Comparative Politics Today Notes Chapter 7:
Outputs: public policies; the authoritative decisions that governments make
Outcomes: the promoted end results from public policies or outputs
Political goods: values and aspirations of the citizens
Government and what it does:
• Governments produce many goods and services, but that varies from country to country
• The range of government involvement varies upon not just countries, but economic
sectors as well.
• The governments today are able to do much more than the governments in the past, such
as regulate air traffic and telecommunications.
To examine different political systems, we must analyze the goals that motivate different
policies. We can set up the framework on three levels: system, process, and policy:
• System: a long tradition of political analysis emphasizes order, predictability, and
stability. So long as these three are in the mix in an environment, citizens are best able to
participate in politics. These are called system goods, as they reflect the functioning
effectiveness of the whole political system.
• Process: a system that that allows citizen participation and free political competition. In
this school of thought, democracy is good and authoritarianism is bad, because of the way
the citizens are treated in the process. Democratic procedures, such as participation,
compliance and procedural justice are all process goods.
• Policy: Policy goods are things such as economic welfare, quality of life, freedom, and
personal security – the positive outcomes of a policy. People disagree on these.
- There are these Millennium Development goals, which outline the basic policy goals of all nations; not all nations agree on them, but they set up a basis for future public policy. However,
it’s difficult to know what weight to give certain policies versus another. In this sense, people
want it to be fair, but all people disagree on what’s considered fair. Fairness is often thought of
all people being treated equally, sometimes in regards to performance or according to need.
Public policies: policies drawn up by the government and the public, which rely on the criteria
of what’s considered fair. These mostly deal with welfare, security, fairness and liberty.
- Freedom is very important in a political system, but people do not always choose freedom over
political goods. Liberty is also important; however, the personal belief of what liberty is varies,
as some believe it involves government regulation, while others believe it’s a lack thereof.
There are four different actions governments may take to accomplish certain public policies:
• Extraction of resources – money, goods, persons, and services – from the domestic and
• Distribution – of money, goods, and services – to citizens, residents and clients of the
• Regulation of human behavior – the use of compulsion and inducement to bring about
• Symbolic outputs – used to exhort humans to engage in desired forms of behavior, build
community, or celebrate exemplary conduct.
There are different forms of Extraction of resources:
• When societies go to war, for example, there is an extraction of people who may be
called on to fight in the war.
• The most common form of extraction is taxation, which is the government’s extraction of
money or goods from members of a political system without any immediate or direct benefit for them. On one hand, the gov’t wants to collect a lot of money this way, but on
the other hand, they can’t tax citizens too much, for fear of tax evasion, drowning citizens
in debt, or the citizens leaving altogether.
• Another common trade-off in extraction policies is between efficiency and equity.
Efficiency means collecting the most revenue possible at the lowest cost to economic
production. Equity means taxing so that no one is unfairly burdened, and particularly
those who have the least are spared. A lot of taxes are inefficient because taxing the poor
gets poor results and majorly burdens them, but highly taxing the rich provides less
incentive for work and investment.
• Direct Taxes: taxes that are directly levied on persons and corporations, i.e., personal
and corporate income taxes, property taxes, and taxes on capital gains. High taxes on
payrolls can hurt the employees and help the employers, giving employees less and the
employers more, but a tactic such as this can hurt employment and drive a business into
the “underground economy” where they don’t report incomes or expenditures.
• Indirect taxes: taxes that are included in the prices of goods and services that consumers
buy, i.e., sales tax, value-added taxes, excise tax, and customs duties. Countries with
weak administrative capacities prefer indirect taxes.
Rentier States: states which derive much of their revenue from the “rents” of selling out and
other natural resources. These are often referred to as “resource curses” because they impede on
development and democracy when windfalls distort the economy. It is so because these profits
make the government independent from its citizens, lessening the need for taxation while also
lessening the reason for the public to demand representation. And if politicians do not feel the
demands of the people, they may not act accordingly anymore. The less developed/wealthy the country, the more danger this poses. In better off countries, however, this can aid democracy and
settle inequalities within them.
Gross Domestic Product (GDP): the total value of goods and services produced by a country’s
residents in a year; the general government revenue, shown as a percentage. The average country
has ¼ of the GDP extracted through taxes, but it’s much higher in wealthier and more developed
countries. But the GDP also gets a substantial amount from nontax and noncontribution sources.
The amount contributed to the government via taxes can depend on natural resource windfalls.
- Bottom line: governments should not spend more than they raise. If they do, they must borrow.
This, however, can lead to a domino effect of threatening the financial stability of other
countries, i.e., with Greece producing economic strains on countries throughout Europe.
Distributive Policy Profiles:
• Distributive policies include transfers of money, goods, services, honors, and
opportunities to individuals and groups in society. Distributive policies generally
consume more government resources and employ more government officials than
anything else that modern governments do. Distributive policies include support for
infrastructure, agriculture, and various other industries, but the most common form of
distributive policies are social-welfare programs.
• These first came about in Germany in the 1880s. As developing countries become
wealthier, the more they tend to spend on more of their resources on welfare programs.
• Welfare policies typically combine a social-insurance system and a program of social
redistribution. It’s partially paternalistic (forcing people to put away their money for their
old age and potential illnesses) and in part Robin Hood (taking from the rich and giving
back to the poor). The balance between the two depends on the emphasis of the country. • Countries that have more frequently elected social democratic governments, rather than
conservative ones, generally have larger welfare states.
• Both the magnitude and profile of government expenditures depend heavily on a nation’s
economic development. More developed countries spend 1/3 – ½ of their GDP on gov’t.
• Developed countries tend to allocate the majority of their government expenditures to
health, education, and social protection. More education, as in the US, represents equal
opportunity to advance in society.
• Poor nations lack the funds for health, education, and often times social protection too.
• Some states that are locked in tense international confrontations make more defense
efforts, as seen in the US (who spends 2-5% of the GDP on defense).
• Welfare states have many benefits:
o It can eradicate dire poverty
o It creates a much more “level playing field” for citizens
o Crime rate tends to be lower
o It sits well with most citizens
• Welfare states also have numero