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

By Stephen D. Cohen | Go to book overview

8 The Many Models of Executive Branch Decision-Making

We make [international economic policy] . . . in the most disorganized, fragmented, and incoherent way imaginable. If there is consistency among decisions we make in our relations with less developed countries, trade negotiations, selling agricultural products abroad, and so on, this is purely coincidental. . . . [We] have a non-system.

-- Sidney Weintraub

The specific decision-making procedures followed by executive branch officials lie at the heart of the U.S. international economic policymaking process. Literally speaking, policy is determined after the various bureaucratic actors described in Chapter 3 deal with the pressures and priorities discussed in Chapter 7 and then reconcile their often conflicting assessments of the "national interest." The eight models of intra-executive branch decision-making presented in this chapter are not sufficient to explain all major U.S. international economic policy decisions. This is not surprising: just as the substantive terrain of international economic policy varies greatly, so too does the procedural terrain. Which model is used in any given situation is determined by a constantly changing mix of circumstances. Many decisions are made in accordance with the ninth model, inter-branch dynamics, that is described in the next chapter. Some are sui generis, and some are an amalgam of two or three of the nine major decision- making models; they are discussed in this chapter's concluding section.

To enhance relevance to the contemporary scene, only policy actions that have occurred since 1970 will be examined.

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