Political Science | Form Public Policy in the U.S.
Y303 | 3768 | Reiners
The focus of this course is on understanding and evaluating the
process by which public policy decisions are made within the United
States. The basic questions that we will address revolve around two
fundamental dilemmas that societies face: collective action dilemmas
and collective choice dilemmas. The study of collective action
dilemmas focuses our attention on what governments do, what
alternatives to governments exist, and the social welfare
implications of governmental versus nongovernmental solutions to
social problems. To understand collective action dilemmas, we will
start by looking at how, in principle, some of these situations can
develop, focusing in particular on the classic Prisoner's Dilemma.
We will then consider how these situations lead to market failures
and create a role for public policy to "correct" these failures.
Along the way, we will consider policy areas that involve these
dilemmas and how policy attempts to resolve them, including
environmental policy, education, welfare, and others.
The study of collective choice dilemmas focuses our attention
on how government decision-makers are organized, how groups attempt
to influence government decision-making, and how we can model the
policy decision-making process. We will first consider collective
choice dilemmas in the abstract, focusing on Arrow's General
Possibility Theorem. Finally, we will take a look at the details of
the public policy process in the United States. Our discussion here
will include the role of interest groups, policy subsystems, policy
typologies, and the models of the policy process.
Our broad goal in this class, then, is to promote an understanding of
the collective action and collective choice dilemmas and how they
are “solved." Getting to this goal will involve the careful study
of theory and of examples in substantive policy areas. Therefore, in
this class we will develop a theoretical framework for understanding
public policy formation, and apply this framework to a range of
current public policy issues.