Politics

A Cascade of Failures: Why Government Fails, and How to Stop It

A Cascade of Failures: Why Government Fails, and How to Stop It
Brookings Institute, Center for Effective Public Management, Washington D.C., July 2014.

Light, Paul C.
07/14/2014

In this research paper, Paul C. Light writes that the “first step in preventing future failures is to find a reasonable set of past failures that might yield lessons for repair.” To meet this goal, Light asks four key questions about past federal government failures: (1) where did government fail, (2) why did government fail, (3) who caused the failures, and (4) what can be done to fix the underlying problems?

‘‘Do Something’’ Politics and Double-Peaked Policy Preferences

‘‘Do Something’’ Politics and Double-Peaked Policy Preferences
Journal of Politics 76(2): 333-349.

Egan, Patrick J.
04/09/2014

When a public problem is perceived to be poorly addressed by current policy, it is often the case that credible alternative policies are proposed to both the status quo’s left and right. Specially designed national surveys show that in circumstances like these, many Americans’ preferences are not single-peaked on the standard left-right dimension. Rather, they simply want the government to ‘‘do something’’ about the problem and therefore prefer both liberal and conservative policies to the moderate status quo. This produces individual and collective preferences that are double-peaked with respect to the left-right dimension. Double-peakedness is less prevalent on issues where no consensus exists regarding policy goals, and it increases when exogenous events raise the public’s concern about the seriousness of a policy problem.

Investigations Done Right and Wrong: Government by Investigation, 1945-2012

Investigations Done Right and Wrong: Government by Investigation, 1945-2012
Brookings Institution Press, 2013.

Light, Paul
12/03/2013

Surveying the 100 most significant Congressional and presidential investigations of executive branch breakdowns between 1945 and 2012, Paul Light offers insight into those qualities that compose an “investigation done right.” Light’s research provides data into the quantity and quality of investigatory efforts in the modern era, as well as what these patterns reveal about what investigators can do to increase the odds that their work will pay off in improved government performance and more effective public policy.

 

Government by Investigation: Congress, President, and the Search for Answers, 1945–2012

Government by Investigation: Congress, President, and the Search for Answers, 1945–2012
The Brookings Institution Press, 2013.

Paul Light
10/24/2013

Presidential and congressional investigations are particularly powerful tools for asking tough questions about highly visible, often complex government breakdowns, including: communist infiltration of government 1950s, the Vietnam War during the 1960s, Watergate and Central Intelligence Agency abuses during the 1970s, among 96 others covered in Government by Investigation, by Paul Light. Light, one of America’s premier authorities on public service and management, provides a deep assessment of what he has identified as the federal government’s one hundred most significant investigations since World War II.

 

Partisan Priorities: How Issue Ownership Drives and Distorts American Politics

Partisan Priorities: How Issue Ownership Drives and Distorts American Politics
Cambridge University Press.

Egan, Patrick J.
07/22/2013

Americans consistently name Republicans as the party better at handling issues like national security and crime, while they trust Democrats on issues like education and the environment – a phenomenon called “issue ownership.” Partisan Priorities investigates the origins of issue ownership, showing that in fact the parties deliver neither superior performance nor popular policies on the issues they “own.” Rather, Patrick J. Egan finds that Republicans and Democrats simply prioritize their owned issues with lawmaking and government spending when they are in power. Since the parties tend to be particularly ideologically rigid on the issues they own, politicians actually tend to ignore citizens' preferences when crafting policy on these issues. Thus, issue ownership distorts the relationship between citizens' preferences and public policies.

The 2013 Federal Budget's Impact on Communities of Color and Low-Income Families

The 2013 Federal Budget's Impact on Communities of Color and Low-Income Families

Women of Color Policy Network
02/23/2012

The Obama administration's budget proposal for fiscal year 2013 (FY 2013) strengthens the national economy by investing in schools, communities and safety net programs. The FY 2013 budget also includes a number of important investments in infrastructure that will spur much needed job growth in a time of economic uncertainty for many working and low-income families. It is critical that such investments take into account the persistently high unemployment in communities of color, and target spending to increase the economic security of the communities most impacted by the "Great Recession." Additionally, the budget includes important changes to the tax code that will lay the foundation for a fairer and more equitable economy.

Group Cohesion without Group Mobilization: The Case of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals

Group Cohesion without Group Mobilization: The Case of Lesbians, Gays, and Bisexuals
British Journal of Political Science

Egan, Patrick J.
01/01/2012

Group identities that are chosen, rather than inherited, are often associated with cohesive political attitudes and behaviours. Conventional wisdom holds that this distinctiveness is generated by mobilization through processes such as intra-group contact and acculturation. This article identifies another mechanism that can explain cohesiveness: selection. The characteristics that predict whether an individual selects a group identity may themselves determine political attitudes, and thus may account substantially for the political cohesion of those who share the identity. This mechanism is illustrated with analyses of the causes and consequences of the acquisition of lesbian, gay or bisexual identity. Seldom shared by parents and offspring, gay identity provides a rare opportunity to cleanly identify the selection process and its implications for political cohesion.

The Pragmatic Politics of Regulatory Enforcement

The Pragmatic Politics of Regulatory Enforcement
Handbook on the Politics of Regulation, edited by David Levi-Faur, London: Edward Elgar Publishers

Coslovsky, S., Pires, R. & Silbey, S.
11/30/2011

This chapter describes regulatory enforcement as an intrinsically political endeavor. We argue that regulatory enforcement, as enacted daily by front-line
enforcers around the world, consists of the production of local agreements and arrangements that realign interests, reshape conflicts, and redistribute the risks, costs, and benefits of doing business and complying with the law. We argue that, through their transactions, both the regulators and the regulated reshape both their interests and the environment in which they operate, reconstructing their perceptions of and preferences for compliance. We call this phenomenon the “sub-politics of regulatory enforcement,” and claim that it provides a springboard for a pragmatic approach to better regulation

Green Growth in the Post-Copenhagen Climate

Green Growth in the Post-Copenhagen Climate
Energy Policy 39(11)

Maria Damon and Thomas Sterner
11/01/2011

Global climate change stands out from most environmental problems because it will span generations and force us to think in new ways about intergenerational fairness. It involves the delicate problem of complex coordination between countries on a truly global scale. As long as fossil fuels are too cheap, climate change policy will engage all major economies. The costs are high enough to make efficiency a priority, which means striving toward a single market for carbon—plus tackling the thorny issues of fairness.

Hopes for a grand deal were mercilessly shattered at Copenhagen in December 2009 and in other recent UNFCCC meetings, with the result that “green growth” is promoted as an alternative path. Indeed, green growth is clearly the goal, but it is no magic bullet. The world economy will require clear and rather tough policy instruments for growth to be green—and it is naïve to think otherwise. Growth, green or not, will boost demand for energy and coal is normally the cheapest source. The magnitude of the challenge is greater if we also consider the problems related to nuclear (fission) energy and, in some instances, to bioenergy (such as its competition for land that may be essential for the poor). This paper discusses some necessary ingredients for a long-term global climate strategy. As we wait for the final (and maybe elusive) worldwide treaty, we must find a policy that makes sense and is not only compatible with, but facilitates the development of such a treaty.

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