Updated March 20, 2000
COURSE NOTES AND SUMMARY POINTS
Economic Models of Policy
KEY TERMS OR CONCEPTS: Natural Monopoly, Contestibility, Legal Monopoly, Perfect Competitive Model, Pareto Efficiency.
You have notes and an article from The Economist on this material.
Rational Choice Models
KEY TERMS OR CONCEPTS: Rational Choice, Median Voter, Single Peaked Preferences, Ideal Point, Information Short Cut, Ideology, Decision to Vote, Costs/Benefits, Utility, Expected Incumbent Differential, Retrospective Voting, Prospective Voting, UC, UI, E(U),
RATIONAL CHOICE THEORY HAS BEEN THE PRIMARY INFLUENCE ON HOW ELECTIONSHAVE BEEN PERCEIVED AND STUDIED.
RECALL THAT THE KEY IDEAS UNDERLYING THE MEDIAN VOTER MODEL ARE:
[1.] EACH VOTER CAN BE REPRESENTED BY A POINT IN SOME HYPOTHETICAL SPACE SUCH THAT THE POINT REFLECTS THE PERSON'S IDEAL SET OF POLICIES (IDEAL POINT). THE VOTER HAS SINGLE-PEAKED PREFERENCES:
[2.] THE POLICY OF EACH CANDIDATE LIKEWISE CAN BE REPRESENTED BY A POINT IN THE SAME SPACE
[3.] A VOTER CHOOSES THE CANDIDATE WHOSE POLICY POSITION IS
CLOSEST TO HIS OR HER OWN.
[4.] THE CANDIDATE WHO WINS THE MEDIAN VOTER WINS THE ELECTION IN A TWO-CANDIDATE/PARTY ELECTION. THE MEDIAN VOTER REPRESENTS 50% + 1 OF THE VOTERS. THE CANDIDATE WHO IS CLOSEST TO THE MEDIAN IS THE WINNER
[5.] OVER TIME, BOTH PARTIES WILL TRY TO WIN THE MEDIAN, SO BOTH WILL PICK CLOSE TO THE SAME POLICIES. THE FIGHTS IN POLITICS WILL BE OVER SMALL DIFFERENCES, AKIN TO PACKAGING OR BRAND LOYALTY.
[6.] IDEOLOGIES ARE AN INDIVIDUALS CONCEPT OF A GOOD SOCIETY. IT SERVES AS AN INFORMATION SHORTCUT, ALLOWING THEM TO ASSUME A CANDIDATE'S POSITIONS BASED ON THEIR IDEOLOGIES. VOTERS SELECT IDEOLOGIES
THESE SORTS OF MODELS ARE GENERALLY CALLED PROXIMITY SPATIAL MODELS, SINCE A VOTERS CANDIDATE PREFERENCE IS A FUNCTION OF THEIR CLOSENESS OR PROXIMITY TO A CANDIDATE.
WHILE THE RATIONAL CHOICE MODEL IS WIDELY USED IT HAS ALSO BEEN WIDELY CRITICIZED. THE VAST MAJORITY OF THE PUBLIC DOES NOT SEE ISSUES THE SHARP POSITIONAL FASHION THAT THE TRADITIONAL SPATIAL THEORY ASSUMES. INSTEAD ISSUES MAY BE PERCEIVED DIFFUSELY, OR AS SYMBOLS.
Symbolic Politics and the Directional Model
KEY TERMS AND CONCEPTS: Easy Issues, Hard Issues, Symbols, Directional Response, Intensity, Directional Effect, Neutral Point, Issue Selection, Electoral Competition
THE KEY ARGUMENT BEHIND SYMBOLIC POLITICS IS THAT FOR ISSUES TO HAVE IMPACT, THEY MUST EVOKE EMOTIONS RATHER THAN A SIMPLE OBJECTIVE APPRAISAL OF INFORMATION.
ISSUES MAY CONVEY A SYMBOL - THINK OF RACE, HEALTH CARE, TAXATION, FLAG-BURNING - THAT POTENTIALLY CAN TRIGGER A SET OF ASSOCIATIONS BASED ON PRIOR EXPERIENCES. THE ASSOCIATIONS TEND TO GENERATE EMOTIONAL RESPONSES. THESE ARE KNOWN AS EASY ISSUES.
IT IS HARD TO SEE HOW SYMBOLIC POLITICS CAN BE SEEN IN THE TRADITIONAL PROXIMITY SPATIAL MODEL. BY ITS NATURE IT IS DIFFUSE AND EMOTIONALLY LADEN.
THE DIRECTIONAL MODEL
HOW CAN WE DEVELOP A MODEL OF THIS APPROACH TO POLITICS? IT SEEMS THAT THERE ARE TWO QUALITIES THAT A SYMBOL TENDS TO EVOKE:
[1.] FIRST IS A DIRECTIONAL RESPONSE. DO YOU FEEL FAVORABLY OR UNFAVORABLY TOWARD THE SYMBOL.
[2.] SECOND IS THE INTENSITY OF THE RESPONSE. HOW STRONGLY
DOES THE PERSON FEEL ABOUT THE ISSUE? ARE THEIR HIGH FEELINGS WITH STRONG EMOTIONAL CONTENT?
THE DIRECTIONAL SPATIAL MODEL CAN HANDLE SYMBOLIC ISSUES. IT ALLOWS US TO CALCULATE THE IMPACT OF AN ISSUE ON AN INDIVIDUAL VOTER AS A JOINT FUNCTION OF THE DIRECTIONAL COMPATIBILITY WITH THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE CANDIDATE AND THE INTENSITY LEVEL OF BOTH THE CANDIDATE AND THE INDIVIDUAL.
TWO QUESTIONS IN THE DIRECTIONAL MODEL:
FIRST, ARE THE INDIVIDUAL AND CANDIDATE IN AGREEMENT ABOUT THE DIRECTION PUBLIC POLICY SHOULD TAKE. IF THEY ARE ON THE SAME SIDE OF THE ISSUE, THE AFFECT ASSOCIATED WITH THE ISSUE WILL BE POSITIVE. IF THEY ARE ON OPPOSITE SIDES OF THE ISSUE, THE AFFECT OF THE ISSUE WILL BE NEGATIVE.
SECOND, WE NEED TO KNOW HOW INTENSE THE INDIVIDUAL AND THE CANDIDATE ARE WITH REGARD TO THE ISSUE. HOW MUCH EMOTION IS INVOLVED.
THE MAGNITUDE OF THE IMPACT OF AN ISSUE, ITS DIRECTIONAL EFFECT, THEN, IS THE INTERACTION OF THE TWO INTENSITY LEVELS (candidate and voter). THAT IS DETERMINED BY HOW FAR ONE IS FROM THE NEUTRAL POINT OF THE
SCALE. THE FORMULA IS:
(CANDIDATE LOCATION - NEUTRAL POINT) X (VOTER LOC. - NEUTRAL. PT.) If THE NEUTRAL POINT IS ZERO, THE FORMULA REDUCES TO THIS:
(CANDIDATE LOCATION) X (VOTER LOCATION)
SO, IF BOTH THE VOTER AND THE CANDIDATE ARE ON THE SAME SIDE OF THE NEUTRAL POINT, THE SIGN OF THE PRODUCT AND THEREFORE THE IMPACT OF THE ISSUE WILL BE POSITIVE. IF THEY ARE ON DIFFERENT SIDES, THE SIGN AND IMPACT WILL BE NEGATIVE. IF EITHER THE INDIVIDUAL OR THE CANDIDATE IS NEUTRAL, THE EFFECT OF THE ISSUE WILL BE NEUTRAL.
AS THE VOTER AND CANDIDATE BECOME MORE INTENSE, THE DIRECTIONAL EFFECT INCREASES. IT IS POSSIBLE FOR A CANDIDATE TO BECOME SO INTENSE THAT HE OR SHE WILL BE UNACCEPTABLE - AN EXTREMIST. THE MODEL ASSUMES, THEREFORE, THAT THERE IS A "REGION OF ACCEPTANCE" IN WHICH CAMPAIGNS AND POLITICAL ACTIVITY OCCUR.
THE MORE INTENSE A CANDIDATE IS ON AN ISSUE, THE MORE THE CANDIDATE GENERATES INTENSE SUPPORT OR OPPOSITION WITH REGARD TO THE ISSUE. BY TAKING CLEAR, STRONG STANDS, CANDIDATE CAN MAKE AN ISSUE CENTRAL TO JUDGEMENTS ABOUT THEMSELVES.
AT THE SAME TIME, CANDIDATES WHO CAN SUCCESSFULLY EVADE AN ISSUE ARE ABLE TO MAKE THAT ISSUE FAR LESS RELEVANT FOR JUDGMENTS ABOUT THEMSELVES.
THUS, IN A MULTI-ISSUE CAMPAIGN, CANDIDATES ARE LIKELY TO BE INTENSE ON ISSUES THAT BENEFIT THEM AND SILENT ON ISSUES THAT ARE POTENTIALLY DAMAGING.
RECALL THAT A CLASSIC RESULT FROM MEDIAN VOTER THEORY IS THE DOMINANCE OF THE MEDIAN POSITION IN THE ELECTION. A CANDIDATE LOCATED AT THE MEDIAN, OR MEAN UNDER SPECIFIC ASSUMPTIONS, WILL DOMINATE ANY CANDIDATE LOCATED AT ANY OTHER POSITION IN THE SPACE.
THE DIRECTIONAL MODEL LEADS TO DIFFERENT PREDICTIONS. FIRST, ANY CANDIDATE WITHIN THE REGION OF ACCEPTABILITY IS COMPETITIVE WITH ANY OTHER CANDIDATE WITHIN THE REGION. THE MEDIAN OR MEAN DOES NOT DOMINATE. ALL STRATEGIES ARE EQUALLY DESIRABLE.
THIS MEANS ISSUES WILL PLAY A MORE IMPORTANT ROLE THAN UNDER THE TRADITIONAL MODEL.
SECOND, WHEN THE ELECTORATE HAS A CLEAR DIRECTIONAL PREFERENCE, A DOMINANT POSITION EXISTS AND IS THE MOST EXTREME POSITION IN THE DIRECTION OF THAT PREFERENCE STILL LYING WITHIN THE REGION OF ACCEPTABILITY.
IN SYMBOLIC POLITICS SENSE, THE GOAL IS TO BE THE CANDIDATE WHO MAKES THE MOST EFFECTIVE USE OF THE SYMBOL. A CONSTRAINT IS PRESENT, HOWEVER, IN THAT THE CANDIDATE CANNOT STRAY OUT OF THE ZONE OF ACCEPTABILITY.
ANOTHER IMPLICATION OF THE THEORY IS THAT WHEN THE ELECTORATE HAS A CLEAR POLICY PREFERENCE, A CANDIDATE WHO RESPONDS TO THAT PREFERENCE WILL BE REWARDED.
IN THE END, DIRECTIONAL THEORY SUGGESTS THAT CANDIDATES RECEIVE LITTLE REWARD FOR TAKING CENTRIST POSITIONS - UNLESS THE POPULATION IS EXACTLY EVENLY DIVIDED ON AN ISSUE.
Psychological Models of Voting
KEY TERMS OR CONCEPTS: Cognition and Cognitive Theory, Information Processing, Cognitive Misers, Schema, Competence, Reliability, Integrity, Impression-Driven Evaluation, Issues for Image
Voting Paradoxes and Prisoners Dilemmas:
Institutions, Strategic Context, and Public Policy
KEY TERMS OR CONCEPTS: Voting Paradox, Cycling and its significance, Prisoners Dilemma and its significance, Will of the People
You have notes on the material in your packet.
KEY TERMS OR CONCEPTS: FECA, 1974 Amendments, Buckley v. Valeo, Corporate Contributions, Union Contributions, Individual Contributions, PACs, Parties, Coordinated Expenditures, Independent Expenditures, Bundling, Soft Money
You have notes on the material in your packet.
Interest Groups and Public Policy
KEY TERMS OR CONCEPTS: Factions, concurrent majorities, pluralist, elitist, "collective action problem," prisoner’s dilemma, collective good, free rider, selective incentive, subgovernments, iron triangle, issue network, interest-group liberalism, distributive policy, redistributive policy, regulatory process.
Short reading by Lowi outlines Policy Typologies.
Short Excerpt, With Tables and Figures, in readings packet, outlines subgovernments, iron triangles, and policy types. Don't worry about the foreign policy sections. Look at the figures, read the tables. (The title on the first page of these readings is "Participants, Influence, and Issues. It is excepted from Chapter 8 of Congress, The Bureaucracy, and Public Policy" by Ripley and Franklin.)
Notes (taken from course readings):
Many political theorists argue that the demand for public policy arises from groups in society. Understanding group theory is key, therefore, to understanding policy. That leads to several questions, however. Why do groups form and participate in politics? Is there an inherent bias in the groups that favors one segment of society over another? Is "good policy" possible under a given group theory?
To Answer: Review theorists who have shaped our conceptions about groups. Know 1) their definition of "good policy," and 2) the biases they see in the system.
I. James Madison and The Federalist #10
Madison argued that certain groups he labeled factions are inherently bad, but they are unavoidable, inevitable. Factions are economic-based groups organized "against the public good," that is, against property rights. Groups, therefore, may hinder "good policy" (the protection of property rights). Checks and balances, representative democracy (republicanism), and regular elections will allow us at least to throw bad groups out (but note that they may be replaced with other bad groups).
II. John C. Calhoun and the theory of concurrent majorities.
Calhoun agreed with Madison that interests in society would be diverse and the risk of a "tyranny of the majority" was great. Calhoun did not see the diversity of interests as bad, however, but as vital to the nation — they were the "public interest." But, to prevent the tyranny of the majority, each group in a diverse federal system should have the power to veto policy. "Good policy" is policy that has the support simultaneously (concurrently) of all groups (not the necessarily the support of a majority of all people as a whole). This is similar to today's organization of Congress and the multitude of veto points in the process.
Arthur Bentley (The Process of Government, 1908) and David Truman (The Governmental Process, 1951) argued that we could only understand politics in terms of the forces that shape it, and that is group competition. All meaningful political participation takes place through groups. Politics and policy are nothing more than reflections of group competition in the political process. Truman thought this competition would lead to "good policy." He argued that since Americans belong to so many groups, all groups would be represented and no one group will dominate (called crosscutting cleavages). And, if a group wasn’t formally organized, it existed as a "latent group" that would organize as its interests were threatened. The pluralist view had a tremendous impact on academics in the 1950s and 60s and into today.
E.E. Schattschneider (The Semisovereign People, 1961) and C. Wright Mills (The Power Elite, 1959) criticized the underlying assumption of pluralist group theory that all of society's interests would be represented in government. Schattschneider argued instead that our interest group system is narrow in scope and has a definite upper class, pro-business bias because they have the resources (time, money, education, access, and knowledge) and interest to ensure government policy favors them. According to Schattschneider "the flaw in the pluralist heaven is that the heavenly chorus sings with an upper class accent." Mills went further, arguing that a small elite cadre governs society whom has the same social and educational backgrounds and who look out for each other. While these theorists generally believe there is some form of good policy in the public interest, good policy is not possible as long as the bias exists. The People must seize government back, they argued.
V. Mancur Olson and The Logic of Collective Action (1965).
Very influential book. The term "Collective Action" is now a term of art in politics, i.e., we refer to situations as "collective action problems" when we mean the situation Olson describes. Olson's theory is a public choice theory of interest groups. Olson showed that collective action, rationally, is a prisoner's dilemma: individually rational choices leading to outcomes that are not best (or optimal) for society.
Olson agrees with Schattschneider and Mills that interest groups will be inherently biased toward upper economic groups. The difference, he says, is that this is the result of individually rational choices by all participants, rich or not. It is not the fault of the poor! These individually rational choices lead to situations where collective goods are not provided at an optimal level, meaning society could be better off if individuals didn't act rationally, hence the prisoner's dilemma.
Collective, or public, goods. A good is a public good for some set of individuals if, once it is supplied by one or more individuals in the set, it is automatically available for consumption by all individuals in the set. A public park is a collective good because it can be used by everyone, not just those persons who pay taxes and therefore "supplied" the park. Goods may also be collective for a subset of citizens. Farm programs are a collective good for farmers who qualify for the benefits. Collective goods are widely sought in the political system. That is what interest groups generally are seeking.
Free riding. It may not be rational for an individual to contribute to an interest group organizing to obtain a public good in two situations: 1) if the benefits from the goods are less than what it costs the individual to receive the goods (B<C), or 2) if a large member exists with incentive to contribute enough to get the good without the individual’s contribution. If the large member is present and contributes enough to provide the good, the smaller individual will not contribute because the nature of the good, as a public good, means that the individual will benefit whether or not they contribute. The small individual is said to be free riding on the larger member. If no large member exists, it is unlikely the good will be provided because the small members each lack incentive to contribute, even though if they all contributed they would all be better off (a prisoner's dilemma).
Selective incentives. To get around the collective action problem, some groups may offer selective incentives available only to group members (therefore not a public good) to make it worth their while, rationally, to join. Incentives may include information services, insurance, pension plans, or even legal coercion (in the form of licensure, permission to practice).
1. Counters pluralist notion that people’s common interest leads to collective action. Instead, there are inherent obstacles in the strategic calculus of organizing
2. A Group’s success is not related to its popularity in society. While there may be widespread and enthusiastic support of a political goal, it may have no organizational support.
3. Large membership in a group indicates only success at selling selective incentives. Without incentives, the larger the group, the further it will fall short in obtaining an optimal amount of a collective good.
4. "Good policy," therefore, is provided sub-optimally — that is, less than should be provided.
VI. Theodore Lowi and The End of Liberalism (1969).
Lowi argues that interest groups fundamentally are good but that we have created a system of "interest group liberalism" that creates bad policy, policy that no longer is in the "public interest." The power and scope of government has increased as groups have asked for more services from government (from farm subsidies to government regulations, etc.) The result is that government has almost completely abdicated its control over the direction of public policy to society’s groups. Interests have become entrenched, with subgovernments developing around each program area (subgovernments are the congressional subcommittee, executive bureau, and interest group, forming the "iron triangle"). The subgovernments have a lock on policy in their area. Subsequent scholars use an expanded notion of the iron triangle called "issue networks."
Lowi says this hurts government in four ways.
1. Government is not in control of itself and is unable to plan.
2. It causes confusion about the nature of democracy and what good public policy is.
3. Workers in government are demoralized because they lose concern about doing the right thing for good policy.
4. Democratic institutions are weakened by replacing formal decision making institutions with informal bargaining and deal making.
Congress and Its Committees
KEY TERMS OR CONCEPTS: Single Minded Seeker of Reelection, Relevant Political Actors, Credit Claiming, Advertising, Position Taking, Casework, Pork Barrel, Consensus Mode of Decision Making, Field of Forces, Leadership, Agendas, Distributive Committees, Information Committees, Gains from Trade, Police Oversight, Fire Alarm Oversight
From Kingdon: Understand the Consensus Mode of Decision Making, Think about the role of leadership, and, in the second chapter provided (Chap 12), Look at how issues are narrowed from public attention, to public agenda, to legislative agenda, to policy agenda.
From McCubbins and Schwartz: Understand the difference for Congress between Police Patrol Oversight and Fire Alarm Oversight.
From the Shepsle Review about positive theories of congress: Understand the notion of Gains from Trade, the difference between distributive committees and information committees.
MAYHEW, THE ELECTORAL CONNECTION:
Basic question for Mayhew: How to study legislative behavior.
Answer: Go beyond descriptions to explain "why" with general statements.
Method: Make a basic assumption and then speculate about the consequences of behavior based on that assumption. (Note the role this method plays in knowledge - deductive process.)
Mayhew's basic assumption: Members of congress are only interested in seeking reelection. They are single-minded seekers of reelection.
What about other motivations? Does Mayhew say they exist? What are they (influence in congress, good policy, cited by Mayhew, but what about "perks.")
How does Mayhew deal with these motivations. What does he mean when he says elections are the proximate goal of everyone?
If members are single minded seekers of reelection, are they in a position to do anything about it? Mayhew says there are two possibilities:
Does the environment dictate what happens - with members having no control?
Or do member's activities have an impact on their electoral fortunes?
What is a relevant political actor -anyone with a resource useable for reelection Why are they important - control money and other resources
Important Point: Congressmen, all congressmen, must constantly engage in activities related to reelection.
What types of activities do they engage in?
Advertising: disseminating one's name among constituents to create a favorable image but with little issue content.
Who pays for it? (franking, etc., at public expense)
Credit claiming: generating a belief that the member is personally responsible for causing government to do something desirable.
What is role of particularized benefits in credit claiming? (benefits given to a group on a scale that allows the member to be identified by the relevant political actors, yet which are apparently given out in an ad hoc fashion. Types of particularized benefits-(pork barrel, constituency casework)
Position taking: public enunciation of a judgmental statement of something of interest to relevant political actors.
Includes votes, speeches to interest groups, public pronouncements, congressional record, etc.
Key question: does the organization of congress meet the electoral needs of congress? Mayhew says yes, if a group of planners sat down to design a national assembly with the goal of serving electoral needs, they couldn't do better.
Little amount of zero-sum conflict. Everyone can win on many issues.
Structural assistance: Offices and staffs to everyone.
Committees. Committee membership can be electorally useful for position taking or trafficking in particularized benefits. Distribution is done bipartisanly.
Division of labor - membership is limited on any given subcommittee so it becomes valuable to someone
Parties - parties are not dictators shutting down the minority party or enforcing party discipline on their own. Parties help meet the electoral connection.
KEY TERMS AND CONCEPTS: Politics/Administration Dichotomy, Scientific Mangagement, PODSCORB, Human Relations Model, Capture Model, Chicago School, Principal/Agent Relationships, Virginia School, Rent-Seeking.
You have readings on Positive Theories of Regulation which include material on the Capture and Rent Seeking, principal-agent relationships, etc.