Policy punctuations in the UK: fluctuations and equilibria in central government expenditure since 1951



Jones and Baumgartner's punctuated equilibrium model of agenda change has reinvigorated decision-making theory; moreover their US budget project offers a set of techniques to apply to UK data. We replicate the method by plotting percentage budget changes in central government budgets to see whether the distribution is normally distributed as predicted by the incrementalist account or leptokurtic as hypothesized by the punctuated equilibrium model. Taking the period 1951–96, we create 405 data points from budget changes from the National Income Accounts (‘Blue Book’) on agriculture, defence, social security, education, health, housing, industry, law and order and transport, all adjusted using the GDP deflator at factor cost. We find that the budget changes form a leptokurtic distribution. Such a pattern appears in most policy sectors.