The Making of United States International Economic Policy: Principles, Problems, and Proposals for Reform

By Stephen D. Cohen | Go to book overview
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7
Theories on How U.S. International Economic Policy Is Formulated

The size and the performance of the existing administrative apparatus impose a certain inflexibility on the direction of policy. Large-scale organizations display a number of characteristics which reduce their responsiveness to political control: attachment to precedent and continuity, loyalty to the organization as such and to its clients, established routines for handling business and established views of the environment in which they operate. . . . Decisions once made must be followed through; where political objectives conflict with organizational habits or objectives, they are likely to gain ground only slowly.

-- William Wallace

The previous section of this book dealt with the institutional "hardware" of U.S. international policymaking. This chapter and the one that follows examine the "software," that is, the behavioral principles that make policymakers and institutions "tick" and the abstract forces that influence the ways in which they interact with one another.

The chapter begins by examining the several theoretical constructs that have been advanced in the quest for a unified explanation of government officials' actions in making international economic policies. The first section catalogs the organizational and non-organizational factors that have been cited as major factors affecting policymakers' thinking and actions. It does not rank or evaluate the relative merits of the theories advanced. Nor does it decry the abundance of their numbers, a source of obvious frustration to those political theorists who are dedicated to finding the decisive element in policymaking behavior that comprehensively explains past decisions. The remaining sections of the chapter elaborate on theories of organizational behavior and its impact on policy sub

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