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Lexington Books
Path of American Public Policy: Comparative Perspectives

Path of American Public Policy: Comparative Perspectives

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Among all the worlds’ democracies, the American system of government is perhaps the most self-conscious about preventing majority tyranny. The American constitutional system is predicated on an inherent ideational and institutional tension dating back to the foundation of the nation in the eighteenth century, which constrains innovative policy development. Namely, the framers designed a system that simultaneously seeks to protect the rights of the minority out of power and provide for majority rule. These opposing goals are based on the idea that limiting governmental power will guarantee individual liberty.

The Path of American Public Policy: Comparative Perspectives asks how this foundational tension might limit the range of options available to American policy makers. What does the resistance to change in Washington teach us about the American system of checks and balances? Why is it so difficult (though not impossible) to make sweeping policy changes in the United States? How could things be different? What would be the implications for policy formation if the United States adopted a British-style parliamentary system?

To examine these questions, this book gives an example of when comprehensive change failed (the 1994 Contract with America) and when it succeeded (the 2010 Affordable Care Act). A comparison of the two cases sheds light on how and why Obama’s health care was shepherded to law under Nancy Pelosi, while Newt Gingrich was less successful with the Contract with America. The contrast between the two cases highlights the balance between majority rule and minority rights, and how the foundational tension constrains public-policy formation. While 2010 illustrates an exception to the rule about comprehensive policy change in the United States, the 1994 is an apt example of how our system of checks and balances usually works to stymie expansive, far-reaching legislative initiatives.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780739186619
Publisher: Lexington Books
Publication date: 12/16/2013
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 266
Sales rank: 523,961
Product dimensions: 10.90(w) x 7.40(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Anne Marie Cammisa is a visiting professor at the McCourt School of Public Policy at Georgetown University. Previously, Cammisa was professor of government at Suffolk University in Boston. She is the author of From Rhetoric to Reform? Welfare Policy in American Politics.

Paul Christopher Manuel is professor of governmentand director of the leadership program in the School of Public Affairs at AmericanUniversity.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Of Ideas and Institutions: The Foundational Tension of American Democracy
Why Does American Government Appear to Be Spinning Its Wheels?
The Foundational Tension: Majority Rule versus Minority Rights
How the Foundational Ideational Tension Limits Innovative Policy Development: Ideas Conceptualized as Cognitive Locks
Structure of the Remainder of the Book

Chapter 2: The Path of Political Development in Great Britain and the United States: A Brief
Comparative History
Why American Government Operates under Checks and Balances, and British Government Does Not
The Evolution of the British Parliament
Key Institutional Features of British Democracy
The Creation of the American Presidential System
Key Institutional Features of American Democracy

Chapter 3: Agenda Setting and Agenda Control: Case One: A Legislative History of the 1994
Republican Contract with America
The 1994 Contract with America
Introduction to the 104th Congress
The Framers’ Fears of the Tyranny of the Majority and the 1994 Republican Contract with America
Background: Where Did the Contract Come From?
The Contract with America
The First Hundred Days of the 104th Congress
American Congress Function Differently than the British Parliament

Chapter 4: Agenda Setting and Agenda Control: Case Two: The 2008–2010 Battle over Health Care
Agenda Setting and Agenda Control
Congress’s Turn: Policy Formation and Legitimation
Welcome (Again) to the World of Checks and Balances
Conclusion: Lessons from the Past

Chapter 5: What if American Democracy Were on a Different Path?
How a British-Style Parliamentary System Could Change American Politics
How American Political Development Could Have Been on a Different Path
How Selected Election Outcomes Might Have Been Different

Chapter 6: Conclusion: Ideas and Institutions Matter
Problem One: Divided Government
Problem Two: Gridlock
Problem Three: No Means to Quickly Replace a Failed or Deadlocked Administration
Some Possible Solutions?
Ideas and Institutions Matter

About the Authors

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