The Political Process: Executive Bureau-Legislantive Committee Relations

By J. Leiper Freeman | Go to book overview

CHAPTER SIX
The Subsystem in Perspective

A Summary Justification of the Study's Focus

In focusing upon the relations among executive bureau participants, congressional committee personnel, and leaders of interest groups in subsystems of public policy-making in American government, this study has attempted to demonstrate a useful way of examining the political process. It has argued for the utility of this kind of analytical approach partially upon the basis that the study of national policy-making at the more general, institutional level of Congress, the Administration, and the political parties does not always furnish the most meaningful understanding of the decisive factors. The case has been argued that the social diversity, the multiplicity of types of special groups of people promoting and defending particular values in American life, results in selective concentration of public interest and attention in politics. Concomitantly, the legislative and executive branches of the federal government cloak plural patterns of power and decision-making which mirror the functional specialization and diversity of interests in the society to a great extent. Furthermore, the legal framework in which this over-all governmental system is cast contributes a permissive code not only making for a maximum of interplay between the legislative and executive branches in policy-making, but also allowing considerable decentralization of authority within each branch.

Consequently, we find that the over-all, institutional system which forms the general setting for the executive bureau-legislative committee subsystem tends to have definite limitations as a decisive policy-making mechanism. While the Administration, Congress, and the major parties in their general structures and relationships tend to reflect gross distributions of public sentiment and public power, the resolution of issues tends to be accomplished through specialized lesser units. These subunits -- bureaus, committees, and interest groups -- enjoy considerable autonomy in the special policy areas with which they are concerned. Furthermore, these are the units which provide the immediate setting of the subsystem here under analysis. The leading members of these subunits are the major, constant participants in a process through which special issues are discussed and policy solutions are formed. In their interactions which form the subsystem, the behavior

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