions to the study of public administration, policy, and political science, the concept of polycentricity remains his single most important legacy. This essay locates the origins of this concept in Ostrom's early research on resource management in the Western United States and demonstrates its continuing influence throughout The Intellectual Crisis in Public Administration, The Political Theory of a Compound Republic, and his other major publications. Although typically pigeonholed within the confines of the public choice tradition, Ostrom's body of work should be widely appreciated as an early statement of the critical importance of network forms of governance in democratic societies.
DOI: 10.1111/j.1540-6210.2011.02488.x
McGinnis, M. D. 2011. "Networks of Adjacent Action Situations in Polycentric Governance." Policy Studies Journal 39:51–78.
Abstract: Within the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework, the concept of an action situation generalizes a game to allow for endogenous changes in its rules. This article re-visits this core concept to explore its potential for serving as the foundation for a systematic approach to the construction of more elaborate models of complex policy networks in which overlapping sets of actors have the ability to influence the rules under which their strategic interactions take place. Networks of adjacent action situations can be built on the basis of the seven distinct types of rules that define an action situation or by representing generic governance tasks identified in related research on local public economies. The potential of this extension of the IAD framework is demonstrated with simplified network representations of three diverse policy areas (Maine lobster fisheries, international development assistance, and the contribution of faith-based organizations to U.S. welfare policy).
DOI: 10.1111/j.1541-0072.2010.00396.x
Daniel H. Cole, Graham Epstein, and Michael D. McGinnis. 2014. "Digging Deeper into Hardin’s Pasture: The Complex Institutional Structure of ‘The Tragedy of the Commons’." Journal of Institutional Economics.
Abstract: A revised application of Ostrom’s (Ostrom, 2007) Social-Ecological System (SES) framework to Hardin’s ‘tragedy of the commons’ (Hardin, G. (1968), Science, 162 (3859): 1243–1248) demonstrates that its institutional structure is more complex than either Hardin or Ostrom had imagined. The ‘tragedy’ arises from several interacting resources and institutions. If the grass on the pasture was not subject to appropriation, the cattle were not privately owned, or property- and contract-enforcement institutions supporting market were absent, then the ‘tragedy of the commons’ would not have arisen regardless of the open-access pasture. This paper highlights the utility of the SES and the care required to apply it precisely to specific social-ecological situations.
DOI: 10.1017/S1744137414000101

Substantive Focus:
Environmental Policy
Governance SECONDARY
Health Policy PRIMARY
Defense and Security

Theoretical Focus:
Policy Process Theory PRIMARY