Top down Policymaking

Top down Policymaking

Top down Policymaking

Top down Policymaking


Thomas R. Dye is president of the Lincoln Center for Public Service, a nonprofit educational organization based in Florida. He was formerly McKenzie Professor of Government at Florida State University.


Top down policymaking provides a thorough evaluation of the processes by which the national elite goes about transforming its own values, interests, and preferences into public policy. It is a study of the way in which public policy is made. It briefly describes the structure of wealth and power in America, but it focuses principally on how wealth and power flow into government and the policymaking process.

Top Down Policymaking sets forth a model of national policymaking that envisions four separate processes by which elites influence the policies of government--the policy formulation process, the interest group process, the leadership selection process, and the opinion making process. It then proceeds to describe government legitimation and implementation of the policy initiatives and reforms inspired by national elites. Finally, it describes both public and private processes of policy evaluation.

This book argues that even in a democracy, public policy is made from the top down, not from the bottom up. It describes how the policy agenda flows downward from elites to government through a network of foundations, "think tanks," policy planning organizations, and the media. It describes the crucial role of monied elites in selecting the nation's political leadership. It describes the elite-financed interest group process that dominates policymaking activity in Washington. And it describes the unique role of the nation's media elite in policy formulation and the communication of elite views to both government decision makers and the masses of Americans.

Policies are given legitimacy by the institutions of government; legitimacy does not arise out of popular support for the policies themselves. Indeed, this book argues that there is a notable lack of congruence between the policy preferences of the American public and current national policies on a number of highly visible issues. It also argues that Congress itself functions largely on the basis of top-down leadership and, moreover, that the costs of running for Congress virtually guarantee the dependency of its members on financial elites.

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