The Policy-Making Process

What gets on the political agenda?

What is legitimate for government to do? Is based upon

Shared political values

The weigh of custom and tradition

The impact of events

Changes in the way political elites think and talk about politics

The scope of legitimate government action is always increasing due to reliance on precedent

Groups – small groups demanding things of government

People only complain as things get better — "relative deprivation"


The courts – can force the hand of other branches of government.

Rulings can set public interest upon a particular topic, i.e. Roe v. Wade

The bureaucracy – federal government used to be reactionary, now it is a source of policy proposals

The Senate – became incubator for policy in 1960s after the collapse of the one-party South.


Via gatekeeper function

Formative event – natural or human


Perceived Costs

Perceived Benefits





Majoritarian politics

Entrepreneurial Politics


Client Politics

Interest-Group Politics



Majoritarian Politics

Distributed costs, distributed benefits

i.e. social security, military

Formed not by interest groups but by applying to large groups of voters


Interest Group Politics

Concentrated costs, concentrated benefits

Fought only by organized interest groups


Client Politics

Concentrated benefits, distributed costs

Those who want to receive the benefits will lobby; since costs are distributed, those who pay them may be uneducated or indifferent.

Beneficiary is the client of the government


Pork-barrel projects

Results in logrolling –you scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours


Entrepreneurial Politics

Society as a whole or some large part of it benefits from a policy that imposes substantial costs on some small, identifiable segment of society


Eric Jonas's 1998-1999 AP American Government Notes
This material copyright Eric Jonas, 1999.
These notes have been taken from American Government, 7th edition, by Wilson and DiIulio, and from in-class lecture by Mr. Greg Sandmeyer at Timberline High School.