POLS 207: Contemporary Issues in Public Policy

Jose Marichal, Ph.D.

California Lutheran University

Department of Political Science

E-mail: marichal@callutheran.edu 

Office Hours: 2:05pm to 4:05pm MW

Twitter #clupols207

Office: Swenson 228

ThickCulture Blog

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This course is about how societies make collective decisions about what constitutes "the good life." All of us have things we care deeply about, aspirations and dreams, but we can't achieve these things on our own. We live in a society with others and through the political process, we make decisions every day that affect people's ability to live their version of "the good life." This will focus upon two things. First, it is about developing your view of "the good life" - i.e. what are your dreams and aspirations for yourself and for the world and (2) how we make collective decisions that prefer one view of "the good life" over another. In this course we will look at: Who makes collective decisions? What criteria do they use to arrive at decisions? How do people promote preferred solutions? Why are obvious problems not addressed? This class will engage you in the process of public decision making. You will be asked to think about your own personal goals and how they connect to the society you live in. You will look at the policy process surrounding your goals and how to go about changing that process if it produces unwanted results.  In addition, you will be asked to reflect upon the question of whether you have the ability and opportunity to engage in the decision making process.  Throughout the course, we will work towards developing policy solutions that will affect the things you hope to achieve in life.

This course will address the following CLU General Education Goals:

  1. Oral and Written Communication Skills
  2. Understanding of Cultural and Global Diversity
  3. Critical Thinking
  4. Growth in Identity and Values
  5. Ability to work in groups

This course will address the following Political Science Department Goals:

  1. Critical Thinking
  2. Exposure to Cultural Experiences

In this course, students are expected to:

  1. employ different theoretical approaches towards understanding specific policy issues
  2. exhibit critical thinking and effective writing and oral skills by applying readings to issues of concern.
  3. demonstrate the ability to work with other students in groups to locate and present information.
  4. show an ability to find, evaluate, use and communicate information in both oral and written formats.
  5. demonstrate the ability to communicate orally in a manner that is clear, organized, and appropriate to the intended audience.
  6. know how to apply appropriate evaluative criteria to assess their own presentations and those of others.


Any aspect of this syllabus can be changed by the instructor at his discretion.

Readings for the day need to be completed prior to class times, as class activities, discussions, and quizzes will primarily draw upon assigned readings.

Talking, working, and thinking with others are large parts of this class. We will get into discussions about some controversial subjects. I encourage expressions of opinions (myself included), but there are some classroom boundaries. Our class will be a safe place. That is to say, we will all treat each other in a respectful manner. Translation: rude interruptions, hurtful insults (including racial, gender, sexuality, etc. slurs), and personal attacks will not be tolerated. You may not always be comfortable with the topics, and by no means are you expected to approve of everything we discuss.

California Lutheran University is committed to providing reasonable accommodations to students with various documented disabilities (physical, learning, or psychological). If you are a student requesting accommations for this course, please contact your professor at the beginning of the semester and register with the Coordinator for Students with Disabilities (Pearson Library, Center for Academic Resources, Ext. 3260) for the facilitation and verification of need. Faculty will work closely together with you and your coordinator to provide necessary accommodations.

Academic Honesty: Plagiarism, cheating and other forms of academic dishonesty will not be tolerated in this class. According to the CLU student handbook, plagiarism occurs “whenever a source of any kind has not been acknowledged.” With respect to my policy, let me be clear – you will receive and F in the course if you take material from the Internet and insert it into any written work as your own without giving credit to the person who wrote it. Those found violating the CLU code on academic dishonesty in any way will receive an F in the class.

All quizzes, exams, activities, and papers must be turned in on time: no make-ups will be given, and no re-writes will be offered. If an assignment is of the take-home variety, it must be typed, double-spaced, with 1-inch margins all around, spell-checked, grammar-checked, and demonstrate correct citation and bibliographic format. Late take-home assignments will not be graded unless you have documentation of an emergency. Missed quizzes will be marked down as zeroes


Your grade will come from the following assignments:

Legislative Subcommittee Session: One Friday during the semester, your team will develop and present a piece of legislation on a pre-selected topic to our “POLS 207 Mini-Congress.”  As with a real legislative body, you will have a short amount of time to present your views.  Because legistaors have lots of bills to consider, they rely heavily on “bill summaries” that include the following components:  general information, fiscal impact, and narrative (detailed analysis that includes arguments for or against the bill).  Here is an example of an analysis for the Michigan Legislature and one from the Florida House of Representatives (where I used to work)

 After your brief presentation, you will lead a class discussion on the merits of the legislation and the efficacy of its passage.  The class will be responsible for offering “mark up” language designed to improve passage of the legislation.  In addition, your will write a 5-7 page “bill analysis” that summarizes the legislation and discusses the pros and cons of its adoption.  In practice, bill analyses can be quite large and involved.  Because if this, I’m asking you to work in teams of four or five.  Each of you will be responsible for The questions and responses will be graded based on their thoughtfulness and clarity. The class discussion assignment will be worth 10 points.

Legislative Subcommittee Session and Bill Analysis = 20 points

Class Participation: part of your grade will come from your level of engagement with the readings. Before each class, I will ask you to share your critical reflections on the readings (e.g. areas where you agree/disagree with the author and WHY.  You must comment on at least one article for each day of assigned readings and post it to the Google+ community.  I will rely a great deal on your comments to structure the class discussion. Here is a link to the Google+ Community

Google Participation = 10 points

Exams: We will complete our consideration of public policy issues with an in-class exam in which you will be asked to apply the theories and concepts learned to current issues related to public policy. At the end of our final section of the course, we will do a second in-class exam that will have the same objectives. Each exam will be worth 25 points.

2 midterm exams x 20 points = 40 points

Legislation Assignment: During the final week of class, you will present a “final bill” to the full legislative body.  This will require you to incorporate the mark up language (if you find it appropriate) and present again on the pros and cons of the legislation.  You will in addition, turn in a revised “bill analysis” that more explicitly describes the consequences of passing your proposed legislation.

Legislation Assignment = 30 points

Assignments Summary

Legislative Subcommittee Presentation = 20 points

Google+ Participation = 10 points

Exams – 20 points X 2 exams = 40 points

Legislation Assignment = 30 points

Course Readings:

Stone, D. Policy Paradox. WW Norton Press.

All Other Readings Accessible On-Line.

Schedule of Readings

Week 1: Introduction

Sept 3: Introduction to the Course

Sept 5: What are Policy Conflicts? Slides

Stone Chapter 1: The Market and the Polis

Create a Google+ account - Go to your Gmail, there will be a “name”+ tab in the upper right hand corner... click it and follow the directions on how to create an account.

2013 Federal Budget

Where Do You Fit? Introducing The Pew/NewsHour Political Party Quiz 

Week 2: Value Conflicts Slides

Sept 8: What is "Good Policy?"

Jones, D. (2008) The Emerging Moral Psychology. Prospect UK.

WNYC RadioLab (2006) Chimp Fights and Trolley Rides. Audio.

Sept 10: Defining Equity Slides

Stone Chapter 2: Equity

Sept 12: What is Equitable? Slides

Stiglitz - The price of inequality

Rawls (1971) Two Theories of Justice (Excerpt)

Send me by e-mail the answer to this statement: I am the class “go to” person/resource/expert on __________ because of (your credentials, experiences, study) __________________________


Mike Munger on Rent Seeking 

Rajan (2011) Fault Lines Chapter 1

Lieberman (2011) Why the Rich are Getting Richer

Richard Wilkinson Ted Talk

Week 3: Efficiency and Welfare

Sept 15: What is an efficient outcome?

Stone Chapter 3: Efficiency


Sept 17: What is an efficient outcome?

Bailey, R. (2008) Does the Invisible Hand Need a Helping Hand. Reason Magazine.

Economist. (2008) It's Mine I tell You: Mankind's Inner Chimpanzee.


Capital is back: Wealth-income ratios in rich countries, 1700-2010

Humanity Scorecard

Data mining ahd be under efficiency yund racial profiling

Week 4: Welfare and Liberty

Sept 19: What is Welfare?

Stone Chapter 4: Welfare


Sept 22: What is Welfare?

The Trap: Video #3 (We will force you to be free)



Sept 24: What is Security?

Stone: Chapter 6

Sept 26: What is a Secure Outcome? Slides

Pinker (2011) Violence Vanquished. WSJ. and John Gray response

The Waning of War (Chart)

Sept 29: What is Liberty?

Stone Chapter 5


Oct 1: What is Liberty? 

Berlin, I (1958) Two Concepts of Liberty in Four Essays on Liberty (only pages 1-10).

Mullainafan and Shahir (2013) Scarcity: Excerpt



Who’s in Charge: Free will and the science of the brain


Oct 3:

Akin and Talisse (2013) Why we Argue

UK Guardian (2013) How to Argue Series

This is a decent tutorial video that teaches you the basics of Google Hangouts.

Week 5: Framing Introductory Meeting in your subcommittees for 1 hour

someone is required to take notes and videotape via Google Hangout

Oct 6: Symbols Slides

Stone Chapter 7: Symbols



Oct 8: Frames and Heuristics Slides

Kalehman (2012) Thinking Fast and Slow - Introduction

Oct 10: Fall Holiday

Oct 13: Symbols and the Brain Sildes

Iyengar, S. (2009) How Framing Influences Citizen Understanding of Public Issues. Frameworks Institute.

Persuaders Film


How the Year You Were Born Influences Your Politics

Westin, D. (2007) The Political Brain: The Role of Emotion in Deciding the Fate of the Nation. Excerpt.

Haidt, J. (2008) What makes people vote republican? edge.org 

Johnathan Haidt Ted Talk

Konnikova (2014) I Don't Want to be Right. New Yorker


Hsu, J. (2008) The Secrets of Storytelling. Scientific American.

Cole (2012) The White Savior Industrial Complex

Oct 15: (In class presentation from subcommittee)

Oct 17: No Class

Week 7: Uses of Data Meet in your subcommittees for 1 hour

someone is required to take notes and record via Google Hangout


Oct 20: Presentation day #2

Oct 22: Policy and Numbers

Stone Chapter 8



Nature (2013) 20 Tips for Interpreting Scientific Claims

Journalist Resource (2013) Polling Fundamentals and Concepts

Businessweek (2011) Correlation or Causation

Goldfarb (2012) How we Misread the Numbers that Inform our Politics.

NYT (2014) Sentencing by the Numbers

Hans Rosling: New insights on poverty and life around the world. Discussion Leader.

Lundry (2010) Chart Wars. Blip.TV

Scientific American (2011) Good Science Always has Political Ramifications


Oct 24: Review for Exam #1

Review sheet

Week 8: Causal Stories

Oct 27: Exam #1

Oct 29: Causal Stories in Politics

Stone Chapter 9: Causal Stories Slides


Shermer (2008) Patternicity: Finding Meaningful Pattterns in Meaningless Noise. Scientific Amreican.

Baloney Detection Kit

NYT (1011) Reasons for Reasons

NYT (2012) Defending Science an Exchange

NY Magazine (2014) How to Win Your Next Political Argument

The science Behind Data Visualization

Boltanski and Thevenot (2006) On Justification: Economies of Worth. Princeton University Press. Chapter 1

Oct 31: Presentation day #3 (Student LIfe 1)

Week 9: Coalition Building

Nov 3: Presentation day #4 (Student Life #2)

Nov 5: Presentation day #5 (Social Action)

Nov 7: Interests Slides

Stone Chapter 10: Interests

Week 10: Policy Opportunities Meet in your subcommittees for 1 hour

someone is required to take notes and  record in Google Hangout

Nov 12: Interests and Politics (5-7 page bill analysis due)

Callahan and Cha. Stacked Deck. Demos. 2014.




Under the Influence Forum - Martin Gilens and 2 Respondents.  Boston Review 2012.

Dennett, D. (2006) Ants, Terrorism and the Possibility of Memes. Discussion Leader.

Bigtink (2011) Angry Young Men or Very Serious People

Lessig (2011) Republic, Lost: Excerpt

Page and Gilens (2014) Testing Theories of American Politics (Page 1-10 only!)

Ropeik (2013) Angry Young Men or Very Serious People?


Powering a Nation


Mann (2014) How to Talk About Climate Change so that People Will Listen

Who’s Polluting the Climate Change Conversation

A Look into our Climate Past

Our Climate Change Cathedral

The most terrifying graph on democracy

Freeland (2011) The Rise of the New Global Elite

Subsidies of the Rich and Famous

Meet the Flexians

Inside Power Inc.

Are the parties becoming more polarized?

Nov 14: Decisions

Stone Chapter 11: Decisions Slide


Schneider and Ingram (1993) The Social Construction of Target Populations. American Political Science Review.

Brooks (2014) The Big Debate and Matt O’Brien response

Gutting (2011) Are we a Democracy? NYT

O'Hehir (2014) This is not what Democracy Looks Like

Chart of Government Spending

Filindra (20133) We all Want More of Everything. Pacific Standard.

What Makes People Ambivalent about Social Inequality

Gawande, A. (2009) The Cost Conundrum. The New Yorker.


Section III: Creating and Promoting Solutions

Week 11: Inducements

Nov 17: Inducements

Stone Chapter 12: Inducements


Nov 19: Inducements

Don’t Shoot Chapter 1: and The Interrupters Film


Lynch, M. (2009) Jay-Z vs the Game: Lessons for the American Primacy Debate. Foreign Policy.

Rosenberg, T. (2008) A Payoff out of Poverty? New York Times.`


Frontline Video -- Poor Kids

Getting past “tough on crime”

It captures your mind

Week 12: Rules

Nov 21: Inducements (Meet in Preuss Brandt Fourm - by the Library for Jeffrey Stout Talk)



Bennett (2011) Behavioral Economics Foils an Obama Tax Cut

Thaler, Sunstien, Balz (2006) Choice Architecture and Farrell and Shalizi response

Chart - Children with Fathers in Prison

Nov 24: Rules

Stone Chapter 13: Rules

Electoral college

Should voting be mandatory.. NYT Room for Debate



Nov 26-30: Thanksgiving Break

Week 13: Facts

Dec 1 - Facts

Stone Chapter 14: Facts


Dec 3: Rights

Stone Chapter 15: Rights


Week 14: Rights and Powers

Dec 5: Powers Slides

Meslin (2010) The Antidote to Apathy. Ted Talk

Stone Chapter 16: Powers

Dec 8:

Exam Review


Dec 10: Exam #2

Dec 12: Final Presentations






Dec 15: Final Presentations





Decisions - Cont.

Ross (2012) A Guide to the Leaderless Revolution 

Fung, A. (2006) Empowered Participation. Chapter 1. Princeton University Press.

We Want More of Everything

Tetlock (2006) Expert Political Judgment: How Good is It?

Ober, J. (2009) Democracy and Knowledge - Chapter 1. Princeton University Press.



General Additional Readings

Meacham, J. (2008) The Story of Power. Time Magazine.

Nivola, P. (2007) Rediscovering Federalism. Brookings Institution.

Implementation: How Great Expectations in Washington Are Dashed in ... - Google Books Result 

Treisman, D. (2007) The Architecture of Government.Cambridge University Press. Excerpt.

Bell, D. (2007) Veil of Tears. Powell's.

Kagan (2006) Power and Weakness. Hoover Institution.

Western, B. (2006) Reentry. Reversing Mass Imprisonment. Boston Review.

Donahue and Stier (2008) The Next FEMA. Washington Monthly.

Scott, James. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Introduction.and Chapter 1 (need to register)

Spanos, C. (2008) What is a Real Utopia? Zmag

Gladwell, M. (1999) "Six Degrees of Lois Weisberg," The New Yorker.

Scrivner, L. (2008) No Wink, but a Nudge Can Work Wonders. TheStar.Com

What Would a Unicorn Do?

Nobel, C. (2008) Failure is an Option. Portfolio.com.

Wenner, M. (2008) Bad Decision Makers Lack reasoning Skills. Science Daily.

Watts, D. (2007) Is Justin Timberlake a Product of Cumulative Advantage. New York Times.

Senge, P. Learning Organizations. SOL.


Hunger in the USA. On Point Radio Show.

George Lakoff on Embodied Conceptual Metaphor

Hess and Finn (2007) No Child Left Behind Needs some Work. Policy Review. 

Waldman: Government is Back. The American Prospect.

Karch, A (2007) Democratic Labroatories: Policy Diffusion in the American States. Univ. of Michigan Press.

Mead, L. (2001) Welfare Reform: Meaning and Effects. Policy Currents. 

Potoski and Prakash (2001) Protecting the Environment: Voluntary Regulations in Environmental Governance. Policy Currents.

Rom, M. (2001) From Welfare State to Opportunity and Responsibility (OAR), Inc. Policy Curents. 

Potoski, M. (2002) Implementation, Uncertainty, and the Policy Sciences. Policy Currents 

Tatalovich, R. and A. Smith ( 2002) Status Claims and Cultural Conflicts: The Genesis of Morality Policy. Policy Currents. 

DeLeon, P and K, Kaufmains (2002) Public Policy Theory: Will It Play in Peoria? Policy Currents. 

Elster, J. (2008) Reason and Ratonality. Excerpt.

Archibigi, D. (2008) The Human Rights Decleration at 60. Open Democracy.

Rosen, J (2008) Man Made Disaster. The New Republic.

Keen, A. (2009) In defense of sleazy lobbyists. The Daily Beast.

Schneider (1993) How the social construction of target popualtions contributes to problems in policy design. policy currents.

Knott (1993) Policy Change and Deregulation: Explaining Differences in Legislative Outcomes. policy currents.

Williams-Derry (2008) Fighting congestion, RAND-style. Grist.

Cohen and Sardell (1994) Policymaking for Children's Issues. Policy Currents. 

Johnson et. al. (1994) Children and Welfare Reform. policy currents. 

patashnik (2009) reforms at risk. priceton.

Policy Reading List

Federal Spending



Debt the first 5000 years



The Social Economy








ethical consumption


There’s a boston review symposium with it

good guide

social change


Wealth of members




Democracy is dead











Most Unequal City


Bonus Army

« “Occupy Wall Street” and the History of Democratic Finance Protest

Liberal Hamiltonians (One Sect of) in “Vanity Fair” Get Whiskey Rebellion, Tea Party, Hamilton Himself Way Wrong »

“Occupy Wall Street” Reading List

October 3, 2011 by William Hogeland

Yes, reading. Might help with attempting coherence, distinguishing between a grievance and a demand, stuff like that. Call me a patronizing elitist — you won’t get any argument from me! — but in a world where sincerity is equated with the inarticulate and cogency is supposedly only a telltale sign of privilege and hierarchy, these readings show that sounding authoritative does not equal selling out to authority.

The Putney Debates. 1647. Rank and file in Cromwell’s Army believed they deserved the vote. Cromwell disagreed. The “Levellers” lost — but this is one of the first articulate demands for disconnecting rights from property.

Letter from a Birmingham Jail. 1963. Martin Luther King, Jr., argues for the validity of taking direct action in the street, not just waiting for courts to catch up.

The Port Huron Statement. 1962. In a time not of recession but of immense prosperity, students who had benefited from that very prosperity questioned its basis and demanded a renewal of American political values, at home and around the world. Prescient or self-fulfilling or both? Anyway, at once passionate and crystal clear.

The Populist Party Platform. 1892. “We meet in the midst of a nation brought to the verge of moral, political, and material ruin. Corruption dominates the ballot-box, the Legislatures, the Congress, and touches even the ermine of the bench. The people are demoralized; most of the States have been compelled to isolate the voters at the polling places to prevent universal intimidation and bribery. The newspapers are largely subsidized or muzzled, public opinion silenced, business prostrated, homes covered with mortgages, labor impoverished, and the land concentrating in the hands of capitalists.”

Common Sense. 1776. Paine’s call not only for American independence but also, and more importantly — and this is the part routinely and deliberately ignored or marginalized by liberal “consensus” historians — for social equality, in a new kind of American republic.

Dec 6: Powers





Dec 9: Powers



Scott, James. Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press. Introduction.and Chapter 1 (need to register)