CALIFORNIA STATE UNIVERSITY, SACRAMENTO
Political Environment of Policy Making
Professor Ted Lascher
Meeting time and place:
One of the recurring themes in American history is the desire to remove politics (that great beast!) from policy making. Fortunately or unfortunately, we live in the real world. In that environment, politics matters. Decision makers commonly hold different values and interests, and attempt to advance them through a variety of means (e.g., deployment of resources, advantageous issue framing, bargaining). Outcomes frequently reflect participants' skills, clout, etc.
This course asks students to embrace the notion that politics matters, and then go beyond that. My aim is to develop your ability to diagnose the political factors that affect outcomes. The ultimate goal is to improve your effectiveness in the policy arena.
In emphasizing politics, I do not wish to argue that substantive arguments about the merits of policy are irrelevant. Indeed, during the semester we will consider evidence that policy deliberation not only should matter but does matter in the real world. Yet it�s also crucial to understand how the political situation affects reasoning about the merits of policy choices.
This course focuses mainly (although not exclusively) on the development stage of the policy process, and particularly efforts to secure enactment of legislation. I find legislative battles especially useful for illustrating key analytical points. However, students should remain aware that politics enters other forums and stages, including policy implementation.
A new feature of this course is that we will consider in depth the ethics of political entrepreneurship. We will examine the different obligations of entrepreneurs and the limits on political discretion that ought to be followed.
CONDUCT OF THE SEMINAR
The term "seminar" is accurate. Conventional lectures will be limited to those situations where lecturing is the most effective way to convey key information and arguments. Most classes will be discussion oriented. While I will guide the conversation, summarize points and draw lessons, the bulk of class time will be devoted to exchange about course topics.
Student participation is therefore not a luxury; it is essential to a successful course. I expect that students will come to class consistently, be prepared to discuss the week's readings, and be prepared to accept special in-class assignments such as leading a critique of a particular argument from the literature.
All readings are available at the Hornet Bookstore. Many of the required readings are in a course packet. The packet contains articles and book chapters, as well as a number of case studies from Harvard University�s Kennedy School of Government (KSG) and elsewhere.
The following books are also required.
Thomas A. Birkland, After Disaster: Agenda Setting, Public Policy, and Focusing Events (Washington: Georgetown University Press, 1997)
Lydia Chávez, The Color Bind: California�s Battle to End Affirmative Action (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1998)
John W. Kingdon, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, 2nd ed. (New York: HarperCollins, 1995)
James A. Stimson, Public Opinion in America: Moods, Cycles, and Swings, 2nd ed. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1999)
ASSIGNMENTS AND GRADING
There will be two short papers, an in-class mid-term examination, and an in-class final examination. Assignment due dates are specified in the syllabus.
Course grades will be determined in accordance with the following weights:
Paper #1 (agenda setting memo)
Paper #2 (ethics paper)
MAKE-UP ASSIGNMENTS AND MISSED CLASSES
Late assignments will not be accepted. At my discretion, a student who misses a deadline may be given a make-up assignment. Whether or not a penalty will be assessed depends on the reason (e.g., a family emergency constitutes a good reason; a competing requirement for another course does not).
You should inform me prior to class if you must miss class on a specific day. Except under very unusual circumstances, a student who misses three classes will be penalized one entire grade (e.g., a B+ for the course will become a C+), and a student who misses more than three classes will receive a failing grade.
DETAILED CLASS INFORMATION
I. THE POLITICS OF POLICY MAKING: AN OVERVIEW AND THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK
A. INTRODUCTION: THE CONCEPT OF THE POLICY ENTREPRENEUR
"From Research to Policy: The Cigarette Excise Tax" (KSG case)
Charlotte Lopez-Rojas and Barry Keene, "The Road to a Motorcycle Helmet Law in California," in Keene ed., California Public Management Casebook (Berkeley: Institute of Governmental Studies, 1999)
- Why did the work of Eugene Lewit and his colleagues have an influence on the policy process? What prevented their findings from being mired in obscurity?
- Who was (or who were) the entrepreneur(s) in the cigarette excise tax case, and on what do you base this judgment?
- To what extent did Mary Price have characteristics making her an effective entrepreneur? Why might her arguments have been especially compelling to legislators?
B. THE KINGDON FRAMEWORK
Kingdon, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, chapters 1-6
- What is the distinction Kingdon draws between "conditions" and "problems?" Why is this distinction important?
- What is the "policy community?" How does that community influence the policy process?
- How do entrepreneurs push forward policy ideas?
Paper #1 (agenda setting memo) due
Kingdon, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, chapters 7-10
Come to class prepared to discuss your assignment
II. DEEPER INTO THE PROBLEM STREAM: FOCUSING EVENTS
"The Voting Rights Act of 1965," selection (KSG case) Birkland, After Disaster, chapters 1-3
- What was the "focusing event" in the Voting Rights case? What was the role of the media in that event?
- Why do some focusing events have a bigger impact than others?
- More specifically, why have responses to earthquakes and hurricanes differed significantly?
Birkland, After Disaster, chapters 4-6
During this class we�re going to try to surmise what the reaction might be too some hypothetical focusing events. Before class, try to imagine different types of such events and what would transpire as a result of their occurrence.
III. DEEPER INTO THE POLITICAL STREAM: COLLECTIVE ACTION, MOBILIZATION, AND THE PUBLIC MOOD
A. THE COLLECTIVE ACTION PROBLEM AND "RATIONAL IGNORANCE"
Mancur Olson, "The Logic of Collective Action," in Pressure Groups (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 23-37
Walter J. Stone, Republic at Risk: Self-Interest in American Politics (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company, 1990), pp. 27-45
The Collective Action Game
- What is the "collective action problem?" How does it affect people�s willingness to engage in political action?
- What are the policy consequences of individual-level incentives to refrain from political action?
- How can the collective action problem be overcome?
B. THE PUBLIC MOOD
R. Kent Weaver, Robert Y. Shapiro, and Lawrence R. Jacobs, "The Polls-Trends: Welfare," Public Opinion Quarterly 59 (1995), pp. 606-627
Stimson, Public Opinion in America, chapters 1-4
- What are the consistent features of the public�s view of welfare? To what extent has opinion about welfare changed over time? Why?
- What exactly is a "policy mood?"
- Why do policy moods change over time?
- How do changes in the public mood create opportunities and dangers for policy entrepreneurs?
Mid-Term Exam During the First Half of Class
Stimson, Public Opinion in America, chapters 5-6
- What can we learn about public opinion from election results? What mistakes can we make in drawing inferences from elections?
- What were key features of the policy mood in the 1990s?
IV. MOVING FROM AGENDA TO DECISION, PART ONE: BUILDING A WINNING COALITION
Chávez, The Color Bind, skim chapters 1-2 and the afterward, read chapters 3-8 more carefully
V. MOVING FROM AGENDA TO DECISION, PART TWO: NEGOTIATIONS
A. SIMPLE NEGOTIATIONS
Thomas Schelling, The Strategy of Conflict, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1980), pp. 21-46
What does it take to achieve success in a two-party, zero sum negotiation?
"The Salty Dog"
B. MORE COMPLEX NEGOTIATIONS
David Lax and James Sebenius, The Manager as Negotiator (New York: The Free Press, 1986), pp. 29-45
"MAPO-Administration Negotiation, General Information" (to be distributed prior to class)
- What does it take to be successful in a multi-party, non-zero sum negotiation?
- What lessons from the "Salty Dog" exercise are applicable to "MAPO?" What lessons are not applicable?
VI. THE ETHICS OF ADMINISTRATIVE DISCRETION AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP
April 24 (no class April 17; spring break)
John R. Walton, James M. Stearns, and Charles T. Crespy, "Integrating Ethics Into the Public Administration Curriculum: A Three-Step Process," Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 16 (1997), pp. 470-483
Michael Quinlan/Arthur Applbaum, debate in Governance 6 (October, 1993), pp. 538-558
David Nacht, "The Iran-Contra Affair," in Amy Gutmann and Dennis Thompson, eds., Ethics and Politics: Cases and Comments, 3rd ed. (Chicago: Nelson-Hall, 1997), pp. 57-66
David Rudenstine, "Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers," in Gutman and Thompson, Ethics and Politics, pp. 161-170
- To what extent are administrative personnel ethically obligated to follow the dictates of top appointed officials within executive agencies?
- What options are available to agency personnel who confront unethical behavior within their organization? Which options should be used first, and which last?
- With the exception of there substantive aims, were the actions of Daniel Ellsberg and Oliver North ethically equivalent? Why/why not?
Paper #2 (ethics paper) due
"The Case of the Segregated Schools" (KSG case) Marissa Martino Golden, "Bureaucratic Behavior in a Political Setting: Reagan and the Civil Service," typescript (1995)
Come to class prepared to discuss your assignment
VII. MOVING FROM AGENDA TO DECISION, PART THREE: DELIBERATION ON THE MERITS OF POLICY CHOICES
A. WHAT DO WE WANT FROM DELIBERATION?
Written assignment #2 due
"Twelve Angry Men" (to be viewed prior to class)
Edward Lascher, "Assessing Legislative Deliberation: A Preface to Empirical Analysis," Legislative Studies Quarterly (Winter, 1996), pp. 501-519
"California Welfare Reform" (KSG case)
- If the jurors in "Twelve Angry Men" made a "good decision," why did this happen?
- What exactly is "deliberation," and how would we know it when we saw it?
- Why should we care if policy makers deliberate?
- To the extent Swoap and Agnos made progress in their discussions, why did this occur? What were the consequences of their efforts?
B. EVALUATING REAL WORLD DELIBERATION
"Against All Odds: The Campaign in Congress for Japanese-American Redress" (KSG case)
- Why were the advocates of redress for Japanese-Americans able to overcome the odds and win a legislative victory?
- To the extent there was something compelling about the arguments used by redress advocates, what was it?
- Did participants in the redress debate engage in high quality deliberation? Why/why not?