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Do Politicians Use Policy to Make Politics? The Case of Public-Sector Labor Laws

  • SARAH F. ANZIA (a1) and TERRY M. MOE (a2)

Schattschneider's insight that “policies make politics” has played an influential role in the modern study of political institutions and public policy. Yet if policies do indeed make politics, rational politicians have opportunities to use policies to structure future politics to their own advantage—and this strategic dimension has gone almost entirely unexplored. Do politicians actually use policies to make politics? Under what conditions? In this article, we develop a theoretical argument about what can be expected from strategic politicians, and we carry out an empirical analysis on a policy development that is particularly instructive: the adoption of public-sector collective bargaining laws by the states during the 1960s, 1970s, and early 1980s—laws that fueled the rise of public-sector unions, and “made politics” to the advantage of Democrats over Republicans.

Corresponding author
Sarah F. Anzia is Assistant Professor, Goldman School of Public Policy, University of California, Berkeley, 2607 Hearst Avenue, Berkeley, CA 94720 (
Terry M. Moe is Professor, Department of Political Science, Stanford University, 616 Serra Street, Encina Hall West, Room 100, Stanford, CA 94305–6044 (
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American Political Science Review
  • ISSN: 0003-0554
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