Public Policy Process
CMC Government 116 Fall 2013
MW 1:15-2:30 PM, Roberts South 102

Office Hours: Tuesday and Thursday 1-3 PM, and by appointment


J.J. Pitney

Office: Kravis Center 232    Telephone:  909/607-4224




This course analyzes the politics of public policymaking.  The key word is politics:  everything about public policy is political.  People with different ideas and interests will fight over such questions as:

The perspective of political science thus differs from that of economics.  The late James Q. Wilson once wrote that "whereas economics is based on the assumption that preferences are given, politics must take into account the efforts made to change preferences."  This course will examine efforts to change preferences on the questions above.


The course has these additional goals: 




Classes will include lecture and discussion.  Finish the readings before class because our discussions will involve those readings.  We shall also talk about breaking news, so you must read a good news source such as the RealClearPolitics or Politico



The following will make up your course grade: 



One three-page essay


One four-page essay


One six-page essay


Final exam


Participation & presentation           






Our class blog is at  I shall post videos, graphs, news stories, and other material there.  We shall use some of this material in class, and you may review the rest at your convenience.   You will all receive invitations to post to the blog.  (Please let me know if you do not get such an invitation.)  I encourage you to use the blog in these ways:

Remember that the blog is on the open Internet. Post nothing that would look bad to a potential employer.  If you want more confidentiality, post to the forum on the class Sakai page.


Required Books

Schedule (Subject to change, with advance notice).


In addition to the readings below, I may also supply you with various handouts and Internet links.


Sept 4:  Introduction


"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy." -- Sir Ernest Benn


Sept 9, 11  An Overview


"If you don't like what's being said, change the conversation." -- Don Draper

Sept 16, 18:  Problems and Agendas


"In 1973, children's advocate Marian Wright Edelman launched the Children's Defense Fund with a survey. One US Census figure haunted her. Some 750,000 American children between the ages of seven and thirteen did not attend school ... `Handicapped kids were those seven hundred fifty thousand kids,' Edelman recalls finding to her surprise. `We'd never thought of handicapped kids. but they're out there everywhere.'" -- Joseph P. Shapiro, No Pity




Sept 23, 25: Policy Argument


"The Government are very keen on amassing statistics – they collect them, add them, raise them to the nth power, take the cube root and prepare wonderful diagrams.  But what you must never forget is that every one of those numbers comes in the first instance from the village watchman, who just puts down what he damn pleases." -- Josiah Stamp

Sept 30, Oct 2: Decision and Solutions


“When you come to a fork in the road, take it.” – Yogi Berra  

Oct 7, 9: Implementation and Administration I


"Shovel-ready was not as shovel-ready as we expected." -- President Obama, June 13, 2011.

Oct 14, 16: Implementation and Administration II


"Government proposes, bureaucracy disposes.  And the bureaucracy must dispose of government proposals by dumping them on us." --P.J. O’Rourke  



Oct 23:  Practical Policy Analysis I


"We live and do business in the information age, but the last major reorganization of the Government happened in the age of black-and-white TV. There are 12 different agencies that deal with exports. There are at least five different agencies that deal with housing policy. Then there's my favorite example: The Interior Department is in charge of salmon while they're in fresh water, but the Commerce Department handles them when they're in saltwater.  I hear it gets even more complicated once they're smoked." -- President Obama, State of the Union Address, January 25, 2011.

Oct 28, 30: Practical Policy Analysis II


Question: What was the desired effect?

Gen. Myers: The desired effect was to kill al-Qaeda.

Question: What sort of results are you aware of? What did your people on the ground see?

Myers: Dead al-Qaeda.  

                            -- DOD press briefing, December 11, 2001

Nov 4, 6: Practical Policy Analysis III


"If you’re going to be an academic who’s involved in the world of policy, you have to be involved in the world that exists. I was always a data guy, not a theorist. Theorists can maintain total purity. The data are always messy." -- Austan Goolsbee

November 11, 13: Domestic Policies I


"Despite what some among us would like to believe it is not because of our creative ideas. It is not because of the merit of our positions. It is not because we care about children and it is not because we have a vision of a great public school for every child. NEA and its affiliates are effective advocates because we have power. And we have power because there are more than 3.2 million people who are willing to pay us hundreds of millions of dollars in dues each year, because they believe that we are the unions that can most effectively represent them, the unions that can protect their rights and advance their interests as education employees." -- NEA General Counsel Bob Chanin, July 2009.

November 18, 20:  Domestic Policies II


"This plan would require that employers offer a comprehensive health insurance plan to all their full-time employees, with the employer paying a share of its costs. The role of private health insurance in financing health care would be expanded and the consumer's opportunity to choose between competing health insurance plans would be enhanced."  -- President Nixon, State of the Union Address, January 20, 1974.

Nov 25, 27:  Summing Up I


"I would say that the tobacco industry, the tobacco farmers, the Federal Government, all .citizens want to have an accurate and an enlightened education program and research program to make the smoking of tobacco even more safe than it is today." -- President Carter, in Wilson, North Carolina, August 5, 1978.



Dec 2, 4:  Summing Up II


"A few people have asked me why we spent money studying something we already knew. The reason we have to spend money on this is because in the absence of published data we can’t get needed public policy changes." -- Alison Singer of the Autism Science Foundation, on a study of wandering.

Dec 9, 11: Summing Up III


"Rely on planning but never trust plans." – Dwight D. Eisenhower



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