Innovation and the Vibrancy of American
In the final analysis, how can we understand the process of policy change over the long run? One fact is certain. The path toward new public policy in the area of child support enforcement did not take rapid turns and twists over the last two centuries. Rather than being characterized by hairpin turns, the road was, at most, bumpy. Different sets of policy leaders were able to wrest control of the agenda at different points in time, producing change in sometimes surprising directions. But because their entrepreneurial activity reflected the core components of debate that Americans expect when it comes to political change, what could have been hostile takeovers instead became methodical transfers of power.
What we have seen is that new directions in policy are not cataclysmic events in the American political system. When a state legislature passes a new law creating term limits for elected officials and sends it to the governor for approval, the earth does not shake beneath us. When Congress establishes an innovative legislative approach to environmental waste management and the president agrees, the world does not come to an end. When the Supreme Court reverses itself over the death penalty, we all still get up the next day and go about our business.
The point is that while each of these events is newsworthy, the American public does not regard them with complete surprise. Change is inherent in our political system. We all know that one day we will face a new set of elected leaders, with perhaps different policy preferences than those of the past. We also know that the particular constellation of interest groups that currently holds sway will ultimately evolve, both in scope and composition. And we also sense that we, ourselves, might change our minds over the direction of specific public policies in the years to come.