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Tax Policy and Presidential Leadership: Ideas, Interests, and the Quality of Advice1.

  • M. Stephen Weatherford (a1) and Thomas B. Mayhew (a1)
Abstract

How do “ideas” help to account for political outcomes? The age-old question of the role of ideas has been given new life recently, partly in response to the imposing structure of theory that has been built around economic or rational choice explanations, with their emphasis on interests and material circumstances rather than ideas. Few outside of the most abstract economic model-builders hold that ideas have no impact on policies, but there is little agreement on how that impact occurs or on the observable criteria that would establish (or contradict) the impact of ideas.

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2. Keynes John Maynard, The General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money (London: Macmillan, 1936), 383.

3. Weber Max, From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, trans. and ed. by Gerth H. H. and Mills C. Wright (New York: Oxford University Press, 1958), 280.

4. Dryzek John, Discursive Democracy: Politics, Policy, and Political Science (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990); Cook Karen Schweers and Levi Margaret, eds., The Limits of Rationality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990); Moore Margaret, Foundations of Liberalism (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Warren Mark, “Democratic Theory and Self-Transformation,” American Political Science Review 86 (1992): 823. That knowledge of interests and resources alone often leaves choice indeterminant is registered in game theory in the form of multiple equilibria. In most strategic interactions – in almost any game that takes place over repeated rounds or in which there is nontrivial informational structure – nearly any outcome can be shown to be an equilibrium [Blanchard Olivier Jean and Fischer Stanley, Lectures on Macroeconomics (Cambridge: MIT Press, 1989), chapter 17]. An idea or a norm provides the means for focusing on a single outcome. Ideas do similar work in social or political situations where the production of a good requires collective effort, and where each individual's effort will be for nought if the project fails because too few others joined the effort. Here the decision to contribute hinges on the expectation that enough others will contribute to assure the success of the project, but the expectation is a belief about a future outcome that cannot be known for certain at the moment the decision must be made. Marwell Gerald, Oliver Pamela E., and Prahl Ralph in “Social Networks and Collective Action: A Theory of the Critical Mass, III,” American Journal of Sociology 94, no. 3 (1988): 502–34, give an example of the importance of ideas in this case.

5. E.g., Kelman Steven, Making Public Policy: A Hopeful View of American Government (New York: Basic Books, 1987); Majone Giandomenico, Evidence, Argument, and Persuasion in the Policy Process (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).

6. Shepsle Kenneth A., “Comment,” in Noll Roger, ed., Regulatory Policy and the Social Sciences (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985), 231–7, formulates this position forcefully. At the same time, the logic of counterfeiting shows that ideas per se do have the power to influence events: there is no point in counterfeiting a worthless currency. Just so, attempting to rationalize the pursuit of self-interest by invoking larger public purposes would be pointless if no reference to the public interest were ever sincere and effective.

7. Mill , “The Claims of Labour,” Edinburgh Review (1845), quoted in Hall Peter A., ed., The Political Power of Economic Ideas: Keynesianism Across Nations (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1989), 390.

8. Green Donald P. and Shapiro Ian, Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory: A Critique of Applications in Political Science (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1994); cf, Mansbridge Jane, “The Rise and Fall of Self-interest in Explanations of Political Life,” in Mansbridge Jane, ed., Beyond Self Interest (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990); Kingdon John, “Politicians, Self-interest, and Ideas,” in Marcus George and Hanson Russ, eds., Reconsidering the Democratic Public (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995, forthcoming).

9. As Schneider Anne and Ingram Helen note on p. 336 of “Social Construction of Target Populations: Implications for Politics and Policy,” American Political Science Review 87 (1993): 334–47, “Elected officials are able to construct several different policy logics for almost any problem they wish to solve.”

10. The notion of a “mechanism” is used here in the sense of Elster Jon, Nuts and Bolts for the Social Sciences (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), to take in a wide variety of approaches to specifying the processes that might lead from ideas to policies. Explicating a causal connection is one approach, but in explaining historical events or political decisions we often lack the information needed for attributing causation, nor may a causal interpretation be the appropriate one. Even so, we can understand the process better if we can specify the conditions under which the impact of ideas would be stronger or weaker. Elster's formulation does exclude abstract input/output models of the sort typically proposed in economic theories, in which the decision process resides in an uninvestigated “black box,” and the transit from input to output rests upon assumptions about how “rational actors” would behave in the situation. See Green and Shapiro, Pathologies of Rational Choice Theory; Simon Herbert, “Human Nature in Politics: The Dialogue of Psychology with Political Science,” American Political Science Review 79 (1985): 293304.

11. Other examples include the influence of environmental ideas on international co-operation, as considered by Haas Peter M., “Introduction: Epistemic Communities and International Policy Coordination,” International Organization 46, no. 1 (Winter, 1992), or institutional changes in the process for setting tariffs as examined by Goldstein Judith, “Ideas, Institutions, and American Trade Policy,” International Organization 42, no. 1 (Winter 1988).

12. Recent examples include Skowronek Stephen, The Politics Presidents Make (Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1993); Hargrove Erwin C. and Nelson Michael, Presidents, Politics, and Policy (New York: Knopf, 1984).

13. Schneider and Ingram, “Social Construction of Target Populations,” 334–47.

14. This large literature is surveyed in Hall, ed., The Political Power of Economic Ideas.

15. E.g., Walter S. Salant, “The Spread of Keynesian Doctrines and Practices in the United States,” in Hall, ed., The Political Power of Economic Ideas, 27–52.

16. Weir Margaret and Skocpol Theda, “State Structures and the Possibilities for ‘Keynesian’ Responses to the Great Depression in Sweden, Britain, and the United States,” in Evans Peter, Rueschemeyer Dietrich and Skocpol Theda, eds., Bringing the State Back In (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 107163; Margaret Weir, “Ideas and Politics: The Acceptance of Keynesianism in Britain and the United States,” in Hall, ed., The Political Power of Economic Ideas.

17. Gourevitch Peter Alexis, “Breaking with Orthodoxy: The Politics of Economic Policy Responses to the Depression of the 1930s,” International Organization 38 (1984): 95130; Skidelsky Robert, Politicians and the Slump (London: Macmillan, 1967).

18. Lau Richard R., Smith Richard A., and Fiske Susan T., “Political Beliefs, Policy Interpretations,” Journal of Politics 53, no. 3 (08 1991): 644–75, report on an experimental confirmation of this observation.

19. It seems attractive (though not logical) to jump to the conclusion that historical changes or landmark policies constitute a realm where idea-based explanations might be appropriate, while middle-range policy outcomes are to be explained as a matter of strategizing within the context of given preferences and resource distributions. The distinction between the two approaches can be seen clearly, for instance, in the contrast between the account of deregulation offered by Derthick Martha and Quirk Paul J., The Politics of Deregulation (Washington D. C.: Brookings Institution, 1985), which is centered on the role of ideas, and the models of executive-legislative interaction proposed by Mouw Calvin and MacKuen Michael, “The Strategic Agenda in Legislative Politics,” American Political Science Review 86 (1992): 87105, or Sullivan Terry, “Bargaining with the President: A Simple Game and New Evidence,” American Political Science Review 84 (1990): 1167–95, where the orienting story is about the strategic use of agenda setting, resources and threats in a bar-gaining context.

20. Derthick and Quirk, The Politics of Deregulation; Robyn Dorothy, Braking the Special Interests (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1987); Birnbaum Jeffrey H. and Murray Alan S., Showdown at Gucci Gulch: Lawmakers, Lobbyists, and the Unlikely Triumph of Tax Reform (New York: Random House, 1987); Conlan Timothy J., Wrightson Margaret T., and Beam David R., Taxing Choices: The Politics of Tax Reform (Washington D. C.: Congressional Quarterly, 1990); Reich Robert B., ed., The Power of Public Ideas (Cambridge: Ballinger, 1988).

21. E.g., Conlan et al., Taxing Choices, 259, enumerate a typical list in attributing “the unlikely victory of tax reform” to “[t]he influences of experts, policy entrepreneurs, and the media, coupled with the commitment and legislative skills of established leaders”; cf. Derthick and Quirk, The Politics of Deregulation, chapter 7.

22. Habermas Jurgen, Legitimation Crisis, trans, by McCarthy Thomas (Boston: Beacon, 1975), advances the view of political debate as persuasive communication by opposed political elites, with the goal of gaining legitimacy for a particular conception of the connection between present policies and widely shared public goals. Our approach takes its inspiration from recent theoretical and empirical work by Dryzek, Discursive Democracy; Warren, “Democratic Theory and Self-Transformation”; McCloskey Donald N., If You're So Smart: The Narrative of Economic Expertise (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990); Kingdon John, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1984); Schneider and Ingram, “Social Construction of Target,” 334–47, and Derthick and Quirk, The Politics of Deregulation.

23. Cf. Rivers Douglas and Rose Nancy L., “Passing the President's Program: Public Opinion and Presidential Influence in Congress,” American Journal of Political Science 31 (1987): 183–96; Edwards George C. III, At the Margins: Presidential Leadership of Congress (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989).

24. Sorenson Theodore C., Decision-Making in the White House (New York: Columbia University Press, 1963); see Weatherford M. Stephen, “The Interplay of Ideology and Advice in Economic Policymaking: The Case of Political Business Cycles,” Journal of Politics 49 (1987): 925–52, for a comparative application of the typology.

25. Such a “policy model” formulates beliefs about how means connect with ends, and hence explains how a proposal will lead to desirable consequences. On important and recur-rent issues – management of the economy, taxation, relations with allies and adversaries – virtually all politicians carry around in their heads some more or less well worked out model of the relevant dynamics; such ideas are a part of policymakers' world-views. Cf. Schulman Paul R., “The Politics of ‘Ideational’ Policy,” Journal of Politics 50 (1988): 263291.

26. Thus, policy debate or deliberation involves more than the exchange of factual information, and on this point we part with Austen-Smith David, “Information Transmission in Debate,” American Journal of Political Science 34, no. 1 (02 1990): 124–5, a rational choice formalization of the role of “debate” in revealing information about meansend relationships. His definition of “debate” follows the microeconomic literature on “cheap talk,” viewing the effect of debate solely in terms of the exchange of novel factual information. We find this interpretation thin and in some ways quite eccentric. Our impression is that policy deliberation involves not only information exchange but also the discussion of public ideas, for instance about the priority of different, competing values or goals or about the different patterns of trade-offs involved in alternative means to a common goal. Cf. Johnson James, “Is Talk Really Cheap: Prompting Conversation Between Critical Theory and Rational Choice,” American Political Science Review 87, no. 1 (1993); 7486;Smith Rogers M., “If Politics Matters: Implications for a ‘New Institutionalism,’Studies in American Political Development 6 (1992): 136.

27. Models of the policy process built around the supposition that politicians are motivated only or even primarily by the desire to win reelection, give politicians less credit than they deserve for being concerned with the quality of policy [Quirk Paul J., “Deregulation and the Politics of Ideas in Congress,” in Beyond Beyond Self Interest, Mansbridge Jane, ed. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990), 191–6; cf. John Kingdon, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies; Arnold Douglas R., The Logic of Congressional Action (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1990)]. Whether motivated primarily by electoral or policy goals, however, political elites have a strong incentive to consider and discuss policy choices with reference to causal beliefs. Such discussions strengthen the informational base for choices; they offer an opportunity for informally testing one's causal arguments by exposing them to potentially hostile criticism and adjusting them in response; and they provide an essential bridge between legislative choices and constituency support by helping to formulate principled, general interpretations of means-ends connections between the representative's votes and constituents' preferences [Fenno Richard F., Homestyle: House Members in Their Districts. (Boston: Little, Brown, and Company, 1978)]. Moreover, from the perspective of political leader-ship or partisan programmatic achievement, shared causal beliefs are the source of the coherence that distinguishes thematic policies from the short-run interest-maximizing choices that are cumulated into pork-barrel bills [cf. Grofman Bernard, Owen Guillermo, and Feld Scott L., “Thirteen Theorems in Search of the Truth,”Theory and Decision 15 (1983): 213–24, for the theoretical rationale; Skowronek Stephen, The Politics Presidents Make (Cambridge: Belknap/Harvard University Press, 1993), for substantive examples].

28. We assume that neither side has sufficient material resources (votes in Congress, a public opinion mandate) to assure victory, an accurate assumption for the bulk of the postwar period.

29. See Patinkin Don, Anticipations of The General Theory? and Other Essays on Keynes (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1982), an excellent discussion of the multiplier. Neustadt Richard E. and May Ernest R., Thinking in Time: The Uses of History for Decision-Makers (New York: Free Press, 1986) show the importance of this property in policy debates where advocates draw on historical parallels.

30. Schneider and Ingram, “Social Construction of Target, 334–47; Robert B. Reich, ed., The Power of Public Ideas; Kelman Steven, Making Public Policy: A Hopeful View of American Government (New York: Basic Books, 1987). It can be seen that the criteria of rhetorical clarity and political fit point to the success of the argument in meeting the different requirements at distinct stages of the policy process. While attention to the requisites for rhetorical clarity will help strengthen the connection between the problem and the proposed solution, shaping the argument to improve its political fit will help strengthen the connection between the solution and politics of ratification. John Kingdon, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies, implies that the three “streams” are almost completely independent, so that explaining how a given measure gets onto the agenda is inevitably a matter of accounting for serendipitous contingencies after the fact on a case-by-case basis. Mucciaroni Gary, “The Garbage Can Model and the Study of Policy Making: A Critique,” Polity 24 (1992): 459–82, who agrees with Kingdon in rejecting deterministic explanations, argues that Kingdon's image goes too far to the other extreme and specifically that Kingdom underestimates the systematic (”structural”) interdependencies linking the three streams. Our approach calls attention to actions that political advocates can take to bring the streams closer to convergence.

31. Cohen Michael, March James, and Olsen Johan, “A Garbage Can Model of Organizational Choice,” Administrative Science Quarterly 17 (03 1972): 125; Almond Gabriel A. and Genco Stephen J., “Clouds, Clocks, and the Study of Politics,” World Politics 29 (1977): 489522; John Kingdon, Agendas, Alternatives, and Public Policies; Majone Giandomenico, Evidence, Argument, and Persuasion in the Policy Process (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989); Baumgartner Frank R. and Jones Bryan D., Agendas and Instability in American Politics (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1993).

32. Indeed, with economic policy it is sometimes impossible to judge impacts unambiguously even after the fact. Even if a new policy or regulation is followed by the desired outcome, the complexity of the economy and the plethora of uncontroled causal factors often make it impossible to tell whether it was the policy that caused the effect. On the ambiguity of interpreting reaction function models, see Alt James and Woolley John T., “Reaction Functions, Optimization and Politics: Modeling the Political Economy of Macro-economic Policy,” American Journal of Political Science 26 (11 1982): 709–40; Blanchard and Fischer, Lectures on Macroeconomics.

33. Cf. George Alexander, “The Causal Nexus Between Cognitive Beliefs and Decision-Maker Behavior: The ‘Operational Code’ Belief System,” in Falkowski Lawrence S., ed., Psychological Models in International Politics (Boulder: Westview, 1979), esp. 104.

34. This section follows Weatherford M. Stephen, “Responsiveness and Deliberation in Divided Government: Presidential Leadership in Tax Policymaking,” British Journal of Political Science 24 (1994): 131.

35. Nixon and Mitchell had emphasized the electoral danger if the Democrats seized the opportunity to move first. Their assessment was supported by an informal head count showing that, once a tax cut bill arrived on the agenda, enough Republicans would desert the president to ensure its passage, thus forcing the White House either to veto a tax cut in a recession or to admit the correctness of the Democrats' initiative.

36. “Rayburn and G.O.P. Agree to Confer on Tax Action; Dip in Spending Forecast: Cooperation Set: Unions Ask Cut Now but Senate Rejects $5 Billion Slash,” New York Times, March 14, 1958, p. 1. The significance of the agreement was made apparent later the same day, when Douglas offered his popular tax cut as an amendment to a bill on the Senate floor, was opposed by the leadership and defeated 71 to 14.

37. Indeed, commentators eagerly repeated Anderson's remark that cutting taxes would do nothing for the unemployed, since they were not being taxed anyway – suggesting that the Keynesian rationale for an antirecession tax cut was not well understood by the elite press or the public.

38. In the sense that Conlan et al., Taxing Choices, use that term.

39. We summarize in the text Anderson's argument from his model of the economy. On the other side, policy entrepreneurs such as Senator Douglas advocated a tax cut on clearly drawn Keynesian lines, and former Fed Chairman Marriner Eccles had propounded a textbook Keynesian rationale in testimony before the Joint Economic Committee; powerful business and labor groups supported one; most back-benchers in both parties, along with some leaders (including Rayburn and Johnson before March 13) favored it; and a wide range of moderate and liberal economists had gone on record backing a tax cut and doubting its inflationary potential given the depth of the recession.

40. One of the effects of their defeat over antirecession policy in 1958 was to spur the liberal Democrats in Congress to greater efforts toward framing their own economic analysis independent of the White House. See Sundquist James L., Politics and Policy: The Eisenhower, Kennedy, and Johnson Years (Washington, D. C.: Brookings Institution, 1968).

41. This section relies on King Ronald F., Money, Time and Politics: Investment Tax Subsidies and American Democracy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993); Kettl Donald F., “The Economic Education of Lyndon Johnson: Guns, Butter, and Taxes,” in Divine Robert A., ed., The Johnson Years, vol. 2: Vietnam, the Environment, and Science (Lawrence: University of Kansas Press, 1987); and our own archival research.

42. Divine, ed., The Johnson Years, vol. 2, 55; Halberstam David, The Best and the Brightest (New York: Random House, 1971); Halberstam David, “How the Economy Went Haywire,” Atlantic Monthly 230, no. 3 (1972): 5660.

43. Buchanan James M. and Wagner Richard E., Democracy in Deficit: The Political Legacy of Lord Keynes (New York: Academic Press, 1977).

44. Memo from Volcker, Zwick, Brill, and Okun to Fowler, Schultze, Martin, and Ackley, November 6, 1965 (CEA Administrative History, v. 2, pt. 1).

45. Quoted in Sloan John W., “President Johnson, The Council of Economic Advisers, and the Failure to Raise Taxes in 1966 and 1967,” Presidential Studies Quarterly 15; no. 1 (1985): 95.

46. Memo from Ackley to Johnson, December 27, 1965 (Lyndon Baines Johnson Presidential Library, White House Central Files, CF FI 4); also memo from Ackley to Johnson, December 17, 1965 (WHCF EX FI 4), and cf. Johnson Lyndon Baines, The Vantage Point: Perspectives of the Presidency 1963–1969 (San Francisco: Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 1971), 440.

47. Memo from Ackley, Okun, and Duesenberry to Johnson, March 12, 1966 (WHCF, CF FI 11, and Johnson, The Vantage Point, 444). It was clear by this time that the economy would not slow down on its own – unemployment had fallen to 3.7 percent, investment was expected to rise 19 percent, and manufacturing to be up 32 percent.

48. Johnson, The Vantage Point, 444–5.

49. Johnson notes in his memoirs that between 1960 and 1965 prices had risen about 1.3 percent per year. Between June of 1965 and September of 1966, inflation had increased to 3.4 percent, but after the tax-credit suspension, the annual inflation rate dropped to 2.3 percent. Ibid., 445.

50. Memo from Fowler, McNamara , Schultze , Ackley , Califano to Johnson , September 2, 1966 (WHCF, EX FI 11); Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States: Lyndon B.Johnson 1966, v. 2 (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office).

51. Memo from Fowler to Johnson, December 23, 1966; memo from Fowler, Schultze, and Ackley to Johnson, December 30, 1966 (WHCF, CF FI 11–4); King Ronald, “The President and Fiscal Policy in 1966: The Year Taxes Were Not Raised,” Polity. 17, no. 4 (Summer 1985): 685714, 702–03.

52. Donald F. Kettl, “The Economic Education of Lyndon Johnson,” 66, reports that public support for a surtax had dropped from 44 percent to 24 percent over the previous year, and that the proportion of the public worried about rising inflation had fallen from 92 percent to 68 percent. Mills had always been skeptical of the Kennedy-Johnson economists, and he resented having been “used” to gain them support for suspending and then restoring the investment tax credit between November 1966 and March 1967; by summer 1967, he refused to credit their predictions. Cf. Okun Arthur M., The Political Economy of Prosperity (Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institute, 1970), 86.

53. Donald F. Kettl, “The Economic Education of Lyndon Johnson,” 74, concludes that Johnson coped with uncertainty less well in the economic realm than he did in other areas, or that his demands for certainty were out of line with the nature of the subject matter. Like our interpretation, this one cites the flow of inconsistent and fluctuating advice. We cannot, however, agree with Kettl's decision to place the weight of the policy failure on idiosyncratic traits of the president, specifically that “he found it difficult to deal with the uncertainty of economic predictions, to jump before the evidence was irrefutable.” Our reading of the record locates the causal mechanism not in Johnson's ability to choose an action in the face of incomplete information, but rather in the properties of the advice he was receiving. Johnson, like any president, dealt with uncertainty on virtually every issue, and as an experienced politician, he knew that he could not expect a perfect prediction before he had to act. It was not the wish for “irrefutable evidence” but the need for a consistent line of argument that led Johnson to feel that the justification was inadequate to undertake a significant policy initiative.

54. For the economic literature on fine-tuning and its primary pitfall, the problem of time inconsistency, see Kydland F., and Prescott E., “Rules Rather than Discretion: The Inconsistency of Optimal Plans,” Journal of Political Economy 85 (1977): 473–92; Blanchard and Fischer, Lectures on Macroeconomics.

55. “An Economic Position Paper for Now and Tomorrow,” Presidential Campaign 1976 1, (U.S. Congress, House Committee on Administration): 141.

56. Kuttner Robert, Revolt of the Haves: Tax Rebellions and Hard Times, (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1980).

57. In addition to our own archival research, this section is indebted to King's magisterial study of postwar fiscal policy; King Ronald F., Money, Time and Politics: Investment Tax Subsidies and American Democracy (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993), esp. 387429.

58. Blumenthal memo to Carter, “Possible Tax Reform Program,” Carter Library, DPSEizenstat, Box 287, Tax Reform.

59. At a May 11 speech to the Economic Club of Chicago, the Treasury secretary emphasized the commitment to encouraging investment: “We must have taxes that are progressive, but not so progressive as to undermine our economic system or eliminate the incentive for individuals and for businesses to produce what we need. Thus, lowering taxes might be part of the longer run answer.“ Quoted in King, Money, Time and Politics, 397.

60. Stu Eizenstat and Bob Ginsburg to Carter, “Tax Reform Meeting,” May 16, 1977, Carter Library, DPS-Eizenstat, Box 287, Tax Reform.

61. Schultze to Carter, “Investment and Business Taxation,” June 15, 1977, FI 10–2, WHCF, Box FI-30.

62. King, Money, Time and Politics, 399.

63. Pechman to Carter, “The Tax Reform Program,” September 15,1977, DPS-Eizenstat, Box 288, Tax Reform.

64. Schultze to Carter, “Update on Recent Economic Developments and the Outlook,” October 15, 1977, WHCF, BE 4, Box BE–13.

65. Editorial, October 16, 1977, sec. 4, p. 14.

66. Kennedy Senator Edward released his own tax refom proposal in July, with the conscious intention to “prod the administration into action”; “Kennedy Presents His Proposals for Tax Reform,” New York Times, 07 2, 1977, p. 7.

67. Carter summarized the bill's content in noting that “the tax revision, tax reform, tax cut, will all be one package”; “Transcript of the President's News Conference on Foreign and Domestic Matters,” New York Times, October 14, 1977, sec. 1, p. 16.

68. As one Congressional Democrat noted in October, “He's gotta be crazy to send that up here now and let the special interests zero in on it for three months”; “Carter Plan to be Delayed Again to Aid Energy Bills,” New York Times, October 13, 1977, sec. 4, p. 1.

69. Silk Leonard, “Blumenthal Calls Tax Bill Delay Bid for Confidence,” New York Times, October 28, 1977, p. 15.

70. Kantowicz Edward R., “The Limits of Incrementalism: Carter's Efforts at Tax Re-form,” Journal of Policy Analysis and Management 4, no. 2 (1985): 221, 228.

71. E.g., Conlan et al., Taxing Choices; Birnbaum and Murray, Showdoxim at Gucci Gulch.

72. Conlan et al., Taxing Choices, 50.

73. Ibid., 51.

74. Strahan Randall, “Members Goals and Coalition Building Strategies in the U.S. House: The Case of Tax Reform,” Journal of Politics 51, no. 2 (05 1989): 375, 378.

75. Birnbaum and Murray, Showdown at Gucci Gulch.

76. Another committee member said “I frankly think this is a horse that's so lame we can't continue to ride it.” Birnbaum and Murray, Showdown at Gucci Gulch, 190–203, report that “Lobbyists in the halls began to cheer.”.

77. Although this coalition was cemented largely by the purposive appeal of contributing to tax reform, it also involved some selective benefits, specifically transition rules and small tax breaks to senators looking out for especially endangered constituency interests. Compared with the history of tax legislation, the side payments were modest indeed.

78. Birnbaum and Murray, Showdown at Gucci Gulch, 229.

79. Witte John, The Politics and Development of the Federal Income Tax (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1985).

80. The terms are Moon's J.Donald in “The Logic of Political Inquiry: A Synthesis of Opposed Perspectives,” Handbook of Political Science, vol. 1, Greenstein Fred I. and Polsby Nelson W., eds. (Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley, 1975): 130206.

81. Mansbridge, “The Rise and Fall of Self-interest in Explanations of Political Life,” 20, depicts this as “the transformation of interests through political discourse.” For a perceptive recent summary of this debate, see Rogers M. Smith, “If Politics Matters,” 1–36.

82. These innovations strengthen the realism of rational choice models in several ways, including making a place for creativity in formulating strategies and decision rules [Riker William H., The Art of Political Manipulation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1986)], specifying the ways in which institutions and principal-agent relationships can modify preferences by circumscribing opportunities, [Shepsle Kenneth A. and Weingast Barry R., “When Do Rules of Procedure Matter?Journal of Politics 46 (1984): 206–21], and allowing that actors may alter their preferences when new information shows that previous opportunities are unavailable, [Noll Roger G. and Weingast Barry R., “Rational Actor Theory, Social Norms, and Policy Implementation: Applications to Administrative Processes and Bureaucratic Culture,” in Monroe Kristen R., ed., The Economic Approach to Politics: A Critical Reassement of the Theory of Rational Action (New York: Harper Collins, 1991), 239–43].

83. Once such change occurs (e.g., because an individual views a category of political decisions in a different light, or because a group of individuals forms an institution that channels interactions in a different way), the subsequent course of events is likely to be altered from the one that would have been predicted by the earlier rational choice model. It is possible to restart the model with new parameters, but the interpretationist notion of “path dependency” captures the continuity of the process in which a choice that is a depen-dent variable at one time exercises independent influence in shaping later decisions.

84. For instance, this aspect is especially important in the Eisenhower case, where a coherent model of the economy became the foundation for successful persuasion, and in the Carter case, where the attempt to meld several logically inconsistent aims undermined the argument's rhetorical clarity.

1. For their helpful comments on earlier versions of this paper, the authors wish to thank Lorraine M. McDonnell, Paul J. Quirk, and several anonymous reviewers.

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