Journal of Public Policy

Research Article

Setting and Firing Policy Triggers*

Kent Weavera1

a1 Governmental Studies, The Brookings Institution


ABSTRACT Governments increasingly use quantitative policy signals as automatic triggers for policy adjustments rather than simply to inform policy debate. This increased use of policy triggers cannot be explained simply by a technocratic desire to reduce workloads and regularize policy adjustments. Political objectives – notably desires to reduce conflict, bind future policymakers, and avoid blame – play an important role both in decisions to use policy triggers and in the selection of specific triggers. Using policy signals as triggers often leads to the politicization of statistics and to harmful rigidification of policy.


* The author would like to thank Kirsten Lundgaard and Brenda Eisele for research assistance. Research support for this study was provided by the Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, the German Marshall Fund of the United States, and by an anonymous foundation.