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01 - Introduction (320B 2013).pdf

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University of British Columbia
Political Science
POLI 101
Paul Quirk

The Politics of Policy in the U.S. Political Science 320B, 2013 Prof. Paul J. Quirk Course Introduction Lecture 01 September 5 Plans for Today 1) Introduce course topics and objectives. 2) Discuss requirements and assessment. 3) Explain outline of topics. My Background I Topics and Objectives A. A Dire Assessment “The Nixon era [1969-1974] was a time in which leading figures in both parties were capable of speaking rationally about policy, and in which policy decisions weren’t as warped by corporate cash as they are now. America is a better country in many ways than it was 35 years ago, but our political system’s ability to deal with real problems has been degraded to such an extent that I sometimes wonder whether the country is still governable.” Paul Krugman, New York Times, August 31, 2009. Is this true? How does it look four years later? (Discuss.) B. A dramatic statement of the issues: Public Policy is the main test of a political system We have various ideas about how political systems operate. Some common ideas about US politics (and sometimes other systems): Government is controlled by business, or the wealthy. -Politicians are “bought” by campaign contributions. Government responds to the preferences of the public. (Two versions.) -The public is intelligent and gets what it wants. OR -The public is ill-informed and gets harmful or irrational policies. Divided institutions (“separation-of-powers”) lead to deadlock and incoherence. What these ideas have in common: They have clear implications for the nature of public policy, how it is adopted, and how it changes. To understand these things, study public policy making. Example: If business controls government, we should see the policy changes are those preferred by business representatives, benefit business, and harm others. Is this the story of the 2008-2009 financial bailout? (Preview: I think that idea is simplistic.) PQ observation: the study of the politics of public policy should be the central focus for understanding the nature of a political system. C. Questions of special interest for Canadians 1) Why the US health care system does not provide universal coverage. (Or does it? Certain hospitals are obliged to gi
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