ECON 3650 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Federal Communications Commission, Complex System, Franklin D. Roosevelt
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ECON 3650: Policy Analysis
Hennadige N. Thenuwara
Lecture 3 – The US Government Institutions and Policy Actors
Source: Chapter 2 – MK and SF
● How does our government impact policy making?
o Our form of government
o Government institutions
● Who else influences the policies that government makes?
● What can be done to increase our policy capacity?
● Gridlock can occur among three branches of the government – policy gridlock
● The nature of US government creates difficulties in public policy making
GROWTH OF THE GOVERNMENT
● People like some of government services, and complain about other services. If one
person likes one service, the other may dislike it.
● Government today is much larger than it was at the nation’s founding. It also affects
people’s lives more than it did in the past.
● Original US government -13 states, 65 congressmen, 26 senators, 3 cabinet
departments (War, Treasury, and Foreign Affairs), later justice department.
● Today – 15 departments, Congress consists of 100 senators, and 435 house
representatives, numerous bureaus and departments, and 2.7 civilian federal
● In recent times, though the number of civilian employees has not increased, the
number of federal contractors has increased. Thus, it hides the true size of the
● Compare government expenditure and debt information
● Debt Clock - https://www.usdebtclock.org/
o Debt increases every second because of interest
● The reasons for the increase in the size of the government
o Population increase
o Demographic change
o Increased public problems – wars
o Increased complexity – science, technology and business operations
o Pronounced business cycles
o Increased demand for government services such as regulation, equity and
social security, and public goods -- (examples: unsafe foods and drugs,
dangerous working conditions, and market disruption by monopolies)
o Increased involvement in the world politics
● Changes in attitude arising from the New Deal (President Franklin Roosevelt)
● “Americans tend to be ideologically conservative but liberal in practice”
● Effects of government growth –
o Policies affect most of what we do today
o Government growth has led to an entire occupation sector
o Government is a major employer and consumer of goods and services
o Larger governments are less efficient
US GOVERNMENT INSTITUTIONS AND POLICY CAPACITY
● US Government : National, 50 States, and 80000 local governments
● The nations founders created a system of checks and balances among the institutions
of government, primarily to ensure that government could not tyrannize the
population (TYRANNY OF THE BRITISH MONARCH).
● That is the power would not be concentrated enough to pose such a threat.
● The US system is based on a tripartite division of authority among legislative,
executive and judicial institutions and a federal system in which national government
and the states have both separate and overlapping authority.
● Each branch of the Federal government has distinct responsibilities under the
Constitution but also shares authority with the other two.
● The fragmentation of government power also has a significant impact on policy
● However, in some cases policy making process has been very fast. Eg: USA
PATRIOT ACT 2001, the Energy Policy Act in 2005, and Emergency Economic
Stabilization Act in 2008
● In many cases the policy making becomes incremental policymaking – small steps
● Framers of the US Constitution designed a system of government in which power is
divided between the national government and the states (and Native American
● Within national and state governments, power is divided among three parties,
executive, congress and judiciary
● Figure 2.1 Page 46 of MK and SF,
● In the late eighteenth century and throughout nineteenth century functions and
responsibilities of each government were distinct. Example: State governments were
responsible for education and transportation policies. The national government was
responsible for larger issues such as national defense and international trade. This
was referred to as dual federalism.