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American Business, Public Policy, Case-Studies, and Political Theory

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2011

Theodore J. Lowi
Cornell University
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Case-Studies of the policy-making process constitute one of the more important methods of political science analysis. Beginning with Schattschneider, Herring, and others in the 1930's, case-studies have been conducted on a great variety of decisions. They have varied in subject-matter and format, in scope and rigor, but they form a distinguishable body of literature which continues to grow year by year. The most recent addition, a book-length study by Raymond Bauer and his associates, stands with Robert A. Dahl's prize-winning Who Governs? (New Haven 1961) as the best yet to appear. With its publication a new level of sophistication has been reached. The standards of research its authors have set will indeed be difficult to uphold in the future. American Business and Public Policy is an analysis of political relationships within the context of a single, well-defined issue—foreign trade. It is an analysis of business attitudes, strategies, communications and, through these, business relationships in politics. The analysis makes use of the best behavioral research techniques without losing sight of the rich context of policies, traditions, and institutions. Thus, it does not, in Dahl's words, exchange relevance for rigor; rather it is standing proof that the two—relevance and rigor—are not mutually exclusive goals.

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Copyright © Trustees of Princeton University 1964

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1 For similar questions and a critique, see Kaufman, Herbert, “The Next Step in Case Studies,” Public Administration Review, XVIII (Winter 1958), 5259CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

2 David Truman's rather weak and diffuse “potential interest group” is a doff of the hat in this direction, but this concept is so non-directive and non-observable as to be disregarded even by its creator.

3 The best critiques and analyses of all the various currents of thought are found in Polsby, Nelson W., Community Power and Political Theory (New Haven 1963)Google Scholar; Bell, Daniel, “The Power Elite—Revisited,” American Journal of Sociology, LXIV (November 1958), 238–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar; Dahl, Robert A., “Critique of the Ruling Elite Model,” American Political Science Review, LII (June 1958), 463–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and Wolfinger, Raymond, “Reputation and Reality in the Study of Community Power,” American Sociological Review, XXV (October 1960), 636–44CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

4 Politics, Pressures and the Tariff, 88. The fact that Schattschneider holds his generalizations to the particular policy in question should be noted here as a point central to my later arguments.

5 There are four approaches here if the “social stratification” school is kept separate from the “power elite” school. While both make the same kinds of errors, each leads to different kinds of propositions. In some hands they are, of course, indistinguishable and, for good reason, Polsby in Community Power and Political Theory treats the two as one. Since the distinction, once made, is not important here, I will more or less follow Polsby's lead.

6 Milton Gordon, quoted in Polsby, 103.

7 Cf. Mills, C. Wright, The Power Elite (New York 1956), 245Google Scholar: “… the political analyst is generally on the middle levels of power himself. He knows the top only by gossip; the bottom, if at all, only by ‘research.’” Thus, Mills continues, the professor and free-lance intellectual are “at home with the leaders of the middle level, and … focus upon the middle levels and their balances because they are closer to them.”

8 Thus, with no major decline in the numbers of industries and groups with a selfinterest in protection—indeed, with the defection of virtually the entire South from the free-trade cause—liberal trade lost consistently until 1962. But in 1962 it won because tariff had finally lost its traditional definition. Lest it be concluded that the Administration won merely because of its use of traditional log-rolling strategies in its textile concessions, note that on the crucial votes in both Houses most of the Democratic protectionist vote was Southern: in the House vote on the Mason motion for recommittal, 37 of the 44 protectionist Democrats were Southern, mainly from the textile and oil states of North and South Carolina, Texas, and Oklahoma. Kennedy's strategy probably got him only Georgia's votes. In the Senate, the crucial vote was on the “peril point,” with the Southerners splitting 10 to 10. Despite Kennedy's concessions, the defectors included two from Georgia, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Virginia and one from North Carolina.

9 I obtain from this and other propositions in the book a conclusion not reached by the authors but strongly supported by their findings: there are probably several kinds of coalitions (rather than “a politics of coalition” where all coalitions are equivalent in every way except size and value of resources). Each type of coalition is appropriate for certain types of issues and each has extreme significance for outcomes, perhaps as much as cohesion and access. More on this presently.

10 Again suggesting that a distinct kind of coalition is involved here, the authors say: “… neidier the interest of the New England textile manufacturers in supporting oil imports nor that of the Eastern railroads in opposing these imports were in any way self-evident. Offered the proper coalition, they both might well have been persuaded that their interest was in the opposite direction” (p. 398).

11 Access to and information about Congress and Congressmen was so poor that the liberal CNTP's list of Congressmen's positions was almost a third incorrect for both Houses in the case of those whose positions had been identified at all. Nearly 15 per cent of the members of Congress were listed as “undecided,” and in most cases this meant no contact at all had been made. Many pluralist writers before Bauer, Pool, and Dexter have recognized the “service bureau” role, but rather than reexamine their premises, they usually catalogue this as a “form of influence.”

12 Wildavsky, Aaron, Dixon-Yates: A Study in Power Politics (New Haven 1962), 311Google Scholar.

13 “Inter alia, the transactional analysis here employed makes the concept of ‘power’ and ‘pressure’ in the ordinary political-science sense of the terms somewhat more difficult to employ; Arthur F. Bentley himself pointed out to one of us in 1936 that he had long since abandoned these notions as not useful for systematic analysis” (p. 460). See also p. 456.

14 The first formulation, developed for urban politics, appears in my study, At the Pleasure of the Mayor (New York 1964), chaps. 6 and 7Google Scholar. The scheme for national politics which is presented in this article is an adaptation of the national “arenas of power” discussed in a book now in preparation.

15 Their study is of further interest because they are dealing with a type of policy which made a transition from one of my “arenas” to another between 1930 and 1962. That the politics of tariff changed accordingly is the best test I have yet found for my scheme. The very differences they find between 1950's patterns and those reported so exceedingly well by Schattschneider—and which are branded by Bauer, Pool, and Dexter as inconsistent with Schattschneider or as due vaguely to the “changing times”—were both consistent with and anticipated by my scheme.

16 Dahl, Who Governs?, and Polsby, Community Power, esp. chap. 6.

17 Foreign policy, for which no appropriate “tion” word has been found, is obviously a fourth category. It is not dealt with here for two reasons. First, it overly extends the analysis. Second, and of greater importance, it is in many ways not part of the same universe, because in foreign policy-making America is only a subsystem. Winston Churchill, among other foreigners, has consistently participated in our foreign policy decisions. Of course, those aspects of foreign and military policy that have direct domestic implications are included in my scheme.

18 A “sector” refers to any set of common or substitutable commodities or services or any other form of established economic interaction. Sectors therefore vary in size because of natural economic forces and because of the different ways they are identified by economists or businessmen. They vary in size also because they are sometimes defined a priori by the observer's assessment of what constitutes a common product and at other times are defined a posteriori by the trade associations that represent the identification of a sector by economic actors themselves.

19 Politics, Pressures, 85.

20 Ibid., 88.

21 Ibid., 135–36.

22 The stable, intimate interlocking of Congressional committeemen and their support groups in the Rivers and Harbors Congress and the Corps of Engineers has been made famous by Arthur Maass; see Muddy Waters: The Army Engineers and the Nation's Rivers (Cambridge, Mass., 1951)Google Scholar, and especially “Congress and Water Resources,” American Political Science Review, XLIV (September 1950), 576–92Google Scholar, reprinted in my reader, Legislative Politics USA (Boston 1962)Google Scholar. Cited widely as an example of interest-group strategy and access, this case has not until now, as far as I know, been given its proper significance. That significance comes clear within my scheme. The pattern approaches that of the tariff but not of regulatory situations.

23 Schattschneider, in his more recent book The Semi-sovereign People (New York 1960)Google Scholar, offers some fascinating propositions about the “scope of conflict” which can easily be subsumed within the scheme offered here.

24 I was surprised and pleased on rereading Truman's, The Governmental Process (New York 1951)Google Scholar, after completing the first draft of this article, to find that he identified two types of “mutual assistance,” alliances and log-rolling (pp. 362–68). In my scheme, as will soon be clear, there are two types of “alliance,” tangential interest and ideology. But what is of interest here is that Truman supports his distinction with examples perfectly congruent with my theory. His case of the alliance is the aggregation of interests around the 1946 Employment Act (redistribution, even if a peculiar “law”). The typical log-rolling situation he identifies with rivers and harbors appropriations (distribution). The difference between us is that my scheme considers these patterns of coalition as revealing fundamental political relations that are limited to certain types of issues, while Truman implies that they are two strategies in an inventory of strategies more or less appropriate to any issue.

25 Sam Rayburn made one of his rare trips from rostrum to floor to support the closed rule and the integrity of Ways and Means: “Only once in the history of the House, in forty-two years in my memory, has a bill of this kind and character been considered except under a closed rule …” (p. 64, emphasis added). It was on the following morning that Rayburn expressed his now-famous warning to the frosh: “If you want to get along, go along” (p. 64).

26 The facts and events are taken from Douglas, Paul H., Social Security in the United States (New York 1936)Google Scholar; Witte, Edwin E., The Development of the Social Security Act (Madison, Wis., 1962)Google Scholar; Committee on Economic Security, Report to the President (Washington, GPO, 1935)Google Scholar; and Perkins, Frances, The Roosevelt I Knew (New York 1946)Google Scholar.

27 Surrey, Stanley S., “The Congress and the Tax Lobbyist: How Special Tax Provisions Get Enacted,” Harvard Law Review, LXX (May 1957), 1145–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

28 “Involve” may appear to be a weasel word, but it is used advisedly. As I argued earlier when defining redistribution, it is not the actual outcomes but the expectations as to what the outcomes can be that shape the issues and determine their politics. One of the important strategies in any controversial issue is to attempt to define it in redistributive terms in order to broaden the base of opposition or support.

29 In personal conversations, Andrew Biemiller of AFL-CIO has observed that this is true even of his group. He estimates that perhaps from 80 to 90 per cent of their formal policy expressions deal with welfare and general rights of collective bargaining and that only occasionally does the central board touch specific regulatory issues.

30 Lane, Robert E., The Regulation of Businessmen (New Haven 1953), 38ffGoogle Scholar.

31 Note also in the table the fairly drastic contrast in the proportion of references that expressed approval. Similarly drastic differences are revealed in Lane's figures on the reasons given for expressing disapproval. On those issues I call redistributive, the overwhelmingly most important reason is “coerciveness.” In contrast, this reason was given for about 10 per cent of general trade regulation and anti-trust references, 3 percent of the basing-point negative references, and not once when Miller-Tydings and Robinson-Patman were denounced. For regulatory issues, the reason for disapproval given most frequently was that the policy was confused and that it failed to achieve its purposes. And there were equally high percentages of residual or “other” responses, suggesting a widespread lack of agreement as to the very meaning of the policy.

32 Riker, William H., Democracy in the United States (New York 1953), 216Google Scholar.