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Structural Context of Public Policy. POS/PUB 140 Lecture 1/31/08. Sex Education: Should there be national standards?. The context of American policy making . The Constitution Features of the System Policy in a historical context . Support for the U.S. Constitution.

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Structural Context of Public Policy

POS/PUB 140 Lecture


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Sex Education: Should there be national standards?

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The context of American policy making

  • The Constitution

  • Features of the System

  • Policy in a historical context

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Support for the U.S. Constitution

  • Philosophical Background

  • Influence of David Hume and John Locke

  • Arguments in the Federalist Papers

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The Federalist Papers]

  • Madison (1787): human nature of individuals to form groups on common interests

  • Proposed a “fragmented system”: horizontally and vertically

  • Jefferson: more power to the States

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Government before the Constitution: The Articles of Confederation

  • The early concern/debate on what type of government we should have

  • How might this strong vs. weak central government debate influence public policy?

  • "The government which governs least, governs best”

    • Thomas Jefferson

  • Issues/problems with the Articles of Confederation?

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The Constitution: Structure

  • Three branches of government

  • Supposedly co-equal

  • Create what we know as “checks and balances” via a “separation of powers”

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Separation of Powers: Horizontal Fragmentation

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Article 1, Section 8: A key to public policy

  • Collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States;

  • To borrow money on the credit of the United States

  • To regulate Commerce

  • To provide and maintain a Navy

  • To make all Laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into Execution the foregoing Powers, and all other Powers vested by this Constitution in the Government of the United States, or in any Department or Officer thereof.

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Checks and Balances

  • Example #1: Congress power to impeach

    • A judicial activity

    • How often does this happen? Why?

  • Example #2: Presidential Veto

    • A legislative activity

    • Which presidents have the most vetoes?

    • What can Congress do in response?

  • Example #3: Supreme Court reviews legislative intent

    • What was a famous case for judicial review?


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Federalism: Vertical Fragmentation

  • In terms of the structure of our government, what does federalism mean?

  • What do the states do that the feds don’t? What do the feds do that the states don’t? What do both do?

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Federalism: State and Federal Responsibilities



  • Corrections

  • Elementary education

  • Environment

  • Liquor / drinking

  • Police (L)

  • Welfare

  • Sanitation (L)

  • Speed Limits

  • Elections

  • Defense

  • Environment

  • Postal Service

  • Space

  • Air Traffic / Port Authority

  • Health Care – elderly and young

  • Intelligence

  • Citizenship / INS

  • Elections

  • Social Security

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Sex Education Intergovernmental Grants

  • NYS Health Department did not reapply for federal funding under Title V, due to “rigid federal standards.”

  • The state would receive $3.2 million under the program

  • “You can’t teach contraception other than to talk about its failure rates, you must assert … the only acceptable sexual union is between a husband and wife in monogamy and sex outside of that is harmful, psychologically and physically.” Joann Smith, Family Planning Advocates

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Does federalism really create "laboratories for democracy"?

  • Different Types of Intergovernmental Grants

    • Categorical Grants

    • Matching Grants

    • Block Grants


  • Example of a failed experiment in NY

    • State Automated Child Welfare Information System (SACWIS)


  • Are all states the same?

    • Political Commitment

    • Administrative Capacity

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Stability in American Politics and Policy Making (Anderson 2000)

  • Ideological stability

  • Political stability

  • Policy stability

  • Stability in power