Repository: National Digital Learning Resources, Ireland: NDLR Dspace
The aim of this module is to further our understanding of public policy – the nature, causes and effects of public policies; the policy process – how policy is made; and with prescription as to how policy might be improved. Since the effectiveness of policies and policy-making processes cannot be assessed independently of analysis of the distribution of economic and political power within political systems, this module also examines the central position of the state in policy analysis.
We explore the possibility of public participation in the broader political system through an analysis of the Washington lobbying system. Many scholars before us have noted the biases of the interest-group system. We explore some new issues focusing on the limited agenda-setting potential of most public-oriented interest groups. Citizens ’ groups, and the public as a whole, face decreasing opportunities to play a role in many Washington debates. One of the central reasons for this is the increasingly crowded nature of the American public agenda. The second half of the 20th century saw the rise of a great many new issues on the public agenda, and that agenda is now much more densely packed with issues vying for space and attention. This has increased the cost of pushing issues high to the public consciousness, limiting the abilities of groups to bring important issues to the forefront of public discussion. Public participation in the affairs of government is far from absent; however, our analysis indicates that it is limited to a tiny fraction of the issues that are acted upon each year. Most analyses of public participation in politics focus on elections or community based activities. A complete understanding of public participation must at some point address the linkages, or lack thereof, between the public and the Washington lobbying community. Lobbyists and policy advocates of all stripes constantly appeal to the public in various ways; understanding how the public becomes involved in some policy disputes but not others must be an important agenda item for the future. Baumgartner and Leech Where is the Public in Public Policy?