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The Policy-Making Process Essay

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*Setting the Agenda*

-most important decision that affects policy: deciding what to make policy about (political agenda) political agenda: issues that people believe require governmental action -at any given time certain shared beliefs determine what is legitimate (proper, right) for the government to do. this legitimacy is affected by several forces:

*shared political values
*the weight of custom and tradition
*impact of events
*changes in the way political elites think and talk about politics

The Legitimate Scope of Government Action

-the scope of legitimate government action is always getting larger
*as a result, the scope of what is illegitimate for the government to do steadily gets smaller -today we hear far fewer debates about the legitimacy of a proposed government policy than we heard in the 1920s or 1930s -”big government” is sustained by these expanded beliefs about legitimacy and not the consequence of some sinister power grab by politicians or bureaucrats -popular views on the legitimate scope of government action (thus the kinds of issues on the political agenda) are changed by the impact of events

*ex. wartime or after terrorism, people expect govt. to win -public opinion favored federal action to deal with the problems of the poor, unemployed, and elderly well in advance of the decisions of the govt. to take action -sometimes government enlarges its agenda of policy issues w/o crisis or public demand

*not easy to explain why government adds new issues to agenda and adopts
new programs when there is little demand and an improvement in conditions


-many policies are result of small groups enlarging the scope of govt. by their demands
*organized interests, intense but unorganized groups
-”relative deprivation”: citizens are most restless and easily aroused not when they are living in poverty or under grinding repression but when they have started to become better off -on occasion a group expresses in violent ways its dissatisfaction with intolerable conditions

*black riots in 1960s
*sense of relative deprivation-being worse off than one thinks they ought to be -new demands of such groups do not result in enlarged political agenda and they do not when society and its governing institutions are confident of the rightness of existing state of affairs -changes in values and beliefs are an essential part of any explanation of why policies not demanded by public opinion become part of the public agenda


-influence on agenda-setting: courts, bureaucracy, and Senate -courts
*can make decisions that force the hand of other branches of government -EX. 1954: Congress and White House could no longer ignore school desegregation
*local resistance to implementing order led to Pres. Eisenhower sending troops
to Little Rock despite his dislike for using force against local governments -courts act as tripwires
*when activated set off chain reaction of events that alters agenda and creates
new constellation of political forces
-courts have become favorite method for doing things for which there is no popular majority -courts: preferred vehicles for the advocates of unpopular causes -bureaucracy has acquired new significance

*not just because of its size and power, but because it is now a source of political
*source of policy proposals, implementer of those that become law -chiefs among these political allies are U.S. senators and their staffs
*incubator for developing new policies and building national constituencies
*source of political change

-national press places new matters on the agenda or publicize matters placed there by others -political agenda can change because of changes in popular attitudes, elite interest, critical events, or government actions -popular attitudes change slowly, often in response to critical events

*elite attitudes and government actions are more volatile and interdependent,
and thus change more quickly, often in response to each other

Action by the States
-national policy is increasingly being made by the actions of state governments
*other way for state governments to make national policy directly without
Congress ever voting on the matter

*Making a Decision*
-once an issue is on the political agenda, its nature affects the kind of politicking that ensues
*nature of issues in which government is dealing influences the kinds of groups
that become politically active
cost: a burden that people believe they must bear if a policy is enacted benefit: a satisfaction that people believe they will enjoy if a policy is adopted -2 important aspects of costs and benefits

it is the perception of costs and benefits that affects policies people take into account not only who benefits but also whether it is legitimate for that group to benefit -politics is in large measure a process of raising and settling disputes over who will benefit or pay for a program and who ought to benefit or pay -most people prefer government programs that provide substantial benefits to them at a low cost *simple theory of politics

-costs and benefits of policy may be widely distributed or narrowly concentrated -perceived distribution of costs and benefits shapes the kinds of political coalitions that will form

*Majoritarian Politics*
-some policies promise benefits to large numbers of people at a cost that large numbers of people will have to bear majoritarian politics: a policy in which almost everybody benefits and almost everybody pays

*involve making appeals to large blocs of voters and their representatives in the
hopes of finding a majority
*interest groups not so important, citizens rarely have an incentive to join an
interest group if the policy that such a group supports will benefit everybody
whether or not they are members of the group (“free-rider problem”)
*controversial over matters of cost or ideology

*Interest Group Politics: Concentrated Benefits, Concentrated Costs interest group politics: a policy in which one small group benefits and another small group pays
*often produces decisions about which the public is uninformed
*many issues involve monetary costs and benefits, but can also involve
intangible considerations

*Client Politics: Concentrated Benefits, Distributed Costs
client politics: a policy in which one small group benefits and almost everyone pays
*benefits are concentrated-group that will receive has an incentive to organize
and work to get them
*costs are widely distributed-affect many people only slightly, those who pay
may be unaware or indifferent to the costs because per capita they are so small
-this situation gives rise to client politics
-not all clients are economic interests
*localities can benefit as clients
pork-barrel legislation: legislation that gives tangible benefits to constituents in several districts or states in the hope of winning their votes in return logrolling: a legislator supports a proposal favored by another in return for support of his or hers -not every group that wants something from government at little cost to the average citizen will get it

*Welfare recipients cost the taxpayer a small amount, yet there was great
resistance to increasing these benefits
*Homeless have not organized and do not vote, but still receive benefits
*importance of popular views concerning the legitimacy of client claims as a
factor in determining the success of client demands
-groups can lose legitimacy that they once had

*Entrepreneurial Politics: Distributed Benefits, Concentrated Costs* entrepreneurial politics: a policy in which almost everybody benefits and a small group pays the cost
*antipollution and safety requirements for automobiles were proposed as ways to improve the health and well-being of all people at the expense (initially) of automobile manufacturers
-remarkable that policies of this sort are ever adopted, many are not -any organized group that fears the loss of privilege or the imposition of some burden will become a very determined minority -policies with distributed benefits and concentrated costs have been adopted with increasing frequency

*people who act on the behalf of an unorganized or indifferent majority policy entrepreneurs: activists in or out of government who pull together a political majority on behalf of unorganized interests

*may or may not represent the interests of the public at large but do have the ability to dramatize the issue in a convincing manner-Ex. Ralph Nader
-entrepreneurial politics can occur w/o the leadership of a policy entrepreneur if voters or legislators in large #s become disgruntled by the high cost of some benefit that a group is receiving -the decentralization of Congress and a change in the attitudes of many citizens has caused entrepreneurial politics to be more common and for policy entrepreneurs to be more visible in recent decades

*The Case of Business Regulation*
-efforts by government to regulate business illustrate the 4 kinds of policy-making processes and shed light on an issue that many believe is central to politics-relationship between wealth and power -to some, existence of large corporations is a threat to popular rule

*believe economic will dominate political power wealth can be used to buy influence politicians and business leaders have similar class backgrounds and similar beliefs about public policy elected officials must defer to the preferences of business so as to induce corporations to keep the economy healthy and growing -to others, politics is a threat to the existence of a market economy and the values that they believe such an economy protects -neither of these 2 extreme views of business-government relations is entirely correct

Majoritarian Politics
-not all efforts to regulate business pit one group against another -time to time laws are passed that reflect the views of a majority of voters that is neither imposing its will on a hostile business community not acceding to the desires of a privileged industry -Antitrust legislation: Sherman Act 1890, Federal Trade Commission 1914, Clayton Act 1914 has been result of majoritarian politics

*end of 19th century: arose a broadly based criticism of business monopolies
(then called trusts) and large corporations
*antitrust feeling was strong but unfocused
*large corporations worried but few felt threatened enough to try very hard to defeat the bill
-laws are not self-executing, vague laws likely to lie dormant unless political leaders work hard at bringing them to life -no serious effort among politicians or business leaders to abandon the commitment to a firm antitrust policy-strongest found in any industrial nation -antitrust laws strengthened in 1914 by bills that created the Federal Trade Commission and made specific practices illegal

*pros-help consumers, cons-help business
-Pres. Wilson endorsed both bills and created broad coalition on behalf of legislation -continual controversy about how laws should be administered
*relative absence of interest groups
-amount of $ that the federal govt. devotes to antitrust enforcement and the direction that those enforcement efforts take are determined by the political ideology and personal convictions of the party in power -antitrust regulation tends to reflect broad philosophies of governance more than interest group activity

Interest Group Politics
1935: labor unions sought govt. protection for their right to organize, bargain collectively with industry, and to compel workers in unionized industries to join the unions
*business firms opposed these plans
*fought out in Congress, unions won
*Wagner Act passed-regulate conduct of union organization drives and hear complaints of unfair labor practices
1947: management sought to reverse some of the gains won by the unions by pressing for the Taft-Hartley Act-would make illegal certain union practices and authorize the president to obtain a court order blocking for up to 80 days any strike the impacted national health and safety

*Business won
1959: business and labor fought over the Landrum-Griffin Act intended to prevent corruption in unions, to change the way in which organizing drives were carried out, and to prohibit certain kinds of strikes and picketing

*Business won
-Each case was highly publicized
-Winners and losers determined by the partisan composition of Congress and by the existence of economic conditions that affected public opinion on the issue -interest group struggle continued through the administration 1970: Occupational Safety and Health Act passed, similar pattern of interest group influence

*labor won, Occupational Safety and Health Administration was set up inside the Department of Labor
-conflict did not end with passage of the law and OSHA decisions
were frequently appealed to the courts

Client Politics
-certain kinds of policies do not usually lead to capture
*agency faces no well-organized, enduring opponent (majoritarian politics) or is caught in a crossfire of competing forces (interest group politics) -agency capture likely-when policy confers a benefit on one group at the expense of another -1930s: American dairy industry suffering from rapidly declining prices of milk

*farmers’ income fell, forced out of business
*Agricultural Adjustment Act-authorized agency of the Dept. of Agriculture
to regulate milk industry-prevented price competition
*consumers payed more for milk but had no way of knowing the difference
between regulated and unregulated price of milk
-Similar system works with sugar
-sometimes various officials attempt to change the regulations to benefit a client group -1996: Congress passed and Pres. Clinton signed a bill that began to phase out the practice of paying farmers the difference between what they can sell their crops for and what the government thinks the crops ought to be worth

*plan did not last-subsidies increased
-2002: Pres. Bush signed a new farm bill-meant to protect little farmers but most money went to “big” farmers
*farm subsidies justified by the fact that prices farmers earn swing wildly -client politics harder to practice unless a group is widely thought to be a “deserving” client -client politics for “special interests” on the decline, true mostly for programs that send certain groups $ -regulations that start out by trying to serve a client can end up hurting -regulatory agencies created to help clients can become burdens to those clients when the laws the agencies enforce are sufficiently vague so as to provide freedom of action for the people who run them

*such language gives agency wide, undefined powers

Entrepreneurial Politics
-1960s/1970s: around two dozen consumer and environmental-protection laws were passed
*often because of policy entrepreneurs dramatizing an issue, galvanized public opinion, and mobilized congressional support
-in govt. or private person
-when a policy entrepreneur is outside the government, they will need a sympathetic ear within it -easier for policy entrepreneurs when a crisis or scandal focuses public attention on a problem -some cases, no dramatic event is required for entrepreneurial politics to succeed

*air and water pollution bills
-policy entrepreneurs seeking to regulate an industry often adopt a moralistic tone -once a policy entrepreneur manages to defeat an industry that is resisting regulation, they create a strong force for additional legislation of the same kind -great risk faced by policy entrepreneurs: the agency created to do the regulating will be captured by the industry that it is supposed to regulate

*FDA has fallen victim to this kind of capture
-5 reasons why newer consumer and environmental protection agencies may not be as vulnerable to capture as some critics contend 1. these agencies often enforce laws that impose specific standards in accordance with specific standards in accordance with strict timetables 2. newer agencies usually regulate many different industries and so do not confront a single unified opponent. very existence of these agencies has helped strengthen the hand of the “public interest” lobbies that initially demanded their creation these lobbies can now call upon many sympathetic allies in the media who will attack agencies that are thought to have a pro-business bias has become easier for groups to use the federal courts to put pressure on the regulatory agencies

*Perceptions, Beliefs, Interests, and Values*
-what constitutes a cost or a benefit is a matter of opinion, and opinions change
*perception of costs and benefits that affect politics
-some favor having the govt. regulate the price of natural gas and others oppose it
*consumers want to buy gas cheaply, people in the industry want gas prices to go up
-interests and beliefs in conflict
-political conflict: a struggle to make one definition of the costs and benefits of a proposal prevail over others; a struggle to alter perceptions and beliefs
*material interests play a part in all this
-government proposals do not have immediate impact on your pocketbook
*perceptions and beliefs become the prize for political activists here-and-now argument: what happens now or in the near future is more important to most people than what happens in the distant future cost argument: people react more sharply to what they will lose if a policy is adopted than what they will gain -policies are affected not only by perceptions and beliefs about where our interests lie but also by our values

-1980s: several industries were deregulated over the objections of those industries EX. airline fares, long-distance telephone services, trucking
-iron triangle: relationship between a private client, a government agency, and a supportive Congress
-power of ideas

*academic economists agreed that regulating prices in industries that were competitive
*regulations hurt consumers by keeping prices high
-Since the mid-1970s every president has put in place machinery to bring govt. regulation of industry under more central review
-Deregulation is opposed by groups that benefit from it, controversial in 2 ways

*some members of the public do not like the results
*some people who favor deregulating prices oppose regulating processes Process regulation: rules governing commercial activities designed to improve consumer, worker, or environmental conditions. also called social regulation

The Limits of Ideas
-limits to their power
-many forms of client politics that persist
-easier to challenge client politics in some industries and occupations than in other -generally harder to maintain client politics free of challenge today than once was the case

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