The Policy-Making Process

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Chapter 17: The Policy-Making Process

*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

Groups
-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

Institutions
-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
innovation
*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

Media
-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...
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