The Politics of Ideas and the Spread of Enterprise Zones

The Politics of Ideas and the Spread of Enterprise Zones

The Politics of Ideas and the Spread of Enterprise Zones

The Politics of Ideas and the Spread of Enterprise Zones

Excerpt

This book has two aims in comparing the adoption of enterprise zone programs in five states. One is to describe and explain the information exchange that occurs in policymaking networks and the implications this exchange has for theories of diffusion. The other is to describe and evaluate the use of diffused information in decision making. In satisfying these aims, this book departs from previous traditions of diffusion research that trace patterns of diffusion or the determinants of diffusion. Instead, the research presented here focuses on the process of diffusion—who is involved, what gets passed from one venue to another (that is, what diffuses), and especially, how the information is used in the collective, political processes of decision making that characterize public policy.

The state enterprise zones present a compelling opportunity to explore the spread of ideas in the American federal system. The enterprise zones have been a significant part of the debate in urban policy and economic development over the last two decades. The idea of cutting taxes and regulations as a free market remedy for impoverished areas was originally hailed by conservatives and denounced by many liberals. Today the state zones that populate the landscape of urban and rural areas hardly resemble the antigovernment, supply-side approach. A new variant, the federal Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities program, requires the inclusion of social programs and provides up to $100 million in block grants for individual zones.

This dramatic evolution raises questions about how policy ideas spread, and about how informed decision making and adaptation have been. Do adopters use diffused information as part of a rigorous analysis? Do they utilize information from other places as a shortcut for developing policy, engaging in bounded rationality? Or, does diffused information simply become part of the mix in [garbage can] decision making?

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