The Public Clash of Private Values: The Politics of Morality Policy

The Public Clash of Private Values: The Politics of Morality Policy

The Public Clash of Private Values: The Politics of Morality Policy

The Public Clash of Private Values: The Politics of Morality Policy

Synopsis

Abortion, capital punishment, gambling, homosexual rights, pornography, physician assisted suicide, and sex education are among the most controversial issues facing public policymakers today. All involve controversial questions of first principle that render public policy no less than legal sanctions of right or wrong, or morality policy. Mooney brings together top researchers in the field to explore the unique characteristics and politics of morality policy. The result is a definition of the current state of knowledge in the field and a guideline for future observation.

Excerpt

The politics surrounding morality policy in Western democracies appears to pose a number of contradictions. Relative to other public policies, morality policy can be at once symbolically important and economically insignificant. It can raise some of the most profound questions of right and wrong and the role of the state in society, yet it has been, until very recently, rarely studied as a class by political scientists. Morality policies are intensely worried about and debated by citizens, groups, and politicians, yet they are rarely resolved. in short, morality policy and its unique politics raise many important questions about the democratic policymaking process, and its study may reveal much about how policy decisions are made; how government functions; and the relationship between a government, its citizens, and the values that the latter hold.

The fifteen chapters in this book tackle a variety of substantive aspects of morality policy politics with a variety of methodologies as well as work in areas with different levels of theoretical development. Each chapter deals with the same basic question, however: How do the unique characteristics of morality policy affect the policymaking process? the chapters are organized around significant aspects of that process, each contributing to the state of knowledge on a specific subject within its respective field, both theoretically and (in most cases) empirically. Just as important, each chapter also suggests directions for future research in these fields.

I begin the book with a chapter that surveys the literature in the field, staking out the general issues under consideration: What is morality policy? What are the politics of morality policy? in Part I, definitional and theoretical questions are discussed. Meier's theoretical analysis of morality policy implementation and definition generates hypotheses that should prove seminal. His distinction between "sin" and "redistributive" morality policy is particularly important in that it clarifies a definitional question that has had researchers talking past each other for several years. Studlar brings a comparative perspective to bear on the definition of morality policy, looking at both the differences in what . . .

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